As Elon Musk continues to ring in sweeping changes at X, the exodus from the platform formerly known as Twitter is reshaping the social web. Decentralized platform Bluesky experienced a sudden surge of registrations after Musk announced that X’s blocking feature will be relegated to direct messages.
Currently, X users can use the block to prevent specific accounts from following them, viewing their tweets, or contacting them directly. In a recent spate of posts, Musk said that blocking users “makes no sense.” He plans to restrict the block to DMs moving forward.
It’s not the first time Musk has shared his thoughts about blocking users. Though he is adamant that the anti-harassment feature will be limited on X, he could expand the related “mute” option. Muted users cannot see posts from the person who muted them. A key difference between the two forms of moderation is that muted users are not informed of their status, while blocked users are.
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A series of posts from X software engineer Aqueel Miqdad confirmed that the platform does intend to “make mutes stronger.” Miqdad argued that the block fails to dissuade the most determined harassers, and it can easily be abused by bad actors.
i am seeing a lot of users concerned about removing blocks. We can make mutes stronger, like not allow people you mute to reply or quote you. We can also transfer you block list to mute list.
Preventing an account from seeing your posts does not work in practice. Anyone with any…
— Aqueel (@AqueelMiq) August 18, 2023
Those public condemnations have driven a new wave of signups to platforms like Bluesky. According to TechCrunch, the daily number of Bluesky registrations went from 536 to 5,616 the day after Musk’s announcement. That surge may have been responsible for some technical difficulties that hit the decentralized social hub.
The new arrivals at Bluesky will join a promising community, but they may be disappointed to hear that one of the platform’s key backers agrees with Musk’s decision. In a response to the erratic X leader, Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey said that “mute-only” is the path the new Twitter should take.
X loyalists who want to save the block may still have one lifeline. Stripping users of their ability to block one another could jeopardize X’s agreements with Google Play and the App Store. “If your app hosts user-created content,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin told The Washington Post, “you need to give them the ability to block abusive users.”
It remains to be seen whether the enhanced mute feature qualifies as a block. This claim, like so many of Elon Musk’s other promises, could end up falling by the wayside.