Users of the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, are in for a change. The platform’s owner, Elon Musk, has stated that users will no longer have the ability to block comments from undesirable followers. This change eliminates a long-standing safety feature on the platform, leaving many users and investors concerned about its implications.

Musk’s Explanation

Elon Musk’s decision came to light when he responded to a query from Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, a group promoting his electric car company. The question raised was, “Is there ever a reason to block vs mute someone?”. Musk’s answer was straightforward: “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs,” indicating that while blocking for direct messages will remain, the general blocking feature will be removed. He further stated that the blocking feature “makes no sense” and reassured users that the mute feature will continue to be available.

Changes Since Musk’s Takeover

After acquiring Twitter in a deal valued at $44 billion, Elon Musk has initiated several transformative changes:

  • Laying off a significant number of employees.
  • Rebranding Twitter as X.
  • Reinstating accounts that were previously banned.
  • Proposing the removal of the blocking feature.
  • Introducing charges for the platform’s “blue tick” verification feature.

Despite the myriad changes, Musk has not clarified the exact timeline or specific reasons for discontinuing the block function.

Concerns from Various Quarters

Several industry figures and users have voiced their concerns:

  • Binance CEO, Changpeng Zhao: Pointed out that before eliminating the blocking feature, X should prioritize tackling bots and spam.
  • Louis Jones, Brand Safety Institute: Mentioned in an email to CNBC that the platform might witness an increase in bullying and harassment, which could inhibit free speech and jeopardize X’s long-term success.

Block vs. Mute

While blocking ensures that posts from unwanted accounts do not appear in a user’s feed, the mute function merely hides these posts from the user. Others can still view and respond to muted posts. Users have utilized the block feature as a way to boycott specific brands and avoid ads.

Implications and App Store Concerns

Eliminating the block feature might result in the following consequences:

  • Users might find it challenging to keep abusive content off their timelines.
  • The mute function might be insufficient to counter cases of stalking, harassment, or abuse.
  • Such a move could potentially infringe on the terms of the Apple App Store and Google Play, which stipulate that social media apps must enable users to filter harassment or bullying.
  • If the new policy is implemented, it remains uncertain whether previously blocked accounts will automatically become unblocked.

Users still have the choice to set their accounts to private, ensuring that only approved followers can view their content.

Is This Another Elon Antic?

Elon Musk, known for his unpredictable and often tongue-in-cheek statements, has a following of 153 million on X. Although X seldom comments on media inquiries, making it hard to confirm Musk’s announcements, his position as the platform’s owner makes him an essential, albeit unpredictable, source of information. His vision for X as a “digital town square” aims to ensure all voices are heard. Still, this recent decision might clash with both app store policies and online user protection regulations.

For users looking for more information on online safety and the current policies, they can visit the Brand Safety Institute website.

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