Users of X (formerly Twitter) will no longer be able to block unwanted followers, according to Elon Musk.
It has long been believed that one of the most important security features to prevent harassment and exposure to spam or abusive postings is the user's ability to block content from unwelcome followers.
According to Musk, the blocking feature will now only be available for direct messages.
“Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs,” Musk wrote Friday. He was responding to a post from the account of Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, asking, “Is there ever a reason to block vs mute someone?”
Since purchasing Twitter for US$44 billion last year, Musk has completely restructured the company, terminating many staff, restoring previously banned accounts, and most recently renaming the business and platform to X
In a follow-up statement regarding the block, Musk said that "it makes no sense" and that the mute function will still be available, failing to give a cause or a timeline for the removal of the function.
Until now, users have been able to use the block feature to prevent abuse and hate speech from appearing in their feeds in response to their postings. The mute option only hides unwanted responses from the individual user; it doesn't remove them from other users' feeds.
X users have also engaged the block tool to partake in boycotts and refrain from seeing adverts from particular companies or promoters on the network. This is critical given that since Musk took over, researchers have discovered a rise in hate speech and antisemitic material on the platform, and some governments have charged the firm with not doing enough to control its content.
It's possible that removing or restricting the block option would put X at odds with the policies embraced by Apple's App Store and Alphabet's Google Play.
According to Apple, apps that include user-generated content must have the option to block abusive individuals. The Google Play Store mandates that apps have a framework within the app for limiting user-generated content and users.
More brands suspend their X advertising
Musk’s removal of the block function adds to mounting concerns advertisers have regarding the platform, and Musk’s lax approach to free speech. Back in July, Musk announced that Twitter had lost almost half of its advertising revenue since he bought the company in October.
And now, less than a week after X CEO Linda Yaccarino asserted that the platform was safe for advertising, at least two companies have suspended ad campaigns on X after ads appeared alongside Nazi content.
Following a recent revelation that discovered large brands' adverts were being displayed on content supporting Nazi ideology, the pharmaceutical giant Gilead and the NCTA: The Internet and Television Association both informed CNN that their company was no longer advertising on X.
Ads account for more than 90% of Twitter's income in the years prior to Musk. However, even as concerns mount, many allege Musk has persisted in prioritising his personal preferences for right-wing influencers and material over brand and user safety in general. For instance, last month after a right-wing influencer's account had been suspended for sharing images of child exploitation, Musk personally intervened to have it reinstated, causing many to question his intentions with the platform.