Elon Musk, owner of social media platform X, formerly Twitter, has claimed that users will soon be unable to block users from seeing or commenting posts or their posts, as he plans to do away with the blocking feature.
In a reply posted on X on 18 August, Musk said: "Block is going to be deleted as a “feature”, except for DMs".
However, X users shared context to his reply which appeared in the context box, a function added since Musk took over the site last year. The added context stated: "If the ability to block users was to be removed, X would be in violation of the policies of the App Store as well as the Google Play Store. Potentially, this could lead to X being removed from these platforms. There are no such policies for the web-app however."
Currently blocked accounts cannot follow, direct message, tag, and view posts of the person who has blocked them. Those accounts are also unable to view information such as the following and followers lists, likes, moments of accounts they have been blocked by.
The mute feature, which allows users to remove an account’s posts from their timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account, is not expected to be affected.
How have X users responded to the blocking announcement?
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey suggested he agreed with removing the option to block, replying: “100%. Mute only”.
However, there have been plenty of critics of the move. Right wing political commentator Matt Walsh, who described himself as 'probably one of the most blocked people on [X]' said that removing the block feature is 'not a good idea' as users will not be able to block spam accounts.
The Auschwitz Memorial also came out against the decision, posting: “Failing to address the antisemitic and Holocaust denial comments that appear under our posts commemorating the victims of Auschwitz would be a disservice to their memory. We’ve chosen to block users who promote denial and hatred.”
The memorial account also shared screenshots of examples of comments from X users that they would not be able to block if the changes came into place. One comment stated, incorrectly, ''Gas chambers are a myth'.
Monica Lewinsky commented: "Please rethink removing the block feature. as an anti-bullying activist (and target of harassment) I can assure you it’s a critical tool to keep people safe online."
X CEO Linda Yaccarino responded to Lewinskiy's post, saying: "Our users’ safety on X is our number one priority. And we’re building something better than the current state of block and mute. Please keep the feedback coming."
Can Elon Musk remove the block feature on X?
Elon Musk owns the site, and as CEO Lida Yaccarino seems to be in agreement with him on the decision to scrap the block feature, he would be able to do so. There is no rule that blocking must be a feature of the platform, however removing it could harm the site.
Major app stores include Apple's App Store and Google Play, where the vast majority of app downloads come from, have terms and conditions for apps they host which includes social media apps having facilities to filter out bullying.
If Musk removes the blocking feature and doesn't replace it with an alternative way to limit interaction from trolls and bullying accounts, he may find that X would not be hosted on the app stores, leading it to essentially become a web-only platform.