Exporting and Importing Blocks directly from Twitter

Wed Jun 10 11:23 PDT 2015 - by Jacob Hoffman-Andrews

Today, Twitter announced native support for importing and exporting lists of blocked user ids. This brings functionality like Block Together's and The Block Bot's into twitter.com. I'm very excited about this feature. It shows Twitter is working hard on giving people better tools to help defend each other against harassment.

Twitter's block list export is missing some important features, relative to Block Together. Because Twitter relies on a one-time block export, there is no way to propagate forgiveness. That is, the author of a block list may decide they made a mistake blocking a given account. On Block Together, an author can unblock, and the subscribers of their block list will automatically unblock too.

Similarly, Twitter doesn't offer ongoing subscriptions. As harassers bring new accounts online, the author of a block list can block the new accounts. But unless the author's community downloads and imports the block list regularly, community members won't automatically receive the new blocks.

Lastly, Twitter doesn't offer an easy way to publish a block list, once it is exported. With easy services like Pastebin, this is not a big problem, but it adds one more obstacle when sharing a block list.

Twitter's implementation does have some big advantages. By incorporating the feature into Twitter's web UI, Twitter can bring block lists to the many people who would not otherwise have come across them. By using Twitter's resources to translate their import/export interface into many languages, Twitter can make block lists accessible to people all over the world. And Twitter's large engineering team means they can build a better, faster product that will scale to millions of users.

I anticipate that Twitter will continue improving their block list feature. Someday, when Twitter offers all of Block Together's features, I look forward to recommending their built-in features over Block Together. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to see more anti-abuse tools in the hands of individuals. Congratulations to Xiaoyun Zhang and the rest of the anti-abuse team at Twitter on a very important feature launch!