Elon Musk says X will remove the ability to block accounts

An “X” logo is seen on the window of an apartment across the street from the headquarters of messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco, California, US, July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barrea Acquisition of licensing rights

Aug. 18 (Reuters) – Elon Musk, owner of social media company X, formerly Twitter, said it will remove a protective feature that lets users block other accounts, in another controversial move for the company it bought last year.

The block functionality on X allows the user to restrict certain accounts from contacting them, seeing their posts, or following them.

“Blocking will be removed as a ‘feature’, except for direct messages,” Musk said in a post on the platform, referring to direct messages.

He said X will retain mute functionality, which prevents the user from seeing specific accounts, but, unlike blocking, does not alert the other account to the action.

The billionaire has described himself as a free-spoken free-thinker, but some critics have said his approach is irresponsible. Researchers have detected an increase in hate speech and anti-Semitic content on the platform since he took office, and some governments have accused the company of not doing enough to moderate its content.

Removing or restricting the blocking feature may cause X to conflict with the guidelines included in the Apple App Store (AAPL.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) Google Play.

Apple says apps that contain user-generated content should have the ability to block abusive users. The Google Play Store says that apps must provide an in-app system to block user and user-generated content.

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X, Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In response to a post from anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinsky urging X to maintain “the crucial tool for keeping people safe online,” CEO Linda Iaccarino defended Musk’s move.

“The safety of our users on X is our number one priority. We are building something better than the current state of being blocked and muted. Please keep the feedback coming,” Yaccarino wrote.

The company said Musk will lead the production and engineering teams, while Yaccarino will lead all other teams, including the legal and sales teams.

(Reporting by Marinmay Day in Bengaluru); Edited by William Mallard

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