Thursday 13 January 2011

When blocking works on Twitter - and when it doesn't!

Almost as soon as you open a Twitter  account, you will probably find you are being followed and/or tweeted by rather dubious looking people, spammers and robots that are just set to automatically follow you.  And as soon as you mention certain terms like spam, weight loss or followers, you may receive unsolicited tweets from complete strangers offering you solutions you don't want.

Why do they do it? Mostly because they hope that you will follow them back without even thinking about it.  Once you have done that,  they will unfollow you - but you have added to their follower count and so they are able to follow more and more people. Or more  unpleasantly, once you are following them, they can send you direct messages that could be full of adverts for things you would be MUCH happier not seeing- or could even contain links to hacking or virus infected sites.

We are all better off without these things, so the best thing to do is hit Twitter's "Block and report spam" button. If enough people do this, their account will  be closed (they will probably open a new account almost immediately but at least it will give you  the satisfaction of inconveniencing them!)

However another way a lot of compers use the "block" function on Twitter  is to block people who persistently retweet other compers' own entries. If you've  blocked people  for doing this - I have bad news for you.  Blocking somebody on Twitter is a one way thing.  You can no longer see their tweets - BUT THEY CAN SEE YOURS. They can't follow you any more, but they can visit your Twitter page, see  your tweets there,  and retweet them if they want to.  Because you can't see their tweets, you can't see any @ messages they send you and what's more, you can't see whether they are retweeting your messages. So if you block them, they can carry on happily retweeting your messages and you won't even know they are doing it!

Also if  they are angry with you for blocking them,  they may block you in return- and if  enough people do this, then Twitter could close your account in the same way it will close a spammer's account if they are blocked multiple times. So blocking other compers is not the answer. If you find somebody keeps retweeting your messages, one thing  that seems to explain  the  system to them is to  tweet them the following message, or something similar :

You  can't enter  a comp by RTing another comper's entry - it's like  posting somebody else's postcard.

And it is in a way- they are  sending the promoter YOUR tweet and YOUR username rather than their own. Just as if they'd picked up YOUR competition entry postcard  in the street and popped it in the post box.

Another aspect of blocking  I am often asked  is "How can I tell if somebody has blocked me on  Twitter?" There are some applications that claim to be able to tell you,  but approach these with extreme caution. Most have been found  to be "dodgy" in some way, by accessing  areas of  your account that should remain private or even putting malicious software on  to your computer. The only safe way to know whether somebody has blocked you is to try to follow them  using New Twitter. If you are blocked,  a message will flash across the very top of the screen telling you so.

But wouldn't it be useful if,  as well as the"following", "followers" and "listed" buttons on our Twitter home page, there  was also a "Blocked by" button? I'd like to know who has blocked me - and I'd like to see that info about other people when I'm deciding whether to follow  them.

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