SAN FRANCISCO -- Twitter has caused an uproar with a controversial change to its blocking policy.
It used to be that when you blocked a user, it meant that person could not follow you and could not track your updates on the service.
Now even if you block someone, that person can still see everything you do, interact with you and receive your updates in his or her timeline. You just won’t see that person’s activity on Twitter. That means blocked users can retweet or favorite your tweets.
Twitter says it’s trying to shield people from retaliation. Before when someone found out a Twitter user had blocked him or her, that person would at times act out aggressively. With the new system, people you block have no idea you have blocked them.
But many Twitter users do not see it that way and they are protesting the change. They say the most crucial aspect of blocking – keeping a stalker from seeing what you are doing on Twitter – has been removed, making everyone vulnerable to harassment or abuse. Now the only way to keep from being stalked by people you have blocked is to make your account private, which defeats the purpose for many of being on Twitter.
Feminist Zerlina Maxwell has started a petition on Change.org: “Twitter: Don’t Make Life Easier for Harassers.”
“This is a huge and very serious problem for people, like me, who have received repeated rape and death threats on Twitter on a fairly consistent basis,” Maxwell wrote. “Twitter is no longer a safe space. As a public person who uses the medium for my work, I am very concerned because stalkers and abusers will now be able to keep tabs on their victims, and while there was no way to prevent it 100% before, Twitter should not be in the business of making it easier to stalk someone.”
Still, there really isn’t any effective way to stop someone from seeing your timeline on Twitter. It’s a public forum. Even if you block someone, he or she can still see your timeline when he or she is not logged in or by going to your profile page.