Twitter, Now Known As X, To Remove Blocking Feature

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Elon Musk has announced that the blocking feature of X, formerly Twitter, will be removed for users; claiming the feature “makes no sense”. The X boss said users will still be able to block people from directly messaging them, however; but many people on social media said it will make it hard for people to remove abusive posts from their timeline. It is the latest in a series of changes Mr. Musk has made since taking over the site in a $44bn deal last year.

Currently, when users “block” an account, it stops that account’s posts from appearing in the blocker’s timeline, and vice versa. An account that is blocked can no longer send messages to the blocker, nor can it view their posts. Former Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, seemed to agree with Mr. Musk’s decision, posting: “100% Mute only”.

But there are concerns that muting an account would not be sufficient protection from cases of harassment, abuse or stalking. The mute function currently only stops notifications about an account’s posts. An account that is muted can still view the muter’s posts and reply to them. One user called Mr Musk’s decision a “huge mistake”, saying there are “toxic people” on the platform whom users simply did not want to interact with in any way.

Removing a blocking feature could also potentially violate the terms and conditions of stores like Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Both stores have conditions stating that social media apps should allow users facilities to filter harassment or bullying. It could mean X is no longer downloadable from those stores. If the policy goes ahead, it is not clear if all those accounts which are blocked will automatically become unblocked. Users do however have the option to make their account private, hiding their tweets from the public and only allowing accepted followers to view their posts.

Musk has been clear that he wants his “digital town square” to be a platform where all voices are heard; but he’s running the risk of bumping up against both app store terms and conditions, and social media regulations around protecting users from online harms.

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