Twitter reverses policy that would allow blocked persons to follow user

Twitter said it is was reversing the policy after receiving feedback from many users

Twitter has reversed a controversial policy change announced Thursday that would let a user block others on Twitter, but the blocked people could still continue to follow and see the user's tweets and interact with them.

"We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users -- we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe," wrote Michael Sippey, Twitter's vice president of product, in a blog post.

The policy changes proposed by Twitter earlier in the day came in for sharp criticism from users.

Before the new policy, if a user was being harassed or trolled by spam accounts, clicking the "block" button would prevent the persons from following the user and also remove them from mentions and timeline, according to a petition on Change.org.

"Now, even if you block someone who is harassing you, that person becomes invisible to you but they are free to follow you and RT you into their timeline," wrote petitioner Zerlina Maxwell.

Her petition had collected 1,500 signatures a few hours after it was put up.

Twitter's proposed new blocking policy stated that when a user blocked someone, the user would no longer see the person in the follower list, any updates from that person in their home timeline, or their replies or mentions in the Connect tab on Twitter.

The blocked person would also not be aware of being blocked. "Now when you block a user, they cannot tell that you've blocked them," said Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in a Twitter message, adding that it was a long-standing request from users of block.

But "blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline," if your account is public, according to the now-reversed policy update. If the user's tweets are protected and available to a select group then blocking the person will cause them to unfollow the user, it added.

On Twitter, users said that the new policy would make a variety of abuse easier. "If Twitter sticks to this new block policy we're going to see people go protected. Less community. More walled gardens. Everyone loses," one user wrote in a Twitter message.

Under the earlier policy now reinstated, unprotected tweets are visible on a user's public profile page to anyone, regardless of whether they have a Twitter account or not.

After reverting the change to the block function, users will once again be able to tell that they've been blocked, Sippey wrote. "We believe this is not ideal, largely due to the retaliation against blocking users by blocked users (and sometimes their friends) that often occurs," he wrote. "Some users worry just as much about post-blocking retaliation as they do about pre-blocking abuse." Twitter will continue to explore "features designed to protect users from abuse and prevent retaliation," Sippey said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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