An online petition urging Twitter to rethink its new blocking policy has garnered nearly 600 signatures in less than an hour.
Earlier Thursday, Twitter changed its policy, making it possible for blocked users to follow the blocker, who can no longer see any tweet activity by the blockee.
Almost instantly upon rolling out the change, Twitter users began to express their displeasure, with many saying that it was a dangerous move that enables stalkers. For its part, Twitter said that the new policy was implemented to discourage trolling, and that it had always been possible for anyone -- even someone who was blocked -- to see the tweets on any public profile.
But that explanation doesn't seem to be enough for those who have signed the petition, written by Zerlina Maxwell on Change.org.
Previously, if you were being harassed or simply trolled by spam accounts, you could click the "Block" button which would forbid that user from ever following you and also remove them from your mentions and timeline. Now, even if you block someone who is harassing you, that person becomes invisible to you but they are free to follow you and RT you into their timeline.
This is a huge and very serious problem for people, like me, who have received repeated rape and death threats on Twitter on a fairly consistent basis. I utilize the Block button almost every day and while that is not a perfect solution - because users can simply log out to view your timeline even if you have blocked them - it at least forbid harassers from following you and at worst retweeting you into their feed which can simply allow their followers to also harass you.
Twitter is no longer a safe space. As a public person who uses the medium for my work, I am very concerned because stalkers and abusers will now be able to keep tabs on their victims, and while there was no way to prevent it 100 percent before, Twitter should not be in the business of making it easier to stalk someone.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a CNET request about the petition, but earlier Thursday, the company told CNET that any kind of change is going to upset some people, and that while the social-networking company will monitor sentiment about the new policy, the public shouldn't expect it to pull back on the change.