Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 6 February 2015

Twitter and trolls - a small, incidental suggestion (yes of course it's about the block function)

by @JoBrodie,

Yesterday I read with interest that Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, had been quoted as saying to colleagues(1,2) that the company could do a lot more to tackle persistent irritants on Twitter. Despite some cynicism and wariness many commenters seem buoyed by the tone and urgency of the acknowledgement and of Costolo's apology.

My small contribution won't solve much but I think it would make the limitations of the block clearer to Twitter's users. An understanding of the limitations is important because many users believe (wrongly) that the block offers a stronger protection against annoying people than it actually does.

From the hundreds of tweets saying some variant of "if you block someone they can no longer see your tweets" it is clear that the block's limitations are not obvious. 

How did people come to that (wrong) conclusion?
Since an update in early December those who are using Twitter's official platforms will now see an empty page when they click on the profile of someone who's blocked them. It says 'You are blocked from following @XYZ and viewing @XYZ's Tweets. Learn more'.

This has quite understandably given many users the impression that the people they've blocked would see the same thing when visiting their profile and led to the understanding that someone can no longer see your tweets if you block them.

I have two suggestions
1. Add some extra information to the 'learn more' help page, and to the article it links to about the limitations
2. When a user blocks someone, add a popup* that includes some extra information about the block and its limitations

*with a 'got it, don't show me this again' option

What's this information that's currently missing?
While many people do know this a fairly large amount of people don't seem to be aware that if you block someone they can still see your tweets...
  • by searching for from:yourname (even if they're logged in) 
  • via a hashtag search, or if someone else RTs your tweets into their timeline 
  • by using non-Twitter apps* (such as Echofon, Janetter, Osfoora, Tweetdeck etc) which will show profiles
  • by logging out or using a second account or a private browsing session

For most people a block works fine to stop someone's tweets from arriving, but if you really want to avoid them reading your tweets then a private account is probably more suitable. It is not possible to prevent one person from being able to read your tweets.

 *perhaps Twitter will require these third-party apps to observe the block function in future updates - however not everyone automatically updates their apps (and there are plenty of other workarounds).

1) Twitter CEO: 'We suck at dealing with abuse and it's all my fault' Jezebel (4 Feb 2015) 
2) Dick Costolo says trolls are costing Twitter users The Verge (4 Feb 2015)


The second point about blocked users being unable to view your tweets when logged in is untrue in two distinct ways: (a) depends what platform they're using (third party apps are currently leakier than official Twitter platforms) and (b) they can search for from:yourname. I think this information should be rewritten to explain to users exactly how blocked users can still see their tweets.

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