Twitter has made a material change to its blocking policy, which enabled blocked users, for a time, to see updates, retweet and respond to tweets. This change has been quickly retracted, due to negative feedback.
One of the disadvantages of social networking is that it has the potential to expose people’s otherwise private lives to the scrutiny of total strangers. When posting public tweets, Instagram photos or Facebook status updates or photos, for example, not everyone is aware that these can be restricted to a certain audience. Facebook and Google+ even lets users define who can and who cannot see their posts.
Twitter accounts, however, are either public or private, although users can block other users from reading their posts. The disadvantage, of course, is that a blocked user can simply log out (or login using a different account) to read public posts made by someone who has blocked him or her.
Twitter has experimented with this particular privacy setting lately, when it changed the way account blocking works. While previously, blocking a person will bar him or her from reading one’s posts, the change in setting shifted the information asymmetry the other way around. With the new setting, a blocked person will no longer appear in one’s timeline, nor will any interactions (retweets, favorites and direct messages) appear to the person who has set the block.
This might ring alarm bells among those who are concerned with their privacy, but Twitter justified its move by saying this will prevent harassment or any retaliatory actions arising from being blocked. Twitter’s management thought this would be the better way to enforce blocks “due to the retaliation against blocking users by blocked users (and sometimes their friends) that often occurs,” said Michael Sippey, vice president for product.
However, after negative user feedback, Twitter quickly rescinded this decision and reverted to the old style blocking. With the old and now-current setting, any person blocked from one’s Twitter account will not be able to read a user’s posts, see that user’s profile photos and have any interactions.
In the official statement, Sippey said that all previous blocks are still in effect. The decision to revert to the original style blocking was because Twitter intends to assure its users that their privacy and safety are important. “[W]e never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe.”