Elon Musk, the new owner of the platform now known as X (previously Twitter), has unveiled plans to remove the blocking feature, which has long been considered a pivotal safety measure for users. As he mentioned on Friday, users will only be able to block direct messages (DMs). This comes as one of many changes introduced by Musk after purchasing the platform in a deal valued at $44 billion last year.
The New Direction of X
Since acquiring Twitter, Musk has undertaken a massive transformation of the company. These changes include:
- Staff layoffs.
- The reinstatement of previously banned accounts.
- A rebranding from Twitter to X.
- Charging for the site’s “blue tick” verification feature.
Musk’s post, in response to a query from Tesla Owners in Silicon Valley, indicated that he sees no reason to keep the block feature, emphasizing, “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs.” Musk’s rationale? He simply stated that the feature “makes no sense.”
Concerns Over User Safety and Experience
The blocking function has been a mainstay for users who wish to ensure that their feeds remain free from harassing comments and content. Meanwhile, the mute function, which will remain intact, simply hides undesired comments from an individual’s view but does not eliminate them from public feeds.
Other notable personalities and stakeholders have voiced their concerns:
- Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, also an investor in X, believes the platform should first tackle issues like bots and spam before doing away with the block function.
- Louis Jones of the Brand Safety Institute expressed concerns over users being swamped with spam and threatening content. He warns of a potential increase in bullying, thereby suppressing free speech for victims.
Understanding the Mute Feature
Currently, the mute feature stops users from receiving notifications regarding the muted account’s posts. However, muted accounts can still see and reply to the muter’s posts. The absence of the block function might violate terms set by platforms like Apple’s App Store and Google Play, both of which require social media apps to offer users mechanisms to filter out bullying and harassment. This could result in X being removed from these app stores.
Public Responses and Potential Implications
Many on social media believe the removal of the block feature will hinder their ability to manage abusive posts. Jack Dorsey, the former founder of Twitter, however, appears to side with Musk, stating: “100%. Mute only”.
The broader implications of this move remain uncertain. Questions arise like:
- Will accounts that are currently blocked be automatically unblocked?
- How will this align with regulations designed to protect users from online harm?
While users have the option to make their accounts private, this merely conceals their tweets from the public, restricting post visibility to accepted followers only.
Trust in Musk’s Statements
With over 153 million followers, Musk frequently shares ideas and updates on X, although not all are seen as serious or executed. As the owner, Musk has become an influential voice for the platform, even if some view him as an unpredictable source.
Musk’s vision of X as a “digital town square” aims for a space where every voice can be heard. However, by limiting user tools like blocking, he could face challenges with app store requirements and existing social media safety regulations.
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