Updated Friday 12 December 2014
Twitter seems to have rolled out a new format for its block function. The desktop and 'Twitter for smartphone' will now show you a page saying "You are blocked from following @Name and viewing @Name's Tweets. Learn more" - this does not mean that you can't view their tweets. Or that if you've blocked someone they can't view yours.
All anyone has to do to view tweets of someone who's blocked them (or see your tweets if you've blocked them) is any of the following (a) use another account (b) log out (c) use a different browser (d) use a different third party app, eg Echofon on iPhone shows profiles of homeopaths who've blocked me even if desktop Twitter doesn't (e) search for their tweets on Twitter desktop or with Hootsuite / Tweetdeck.
So people celebrating that Twitter's finally made the block function work are a little mistaken I think. Here's a freshly written blog post with a bit more detail Twitter's updated its block function but nothing has really changed (12 December 2014)
updated Sunday 25 May 2014, 10:48am
Twitter's rolled out a Mute function on desktop Twitter.com and has slightly tweaked the block function (nothing significant to how it works, just that a block now reports the user for one of four options), I've written a post about it here:
Twitter (desktop version) has a new Mute option for users, what does it do? (25 May 2014)
re-written from scratch Saturday 4 January 2014, 17:07pm
Welcome to the updated version of this post. The original, written 18 months ago, is now out of date because Twitter made a number of changes, first gradual and then more dramatic (before reversing them again) to what happened when person A blocks person B. If you want to read the original post it's available as a Word document (5 pages!).
If you want to see, in pictures, what someone you've blocked can see of your tweets have a look at "Blocking someone on Twitter - what can they see? (14 January 2014)"
Table of Contents
- The short version
- What happens if you block someone on Twitter?
- What happens if they block you?
- The longer version
- Historical problems with blocking
- How to stop someone from contacting you
- How to stop someone from reading your tweets
- How do you know if someone has blocked you?
- How to read the tweets of someone who's blocked you
- Private accounts - what to watch out for
- Further reading
1. The short version
- Blocking someone does not stop them from seeing your tweets. Period.
- Blocking someone does stop their tweets from appearing in your timeline / mentions (though you can still go looking for those tweets).
- If you want to make sure that someone cannot see your tweets then you need to make your account private, be cautious about who you allow to follow you (are you sure they've not just created another account to follow you with) and hope that their accounts aren't compromised by someone who'd cracked or phished their password.
1.1 What happens if you block someone on Twitter?
Not much. Their tweets won't arrive in your timeline or mentions tab - you won't hear from them. They can't follow you but
1.2 What happens if they block you?
Not much. Your tweets won't show up in their timeline or mentions, they won't hear from you. You
2. The longer version
Here's some nice music to listen to as you read on - I heard of it via Radiolab's Colors episode. This works on an iPhone and even plays in-page :)
The purpose of blocking, as Twitter sees it, is to prevent someone from contacting you via Twitter.
Any tweets that a blocked person sends to @YourTwitterName won't show up in your mentions or interactions. However if you search for all mentions sent to you (by literally typing @YourTwitterName into the search function) you can see any tweets they've sent you.
https://twitter.com/search?q=%40JoBrodie%20&src=typd&f=realtime = these are all public tweets sent to me (excluding those from private accounts, you won't be able to see those unless you're logged in as me). Replace the bit in bold with your user name to see tweets sent to you.
Anyone can see your tweets, unless your account is locked and all your followers are trustworthy and haven't had their passwords pinched.
2.1 Historical problems with blocking
Twitter previously set things up with blocking so that if you tried to view the account of someone who'd blocked you you couldn't. Instead you'd be shown a page saying "this user hasn't tweeted yet" or similar. (As of 12 December 2014 Twitter has returned this 'functionality').
2.2 How to stop someone from contacting you
Block them. But note that it only stops that account from contacting you via Twitter, it doesn't stop that account (or a new one they've just created) from reading your tweets.
You can use the following links to restrict your view of mentions / interactions so you only see the tweets of people that you're following.
• Mentions: https://twitter.com/mentions?filter=following
• Interactions: https://twitter.com/i/connect?filter=following (this one includes 'X favorited your tweet')
You can see all the accounts that you have blocked at https://twitter.com/settings/blocked
2.3 How to stop someone from reading your tweets
Lock your account. This will stop everyone from reading your tweets, unless they're already following you - many people don't want that. There is no way to stop only one or two people from reading your tweets. See (3) on Private accounts for more on the potential weaknesses of locked accounts.
2.4 How do you know if someone has blocked you? [Updated 12 December 2014]
View their profile on Twitter dot com or Twitter for iPhone (I assume it's the same for Twitter for Android and things like that). Twitter will now show you no tweets from them and there's a message saying that you're blocked. If you use Echofon on iPhone or iPad at time of writing (12 Dec) you'll still be able to see their profile anyway so you need to use the Twitter service to find this out.
You can still see their tweets appearing in searches when you're logged in but you won't be able to favourite or retweet them.
2.5 How to read the tweets of someone who's blocked you
Just go to their profile - http://twitter.com/TheirTwitterName or log out.
If their tweets are public then you can view those tweets by using any of the following methods
(a) search for their tweets either by their name or a hashtag that they're using (use desktop Twitter dot com or Hootsuite or Tweetdeck)
(b) using a different browser
(c) logging out of the blocked account and using the same browser while logged out
(d) logging into a different account
(e) using a different smartphone app - at the moment Echofon for iPhone lets me see the profiles of a couple of homeopathy quacks who've blocked me
3. Private accounts - what to watch out for
A locked account means that only people you've granted access to can follow you. New followers must request permission to follow which you can grant, or not. Since people don't have to use their real names to create an account you cannot be certain if they're someone you want to have following you or not.
For the slightly more worried...
If you know the email address of someone you may be able to find out what their Twitter name is - you can use the 'find friends' feature of Twitter in the settings to let Twitter access the email addresses in your contacts list.
You can also stop people from finding out, from your email address, what your Twitter name is by making sure that the " " option is unticked (I think unticked is the default setting) in the Security and Privacy section of your settings.
Remember that the security of a locked account is only as strong as the security of your followers - if one of them has their account compromised then anyone viewing their account can see your tweets.
Also, even people who are legitimately following you can still take a screenshot of your tweets and share that, or manually retweet your tweets by copying and pasting the text.
More about locked Twitter accounts:
- How to view private tweets - and what to be aware of to protect your account (7 December 2013) - as far as I know it is not possible to view the tweets of a private account but this shouldn't lull anyone into a false sense of security
- Don't assume that your private Twitter account is all that private (7 December 2012) - every tweet sent in reply to a private tweet can give some information about what was in the private tweet, a bit like hearing only one side of a phone conversation lets you guess what the other person said.
At the risk of lengthening this blog post to the point of ridiculousness I thought I'd try and answer directly some of the questions that people type into Google that bring them here. I've no idea who it is that's searching (I just get a list of search terms in Google Analytics) and I've turned the keywords into more readable questions. You can also ask questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them (note that some of my replies are now out of date because Twitter keeps changing things!)
If you block someone on twitter can they see your tweets?
Yes, they can do this by
Can non-followers read your tweets?
Yes, unless your profile is private anyone can view any of your tweets (other than DMs which only go between two people). You can pre-emptively block someone who isn't following you, but they can still read your tweets.
If you block someone on twitter can they mention you in their tweets?
Yes, although it won't show up in your mentions / interactions tab - you'll have to search for your mentions (eg type @yourname into Twitter's search), search for their tweets,
Can they retweet me if I've blocked them?
Yes, but only by copying and pasting the text and retweeting manually. You won't know that they've done this unless you look at their profile or search for their tweets.
How do you know if someone has blocked you on Twitter?
See section 2.4 above please.
Will someone know if you've blocked them on Twitter?
Probably. If they can't see your profile on Twitter dot com or other official Twitter app then they'll know (and your profile page will now tell them that you've blocked them). If they're using Echofon for iPhone then they won't know as it (at time of writing, 12 Dec) still shows the profile and doesn't say anything about a block.
Other clues include not being able to favourite or automatically retweet (pressing the RT button on a tweet they come across elsewhere, not on your profile). They can still manually RT your tweets.
Can a blocked twitter user still see your direct messages?
I don't know for certain (not having been in that situation). I suspect that because blocking them effectively stops them from following you then they will certainly be unable to send any new DMs but I don't know if any previously sent DMs will simply disappear. If you have sent them any DMs the safest option is to delete them - this will also delete them from their inbox (as only one copy is available).
Can people tell you've been looking for them or their tweets on Twitter?
Not as far as I'm aware. To the best of my knowledge Twitter does not make information available to users about what people have been searching for (and remember you can also search Twitter from outside of Twitter itself using Google, by searching for site:twitter.com keyword, and Topsy.com among other tools). So in that sense probably not.
But if you come across a tweet and respond to it then you've kind of given yourself away there ;)
Can you still view tweets when not logged in?
Yes, as long as those tweets don't belong to protected accounts, you can still see everything you just can't interact with them. Twitter's homepage (http://twitter.com) is a bit unwelcoming if you're not logged in so it helps to know the address of the profile you want to look at (eg http://twitter.com/ScreenName) and the basic search address which is http://search.twitter.com
Other than going private, is there a way to stop someone from seeing your tweets?
No. Blocking doesn't even do this (if they log out they can certainly see your tweets and even if logged in they can search for them and they'll probably show up in the results too). Protecting your account is the only way to stop someone seeing them - but you have to trust that everyone whom you've allowed to follow you isn't going to retweet your tweets without permission and give the game away.
On Twitter what does 'we block eggs' mean?
When someone is new to Twitter they have the symbol of an egg as their picture (avatar) which they can then change to something else. Spam accounts are often created just to send the same link to a lot of people, they don't bother to change the picture so people associate these eggs with spammers and are wary. Not all spammers have the egg picture and not all people with egg avatars are spammers, but it is a 'risk factor' for an account to be treated more cautiously.
I'd never heard the phrase used before (people usually say "I block..." and they usually talk about blocking spam accounts, to me 'we' is an unusual word to write on a Twitter account unless it's an organisational one) but it seems that this is a phrase that has been used on a few accounts shared by married couples looking for *ahem* other people for fun and games. Well that was a bit of an eye-opener ;) This will take you to the search page for that phrase, there's nothing particularly saucy there, just info about accounts who use that phrase in their Twitter bio https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22we+block+eggs%22
Presumably people who are using Twitter to talk about these interests are more likely to be targeted for spam and so have a lower tolerance for such accounts. You learn something new every day...
5. Further reading
From my blog:
Twitter's updated its block function but nothing has really changed (12 December 2014)
What does a blocked person see when they look at your account? (14 January 2014) - of course this is now out of date ;) (12 Dec 2014)
Don't assume your private Twitter account doesn't give your information away (7 December 2013)
For those with an interest in the history of the the changes that Twitter brought in and then reversed again in December 2014 see Forbes' Blocking people on Twitter now just mutes them and Twitter reversed some / most / all of the changes in response to the complaints.