Twitter is trialling a feature that allows users to shrug off unwanted followers without officially blocking them.
It provides a less stark alternative to hitting the “block” button – a move that is often publicised across timelines when the blocked user screenshots the notification and publishes it.
With the new “soft block” feature, users can remove followers by going to their profile page, clicking “followers” and then the three dot icon next to the follower’s name, and selecting “remove this follower”. The former follower will not be notified by Twitter.
Unlike blocking, which stops someone from viewing a user’s tweets and sending them direct messages, their tweets will simply no longer appear automatically in the removed follower’s timeline.
The trial, which is under way with a small group of users, is Twitter’s latest attempt to address concerns over privacy and abuse on the platform.
Earlier this month the US company, which has more than 200 million active users, launched tests of an anti-troll feature that will automatically block accounts sending abuse. Once Twitter’s new “safety mode” is activated by a user, it will temporarily block accounts for seven days if the tech firm’s systems spot them using harmful language or sending repetitive, uninvited replies and mentions.
According to Bloomberg, Twitter is planning a series of trials to give people more privacy options, with the follower removal and safety mode tests among the first. The measures reportedly include giving users the ability to archive old tweets and remove them from public view after a set period of time, such as 30, 60 or 90 days; asking them whether they want their account to be public or private; letting them hide liked tweets from public view; and offering them the option to remove themselves from a public conversation on Twitter.
Twitter is under pressure to better protect its users from abuse, after a wave of criticism in July when black England footballers were subjected to racist tweets in the wake of the European Championship final. A Guardian study of Twitter messages directed at, and naming, the England team during the three group stage matches of the tournament identified more than 2,000 abusive messages, including scores of racist posts.