Twitter’s Redesigned Block Feature Is a Stalker’s Delight - Update: Twitter Reinstates the Block Feature

A very bad idea
Internet • Views: 32,420

Twitter has made a disastrous decision about their user interface, and Leigh Honeywell has one of the best posts on what it means, and how to get around it: Changes to Twitter’s Block Behavior - and a Workaround.

Twitter posted an update today to their blocking functionality. In my opinion, it’s a real step backwards for the usability of Twitter for anyone with a large number of followers, or facing any kind of harassment.

It used to be that when you blocked someone, it would force them to “unfollow” you, in addition to hiding them from your mentions. This is no longer the case:

Note: If your account is public, blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline. If your Tweets are protected, blocking the user will cause them to unfollow you.

The obvious objection to my objection is “well your stuff is public anyway, they could just make a new account” - the thing is, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of 1) how people use blocking and 2) how harassers operate.

I’m hoping Twitter will rethink this decision. There’s already an outcry (see #RestoreTheBlock), and it’s going to get worse as more people find out that the block feature basically doesn’t work any more.

The old way wasn’t perfect at all, and determined nutjobs could get around it, but this new way equates to just giving up and saying, “Oh well, we don’t want the stalkers mad at us, so you’ll just have to deal with it.”

Twitter spokesperson Jim Prosser says Twitter made the change because it thinks it will cut down on the vitriol, anger, and resentful Jezebel articles that result from knowing you’ve been blocked. “Now when you block a user, they cannot tell that you’ve blocked them,” tweeted Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. “It was a longstanding request from users of block.”

“We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,” says Prosser.

In my NSHO, this is one of the worst decisions by an Internet company in a while. Twitter has a big problem with targeted harassment, and they should be thinking about how to make it more difficult for abusers.

Instead they’ve made it easier for stalkers to do their dirty work, because they don’t want to lose them as customers.

UPDATE at 12/12/13 7:44:57 pm

Well, that didn’t take very long! Twitter has now reinstated the block feature.

UPDATE at 12/12/13 7:49:41 pm

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