Twitter has quietly changed the way blocking works in a move that means once-blocked trolls can once again interact with their old targets — but all of their interactions will remain hidden from their targets. Under a new policy that's already gone live, users will still be able to follow, and see new updates from public account holders, even if the follower's been blocked. Under the previous system, those same users wouldn't have been able to follow an account, or see the profile picture associated with it when blocked. In effect, Twitter's blocking tool is now more of a mute button, as Forbes notes — which means blocked users can't really tell they've been blocked.
Blocking now becomes muting
The changes have garnered some protest from users who previously blocked others to protect their public accounts, and who didn't want to lock everything down using Twitter's private account feature. A Twitter spokesperson told Forbes the company made the changes to cut down on retaliations that could arise when users found out they had been blocked by someone else, especially on a public account. "We saw antagonist behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad," spokesman Jim Prosser says. "Twitter is public, we want to reinforce that content published in a public profile is viewable by the world."
The new policy comes a little more than a month after Twitter went public, with ambitions to get more users to join and share their updates with others. That same effort for openness has stretched to other parts of the service, including an update in October that began letting users send and receive direct messages from any follower — something that was previously limited between users who followed one another.
Update: According to Reuters, the user backlash was significant enough to cause an emergency meeting among its executives:
Executives rushed into a meeting Thursday night at Twitter's San Francisco offices to discuss the uproar, a rare event for a company that for the most part has historically been hailed for championing its users, who now number more than 250 million worldwide.
Twitter has nixed unpopular features before. Two years ago it got rid of an unpopular featured called the Quickbar that put both trending topics and advertisements on its iOS app. The feature was killed off after just three days, following public criticism.