A change to how blocking is done on Twitter is causing a ruckus on the service. Instead of both hiding a user and preventing them from following you, blocking now acts more like a mute button — they can see your tweets and respond all they want, but you won't see them.
That's if your profile is public, of course, meaning that public tweets are now able to be seen by everyone, no matter what. If you don't want your tweets read by someone in particular, or by everyone in the world for that matter, you can of course make your profile private.
Some users are complaining that this allows stalkers and other unwelcome types to follow someone's tweets, even if that someone has blocked them. That's true — but with a public profile, there was never a way to prevent one person from seeing your tweets; they could set up another account, view your tweets through someone else's feed, or even just log out — public profiles are visible to non-Twitter-users, after all.
Whether you think the change makes sense or not, it's already in effect. If anybody is bothering you on Twitter, blocking them does still mean you won't have to put up with their abuse — but now, they won't even know they've been blocked.
UPDATE: Twitter has reversed the changes to blocking after users protested. In a blog post, Twitter VP of product Michael Sippey wrote: "We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect ... Moving forward, we will continue to explore features designed to protect users from abuse and prevent retaliation."
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.