Last Friday, Elon Musk made a noteworthy announcement concerning X’s users, formerly known as Twitter. In a surprising move, he revealed that users would no longer be able to block other users on the platform. This decision has sparked a significant wave of criticism and opposition, primarily because the ‘blocking’ feature has long been regarded as a crucial tool for users to maintain control over their online experience.
The ‘blocking’ feature has served as a robust mechanism for users to prevent unwanted content, spam, and interactions from specific accounts. By removing this option, many users feel that their ability to curate their feed and shield themselves from unwelcome or harmful elements will be severely compromised. This aspect of control has been one of the cornerstones of user empowerment on social media platforms, making its removal all the more unsettling for many.
The backlash against this decision has been palpable, with users expressing concerns about the potential for increased harassment, trolling, and spreading misinformation. Many argue that the absence of a ‘blocking’ feature could deter users from engaging on the platform, leading to an overall decline in the quality of discourse and interactions.
Furthermore, eliminating the ‘blocking’ feature might have implications beyond user experience. It could potentially clash with the guidelines set forth by major app stores, such as Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Both of these platforms have stringent regulations in place to ensure user safety and a positive app experience. Removing a feature traditionally viewed as essential for user protection could raise flags with these app stores, potentially resulting in the removal of X from their listings.
Potential Ramifications for Removing the Blocking Feature on Twitter
Blocking is a valuable tool that empowers users to “restrict specific accounts from contacting them, seeing their Tweets, and following them.” ” This feature allows users to govern their interactive experience on the platform and effectively addresses concerns like stalking, harassment, and bullying. When a user opts to block an account on Twitter, the blocked account loses the capability to follow, access, or discover the user’s tweets. Moreover, the blocked account is barred from perusing the user’s followers, following list, likes, and lists in which the user is enlisted. Any attempts by the blocked user to tag the user in photos are also thwarted. Additionally, the blocking action entails a cessation of direct message receipt from the blocked individual.
However, these comprehensive functionalities stand at risk of elimination if Elon Musk chooses to eliminate the blocking feature. Notably, the tech billionaire has indicated that Twitter will continue blocking direct messages. Musk conveyed on Friday through a tweet that the “Block” feature is slated for removal, with the exception of its retention for direct messages.
Removing the blocking feature could potentially land Twitter in hot water, as this action might breach the terms and conditions outlined by both the App Store and PlayStore regarding user-generated content.
User-Generated Content (UGC) Moderation Requirements on App Stores
As per Google PlayStore’s guidelines, applications that involve or showcase user-generated content (UGC) – think of platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Threads – must establish a robust and effective system for ongoing UGC moderation. Google defines UGC as the material contributed to an application by its users, which can be accessed by “at least a subset of the app’s users.”
According to PlayStore’s stipulations, these apps must incorporate an “in-app mechanism for reporting objectionable UGC and users” while taking “appropriate measures against said UGC and/or users.” Additionally, applications hosting UGC are required to feature an “in-app mechanism for blocking UGC and users.”
Apple’s App Store regulations also apply to apps that incorporate user-generated content. According to the App Store guidelines, such apps are required to have “the capacity to prevent abusive users from accessing the service”, “a system for screening out inappropriate material from appearing on the app”, and “a feature to report offensive content along with prompt responsiveness to address concerns”. Failure to comply with these guidelines might potentially lead to Twitter’s removal from app stores.