After testing last month, Twitter is rolling out a feature to all web users that will let them remove followers without blocking them. This safety feature can be helpful if you want to avoid the repercussions of blocking someone — if a blocked user navigates to your profile after you block them, Twitter will tell them that they were blocked. But by removing a follower, users can feel more secure about who sees their tweets without blocking them altogether.
Sure, the blocked user might notice that they no longer follow you, but who knows! Maybe they clicked the unfollow button on accident! There’s some plausible deniability there that a hard block doesn’t offer.
For years, Twitter users had manufactured this “soft block” by swiftly blocking and unblocking a follower, which removes them from your follower list. But now, Twitter is making this its own feature.
In the tweet about the test that Twitter posted in September, the images indicated that you have to manually scroll through your follower list and find the person you want to remove before you can take them off your followers list. But now, you can also remove a follower by going to their profile, clicking the three-dot icon, and selecting the “Remove this follower” option. For particularly popular Twitter users, that makes the feature far more usable.
Unrelated to follower removals, Twitter also announced a test of a feature that would allow users to swipe on their timeline between two different feeds: one that’s sorted by Twitter’s algorithm, and one that’s chronological.
Twitter already lets users switch between these two feeds, but the test comes at a time when content algorithms are at attention. When the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before the Senate last week, she said that she believes ranking content chronologically can help limit the spread of toxicity, misinformation and violent content on Facebook, which uses an algorithm that promotes content that’s more likely to spark a reaction. Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey has previously voiced support for users’ ability to choose from multiple algorithms to organize the content they see.
Twitter has been testing and implementing a baffling amount of new features lately. Not everything Twitter tests becomes a permanent fixture, but it used to be a good indication of where the company’s interests stand. But more recently, Twitter explained its strategy would include far more experimentation than in the past. That means it’s more ready to shut down projects and features that don’t work — something it already did with its Stories feature, called Fleets.
“You won’t see us stay tied to the things that aren’t working,” Twitter Head of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour said last month, when announcing another large round of new additions. “We believe that if we’re not winding things down every once in a while, then we’re not taking big enough bets,” he said.