Elon Musk says X will strip ability to block accounts

(Reuters) – Social media company X, formerly known as Twitter, will remove a protective feature that lets users block other accounts, owner Elon Musk said on Friday in another controversial move for the company he bought last year.

The block function on X allows a user to restrict specific accounts from contacting them, seeing their posts or following them.

“Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs,” Musk said in a post on the platform, referring to direct messages.

He said X would retain the mute function, which screens a user from seeing specified accounts but, unlike blocking, does not alert the other account to the action.

The billionaire owner has described himself as a free speech absolutist, but some critics have said his approach is irresponsible. Researchers have found an increase in hate speech and antisemitic content on the platform since he took over, and some governments have accused the company of not doing enough to moderate its content.

Removing or limiting the block feature might bring X into conflict with guidelines incorporated by Apple’s App Store and Alphabet’s Google Play.

Apple says apps with user-generated content must have the ability to block abusive users. Google Play Store says apps must provide an in-app system for blocking user-generated content and users.

X, Google and Apple did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Responding to a post from anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinsky urging X to keep the “critical tool to keep people safe online”, Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino defended Musk’s move.

“Our users’ safety on X is our number one priority. And we’re building something better than the current state of block and mute. Please keep the feedback coming,” Yaccarino posted.

The company has said Musk would lead the product and engineering teams, while Yaccarino would lead all other teams, including legal and sales.

(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)