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Elon Musk took over X, formally known as Twitter and one of the many changes implemented by Musk has now left a compounding impact that has now left several users out in the cold.
Musk rebranded Twitter into X and decided to remove the block feature replacing it with the proposed mute feature.
The move which was intended to favour free speech posed a greater danger in terms of cyberbullying, and has ultimately increased threats faced by certain marginalized groups.
The impact is alarming as the number of slurs targeting gay men and black women has been reported to have increased.
Research reveals that slurs against black American women have increased significantly from an average of 1, 282 per day to nearly 4 ooo after the block features benching.
Slurs against gay men surged from 2,500 per day to almost 4,000 per day.
The block feature has been overcast by the other features, which all form as part of Musk’s plan to prioritize freedom of speech.
The unintended downside
“These changes effectively strip away the defense mechanisms that users rely on to protect themselves from online threats and abuse. With no block feature and no means to report misinformation, individuals are left exposed and vulnerable in the digital realm,” according to Anna Collard, the Senior Vice President of Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.
“The mute function that replaced the blocking function only stops notifications about an account’s posts,” she explains.
“However, it does not prevent the harasser from viewing, commenting on, or replying to a person’s posts. Essentially, muting only shields users from seeing certain content without putting a complete stop to it. If you are getting death threats, all the mute function does is prevent you from knowing you got a death threat.”
She maintains that it remains crucial that users of social platforms recognize that the risks are now inherent which forces users to be more careful going forward.
The evolution of the mute/block feature within X is yet to be revealed, but one thing is clear: users must exercise care, remain aware, and be prepared for potential instances of abuse when engaging with the platform, maintains Collard.
The block feature on social media serves a crucial role in safeguarding users from various threats, including harassment, privacy breaches, and hate speech.
Removing this feature jeopardizes the well-being and safety of users and could lead to negative consequences for both individuals and the social media platforms themselves.
It is important to strike a balance between user protection and freedom of expression when considering any changes to this feature.
The removal of the feature seems to have opened the gates to several threats, as the block feature served as a valuable tool for users to control their online experiences.
Some of the threats include increased harassment and cyberbullying, as some users may be more vulnerable to online harassment and cyberbullying. This of course could lead to emotional distress and harm user mental wellbeing.
There are also online stalking and privacy concerns as the feature assisted in protecting user personal information while maintaining a degree of privacy.
Losing the block feature could mean stalkers can exploit the removal of the feature to track and gather personal information about their victims.