November 13, 2010

Under #NewTwitter, Blocked Users Can't See Your Timeline

Being blocked on Twitter is a funny thing. The practice, used infrequently by most people, and more frequently by more a small segment of the population who likes to wield it as a weapon or a punitive measure following temporary flare-ups or permanent dislike, doesn't really do a whole lot. Effectlively, blocking a person means they cannot follow your account directly, and that their tweets won't appear in your own timeline, but not much else. Under the old Twitter, those people you had blocked were unable to click on individual Tweets, but still could see all your tweets, in your timeline, and yes, if you sign out or use a second account, you can still see all the tweets in their original glory.

Quietly updated with the ongoing rollout of #NewTwitter, it now looks like trying to view the timeline of someone who has blocked you no longer works. Instead of a list of their tweets, you see a white lie from Twitter that says "Loading Tweets seems to be taking a while". In actuality, this means those tweets are not going to be showing up for you ever - at least until the other person unblocks you or you use a second account.

An Account Blocking Me on the Old Twitter Shows Tweets

An Account Blocking Me on the New Twitter Hides Tweets

According to Twitter's Help Center, blocked users can't:
  1. Add your account to Twitter lists
  2. Have their @mentions of you show in your @mentions area
  3. Follow your account
  4. See your avatar on their page or timeline
Even with all this, blocking remains an entirely ineffective way to hide your updates from an individual. Until there are ways to block by IP address or block a person's cookie and note they use another account which is blocked (just an example), it simply doesn't work. The new update just makes getting to those artificially hidden accounts one more step away. But if it is critical, and there is really someone you don't want seeing your updates, you could always go "private". That way, you are essentially turning blocking on its head. Instead of blocking a few people, you block everyone and bring in a select few.

As for my good friend Alex Payne (@al3x) who blocked me more than 18 months ago, I don't remember exactly why, but his account is always reliable for me to test against and see how this blocking process has changed.

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