independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Twitter backtracks on blocking functionality after backlash

Michael Sippey said Twitter never wants to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe
Michael Sippey said Twitter never wants to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe

Twitter has reversed changes it made to how people block other users less than 24 hours after they were introduced, following a wave of protest from users who said the new policy empowered perpetrators of online abuse.

Twitter introduced a new blocking policy yesterday, which allowed a blocked Twitter user to continue viewing and tweeting at the person who blocked him or her, but rendered that activity invisible to the blocker. The person who had been blocked would therefore have no indication of the fact that they had been blocked.

The aim of the change was to prevent a scenario of retaliation, whereby users who realised they had been blocked would look for other ways to attack or harass the blocker. However, many people criticised the policy, pointing out that the people they had blocked would still be able to view and interact with their tweets.

In a statement, Twitter's VP of Product, Michael Sippey, said the company had decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users, adding that Twitter never wants to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe.

"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," said Sippey.

"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."

Twitter has been under pressure to strengthen its "report abuse" functions after feminist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour Party politician Stella Creasy were subjected to a deluge of death and rape threats.

Twitter's top executive in the UK, Tony Wang, and Del Harvey, the head of its trust and safety team, issued personal apologies to the women after revising Twitter's rules.

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