Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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Elon Musk Says Blocking Users Will Be ‘Deleted’

In a shocking statement this morning X owner Elon Musk said X, the former Twitter, would remove blocking as a feature. The result is likely to be even more division, anger, and harassment on the platform. If implemented, it would likely also result in the removal of the X app from both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play.

“Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature,’ except for DMs,” Musk tweeted in response to a question by Tesla Owners Silicon Valley. “It makes no sense.”

The X account for the Auschwitz Memorial immediately begged to differ, saying that the organization blocks those who promote holocaust denial and hatred.

“These individuals do not seek discourse; they aim to inflict pain,” the organization said in a response to Musk. “Blocking is a necessary step to ensure that these harmful voices don’t persist in their repetitive attacks on memory.”

As other have noted, however, X cannot just unilaterally decide to end the ability to block users if Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino wish to remain on popular global distribution platforms as as the iOS App Store or Android’s Google Play. Apple’s App Store guidelines for safety in apps that offer user-generated content clearly state that such apps must offer blocking as a feature.

“Apps with user-generated content present particular challenges, ranging from intellectual property infringement to anonymous bullying. To prevent abuse, apps with user-generated content or social networking services must include … the ability to block abusive users from the service.”

Google’s policies for user-generated content are equally clear:

“Apps that contain or feature UGC, including apps which are specialized browsers or clients to direct users to a UGC platform, must implement robust, effective, and ongoing UGC moderation that … provides an in-app system for blocking UGC and users.”

Essentially what we have in the former Twitter is a powerful global business leader and one of the world’s richest men continually shooting his mouth off before checking with experts, getting advice, or doing such basic due diligence as a Google search on whatever his decree du jour might be, and then ultimately having to eat his words, retract his statements, or simply ignore former pronouncements.

“Ignore” might be the most palatable option here, based on recent history.

Musk also promised in late 2022 to offer a vote on “major policy changes.” That clearly hasn’t happened, and there’s no immediate prospects of it happening in the future.

Blocking has been an essential part of social media sites for many who have been targeted on basis of their beliefs, actions, or simply who they are, and many consider it an important part of their ability to maintain mental health. It’s also important to be able to silence scam or spam accounts.

“I utilize the block feature as a boundary to keep myself and my family safe from would-be stalkers & predators who politically target me and want to harm or frighten me,” says a Twitter user who dubs herself “The Redheaded Libertarian.”

One voice in favor, however, is Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who simply replied to Musk saying “100. Mute only.”

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