In a surprising turn of events, Elon Musk, known for his bold and unconventional decisions, sent shockwaves through the tech world by announcing that X, formerly known as Twitter, would be scrapping its longstanding user-blocking feature. The move raised concerns about potential repercussions for the app’s presence on Apple and Google’s app stores, but Musk’s rationale and vision for a replacement feature seem to have left users divided.
Apple, Google, and Musk – The dynamics of Twitter’s block to mute transition
On a Friday, Musk’s tweet declared, “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature,’ except for DMs. Makes no sense.” This statement immediately ignited debates among users about the implications of such a decision. The claim led some users to highlight Apple and Google’s app-store guidelines that explicitly require apps with user-generated content or social networking services to incorporate the ability to block abusive users.
Swift reactions followed Musk’s announcement, with users leveraging the platform’s Community Notes feature to provide annotated feedback. They cited specific sections of Apple and Google’s app-store guidelines that seemingly contradicted Musk’s decision to eliminate the blocking feature. However, the Community Notes fact-check was later removed from Musk’s post.
Musk’s proposed solution involves replacing the traditional block feature with what he calls a “stronger form of mute.” Currently, the mute function on X/Twitter hides unwanted accounts from a user’s timeline but still allows those muted users to interact with the muter’s posts. This has led Musk and his team to explore a more robust mute button, suggested by Aqueel Miqdad, a software engineer at X. Miqdad’s idea includes preventing muted users from replying or quoting posts and potentially transferring the block list to the mute list.
While concerns mount over the potential impact on safety, Musk, and his team appear to be betting on the idea that an enhanced mute function could satisfy the requirements of Apple and Google’s app stores. The objective is to demonstrate that this enhanced mute feature is functionally equivalent to user blocking. However, the ultimate success of this strategy remains uncertain.
Musk’s decision to move away from full account blocking raises questions about his motives. He’s reputedly a “free speech absolutist,” which could be driving his reluctance to empower users to block others from seeing their posts. Additionally, from a business perspective, the proposed “super-mute” feature could present an opportunity to expand the ad inventory for X/Twitter. This could help offset the substantial drop in ad revenue the platform experienced after Musk’s takeover.