After user backlash over changes made to its "blocking" functionality, Twitter has swiftly reverted to its previous system for handling unwanted followers or viewers of public accounts. Back are features that keep users from both following and retweeting users, as well as notifications which communicate that a user has been blocked. The earlier changes made to blocking functionality turned what had previously been a tool for navigating harassment, spam, or trolling into a glorified "mute" switch, giving the blocked user far more access.
The changes targeted retaliation from blocked users
Many users became angered over the change, calling it a step backward for privacy. Twitter responded by saying the move was meant to curb retaliation from users who discovered that they were blocked, as well as encourage public activity. The backlash that ensued was reportedly enough to cause an after hours emergency meeting of Twitter executives.
In a blog post late Thursday, the company said the rollback was made following feedback from "many users," and that any existing user block lists were still intact. It also defended the original changes, saying that the post-blocking retaliation was an issue for some users:
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. 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.
This isn't the first time Twitter has responded to user unrest, though the tone of its blog post, and a rapid reversal suggests it didn't anticipate just how badly the changes would be received. A similar situation arose two years ago, though on a smaller scale, with a discovery tool called the QuickBar, which was pulled just days after its debut following user complaints.