X, the app formerly known as Twitter, has faced plenty of changes in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover, but many of the service’s core tools have remained unchanged. In the ten months since ownership of the site changed hands, users have been happy to follow, mute, and block anyone they want, even as the name, icon, and the word “tweet” all went through some radical rethinking. You might’ve thought these elements would all stay the same, but in his latest moves, Musk is looking to go after one of the most basic features of the app.
A tweet by Telsa Owners Silicon Valley, a popular account often retweeted by Musk, asked its followers if there was a reason to block someone over muting them. Musk responded in turn, claiming he plans to remove the ability to block accounts on the site, with an exception made for DMs. In a follow-up to his initial tweet, the X exec commented that blocking “makes no sense.”
Unsurprisingly, the remarks gathered plenty of attention from fans and critics of Musk alike, with even supporters pointing out that spam bots are worth blocking in totality. Even the account that wrote the tweet Musk replied to disagreed with the idea to remove the ability to block.
Although it seems like Musk believes muting would suffice in most cases, there’s a pretty large distinction between muting and blocking. Muting an account
tweets posts from users without unfollowing them. Users who are muted will not know they have been muted, and can still view your account as normal. It’s a more polite way to avoid someone without them knowing. Blocking a user is more serious, as it prevents them from following, viewing, and interacting with your account, removes their posts from your feed, and prevents the two accounts from following each other.
Clearly, the idea of losing this safeguard did not sit well with users. Based on how many comments oppose it, it may turn out one-sided against Musk if he were to follow through with an earlier promise suggesting votes on major policy changes.
Unfortunately for the exec — and thankfully for everyone else — he cannot remove the blocking feature without dire consequences on mobile. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store require apps that have user-generated content to allow blocking.
The App Store’s terminology is fairly clear: “Apps with user-generated content or social networking services must include the ability to block abusive users from the service.” For Google, the policy is the same, as its terms of service spell out apps with user-generated content must “provide an in-app system for blocking [user-generated content] and users.” If this happens, users are likely to report the app for violating those rules, and X would be at the mercy of the App Store and Play Store.
Musk needs something that satisfies those rules on those app stores if he really wants to remove the blocked feature. Nevertheless, that won’t guarantee that this backlash will end, and Musk might backtrack on this X idea, just as he did when he wanted to remove the brightness setting.