Talking tech since 2003

Yesterday, Twitter users went nuts. Well, more nuts than usual—apparently Twitter had changed the way the “Block” button functioned. Previously, blocking other Twitter users basically allowed you to vanish from their Twitter feeds, and they from yours.  But yesterday, the company changed the Block button’s powers, changing it into more of an “Ignore” function. According to a post on TheNextWeb, the revision still kept unwanted Twitter accounts out of your feed—but for whatever reason, put you back in to the feeds of people you’d blocked.

Needless to say, folks weren’t happy. A post on BuzzFeed catalogues plenty of angry tweets about the change, and a special hashtag, #RestoreTheBlock, instantly took off. And, amazingly, it worked!

Today Twitter posted an update on its corporate blog announcing that the revisions to the Block button’s functions have been reversed due to the overwhelmingly negative feedback it had received from users, saying “We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.”


“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. Moving forward, we will continue to explore features designed to protect users from abuse and prevent retaliation.”

I like that Twitter’s main goal here is to protect users who are being harassed—though the fact that the service still lacks a “report abuse” button is a glaring omission. But the whole situation reminded me of the regular outrages experienced by Facebook users when that social network offers up one change or another. The introduction of the News Feed was famously panned—but now it’s one of the services core features. The institution of the Timeline feature, as well as the UI changes that came with it, was similarly hated by users, but it didn’t take long for folks to settle into the new status quo.

So while Twitter’s changes are ostensibly related to privacy and curbing abuse, I still couldn’t help but wonder whether Twitter would’ve been better off sticking to its guns, and not capitulating to the negative opinions. According the above-quoted blog post, the idea behind the revision was to make it harder for creeps to abuse people, since it made it seem like nothing had changed on their end.

And furthermore, Twitter users concerned about security should, I don’t know, maybe not post stuff on Twitter, a completely open and public social media forum? Facebook, for all its flaws, is still behind a membership wall, and users can make it so they only share posts and updates with certain people. In a lot of ways, despite their many similarities, there’s a fundamental difference to the way each social network deals with what you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to.

What do you think? Was Twitter right to change back? Or was its quick about-face a sign that it gives in too easily to its users?


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