X owner, Elon Musk, set off a storm of criticism after he announced plans to remove the “block” feature from the platform formerly known as Twitter. The announcement came after a user questioned the purpose of the feature, sparking a heated debate among the platform’s social media users.
The account “Tesla Owners Silicon Valley” raised the question on Friday, asking, “Is there ever a reason to block vs mute someone? Give your reasons.”
Is there ever a reason to block vs mute someone?
Give your reasons.
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) August 18, 2023
Musk joined the conversation, replying to the account’s post with, “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs.”
Block is going to be deleted as a “feature”, except for DMs
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 18, 2023
The tech billionaire argued that the block function “makes no sense,” but his stance was met with a flood of opposition, with many users asserting that the “block” feature is vital, serving as a tool to prevent unwanted interactions and maintain a positive online experience.
Longtime users of the platform emphasized the importance of the “block” feature in filtering out unwanted content and interactions. According to them, it is a crucial tool for stopping trolls who engage in repetitive spam or negative criticism and online trolling.
Notably, conservative commentator Buck Sexton strongly disagreed with Musk’s proposition, writing, “Blocking is one of the most important features on this site. Otherwise, it just turns into an echo chamber of harassment from the most vile idiots.”
Blocking is one of the most important features on this site. Otherwise it just turns into an echo chamber of harassment from the most vile idiots
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) August 18, 2023
Conservative activist Billboard Chris also voiced his opposition, stating, “Worst idea ever. Those who talk about controversial subjects will be flooded with trolls whose sole intent is to start fights and spread false info.”
Worst idea ever. Those who talk about controversial subjects will be flooded with trolls whose sole intent is to start fights and spread false info.
My replies should not be a platform for haters and liars, never mind the ones who will dox.
Considering the reporting process…
— Billboard Chris 🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@BillboardChris) August 18, 2023
Criticism extended to concerns about the platform’s reporting process and its potential impact on meaningful discourse. Some argued that removing the block feature could lead to the platform becoming a breeding ground for hate and misinformation.
Amid the discussions, female users who had faced online abuse emphasized the importance of the block feature. Anti-bullying activist and public speaker Monica Lewinsky shared her perspective, writing, “Please rethink removing the block feature. as an anti-bullying activist (and target of harassment) i can assure you it’s a critical tool to keep people safe online.”
hey @elonmusk + @lindayaX …
please rethink removing the block feature. as an anti-bullying activist (and target of harassment) i can assure you it’s a critical tool to keep people safe online.
– that woman
— Monica Lewinsky (she/her) (@MonicaLewinsky) August 19, 2023
Musk’s viewpoint on blocking had been hinted at in the past as he suggested in June that X should replace blocking with a “stronger form of mute.”
Blocking public posts makes no sense. It needs to be deprecated in favor of a stronger form of mute.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2023
However, this proposition received mixed reactions, given his history of delays in implementing changes.
Blocking and muting serve different purposes, with blocking completely preventing an account from viewing tweets and muting allowing limited interaction.
The “mute” function, which lets users filter out posts from specific accounts, had become an alternative to blocking. However, those who are muted remain unaware of their status, unlike blocked accounts, which receive a notification if they try to access the blocker’s profile.