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When Blocking Doesn’t Actually Block

Twitter’s blocking feature now feels more like a mute. And that raises some issues.

When Blocking Doesn’t Actually Block

Twitter’s blocking feature now feels more like a mute. And that raises some issues.


Twitter altered its policy to allow blocked users to follow and interact with the user that blocked them. Before, once the user was blocked, they were unable to see or follow the blocker’s tweets.

The change means blocking is effectively a mute feature, meaning users will never see the person they blocked in their own timeline. But the original expectation that it was the user would be unable to see, favorite and retweet tweets. Why is this a problem?

  • A majority of users understand the original expectation with blocking. Twitter did nothing to communicate these changes, except to update a support document. That’s far from an announcement.
  • There are a number of reasons why users don’t want people following their tweets. I don’t feel like I have to spell them out, but harassment is one area Twitter must be cognizant of.
  • Even though there are so-called workarounds for a blocked user to see their timeline (like opening a logged out Twitter window), blocking at least created an assurance that it wouldn’t be easy for an offender to see tweets.

In all, it’s a questionable decision from a company that is always “experimenting” with new features. I hope Twitter rethinks it.


Update: Twitter rethought it.

Twitter VP of product Michael Sippey wrote:

In reverting this change to the block function, users will once again be able to tell that they’ve been blocked. We believe this is not ideal, largely due to the retaliation against blocking users by blocked users (and sometimes their friends) that often occurs. Some users worry just as much about post-blocking retaliation as they do about pre-blocking abuse.

Neither system is perfect, but the barrage of negative feedback from the change should indicate what the lesser evil is.