Will Musk Jeopardize X By Ditching Blocking? One Rival Seems To Be Benefitting Already

Elon Musk’s latest controversial declaration has tech watchers wondering if the owner of X will actually risk having the platform possibly thrown off the App Store and Google Play.

It also appears to be giving a boost to at least one X microblogging rival, Bluesky.

On Friday, Musk — a self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” — posted that he plans to drop the “block” feature from X, except for use in direct messaging, adding that “blocking public posts makes no sense.”

The message immediately spurred alarmed posts from users saying that the blocking function not only allows them to avoid harassment and remove spam, but allows for avoiding hate speech.

Even some conservative commentators expressed serious concerns about the possibility of being unable to block other users. For instance, Buck Sexton wrote that “Blocking is one of the most important features on [X]. Otherwise, it just turns into an echo chamber of harassment from the most vile idiots.”



According to The Center for Countering Digital Hate, hate speech rose significantly after Musk acquired the platform then known as Twitter in 2022 and restored many previously blocked accounts. In June, the Center reported that X fails to take action on 99% of hate comments posted by Twitter Blue accounts. Musk subsequently sued the Center, claiming that its “flawed” research illegally used data scraped from X and resulted in the platform losing tens of millions of dollars in advertising.

Last week, at least two brands — pharmaceutical company Gilead and NCTA-The Internet and Television Association — said they were suspending advertising on X, after their ads and others were run on an account that promotes fascism, CNN Business reported. That was a week after X CEO Linda Yaccarino reiterated the platform’s commitment to ensuring brand safety.

This isn’t the first time Musk has threatened to drop the blocking function. In June, he said the platform should drop blocking and replace it with a “stronger form of mute,” although he did not elaborate on what that might mean. Musk has also complained about blocking campaigns against Twitter/X users who have opted to pay for Twitter Blue status.

The current mute function allows users to avoid seeing the activities of specified users, while allowing those users to continue to interact with the “muters,” such as commenting on their posts. Blocks block all activity, including comments.

X software engineer Aqueel Miqdad posted that X does intend to “make mutes stronger,” perhaps by stopping those muted from replying to or quoting the muters. He also argued that “preventing an account from seeing your posts does not work in practice… Anyone with any intent can find out what you post by simply creating another account or logging out.”

But nearly all large social networks offer a block function, and language in the terms of both the App Store and Google Play appears to require that apps provide such an option to qualify for a presence on the stores.

Bluesky, a new, still-small (about 55,000 users as of May) and by-invitation-only competitor to X, quickly abandoned its own attempt to operate with a blocking option, reported The Verge.

And Bluesky now looks to be benefiting, at least temporarily, from Musk’s promise to end blocking on X. Bluesky’s average daily registrations leapt from 536 to 5,616 on the day following Musk’s announcement, according to TechCrunch.

It remains to be seen whether Musk, who has reversed course or failed to follow through on a number of declared plans for Twitter/X since he took over, will follow through on the blocking block.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Musk amused himself by trolling some users who objected to losing the function, including conservative actor James Woods.

“Musk, whom I once championed, is only doing this to protect his advertisers anyway,” asserted Woods, threatening to delete his account if blocking is eliminated. “Users of X are mere pawns to turn the site into an electronic shopping mall. The man I thought was a defender of free speech is just another greedy capitalist. Disappointing, but not surprising.”

Musk retorted: “Then delete your account.” Later, in a post responding to another tweet, he acknowledged, gleefully: “I’m having a good time blocking people who complain that blocking is going away. How does the medicine taste?”

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