Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has made the shocking and contentious decision to discontinue its user blocking tool. Elon Musk, the company’s owner, made this decision public on Friday. With the exception of direct messages (DMs), the block feature, which let users prevent certain accounts from contacting them, seeing their posts, or following them, will now be disabled.
Musk, a self-described “absolutist” of free expression, defended this choice by saying that X will still have the silent option. Users can exclude content from certain accounts using this feature without telling the other user. However, detractors contend that doing away with the block tool may promote harassment, hate speech, and online abuse, putting users’ safety at risk.
Since Elon Musk took over the company last year, researchers have noted a rise in hate speech and antisemitic content on the platform. Governments and advocacy groups have also accused the company of inadequate content moderation. This latest decision to remove or limit the block feature might escalate conflicts with guidelines set by tech giants Apple and Alphabet. Both Apple and Google require user-generated content platforms to provide mechanisms to block abusive users and content. Anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinsky voiced her concerns over the removal of the block feature, emphasizing its role in maintaining online safety. In response, Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino defended Musk’s decision, promising that the company is working on an improved solution that will offer better user protection than the current state of block and mute functions.
The controversy surrounding this decision underscores the ongoing debate about the balance between free speech and online safety. While Musk’s stance aligns with the principle of allowing diverse opinions, critics argue that the absence of effective user blocking could foster an environment conducive to harassment and abuse.
It’s worth noting that X’s move to eliminate the block feature is just one of several contentious changes the company has undergone since Musk’s acquisition. As the platform navigates these changes, the company’s commitment to user safety will undoubtedly remain a central concern, especially in the face of mounting pressure to strike the right balance between free expression and protection from online harm.