President Trump is being sued for blocking people, but the lawsuit makes no sense (to me)

NB: I am not a lawyer.

Some people are suing President Trump because he’s blocked them on Twitter. They argue that doing this stops them from reading or replying to his tweets and, by extension, means that their opinion cannot be made available to others who are reading the thread.

This is not true.

While I am not a supporter of President Trump this lawsuit appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what Twitter’s block actually means (to be fair this misunderstanding is very widespread). Perhaps if I were a lawyer I’d see some merit in the lawsuit but it currently eludes me, it seems to me to be daft, incoherent and wrong.

A block from an otherwise unlocked / public account wouldn’t stop anyone from reading the tweets or even replying to them (though locking the account certainly would).

Reading tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
If a user has blocked you simply search for their tweets (eg from:realdonaldtrump). I’ve tested this using a work account that blocked my personal account and it works on desktop Twitter, Tweetdeck, several iPhone apps, Dabr.co.uk and probably most Twitter platforms and apps.

Enthusiasts could set up an account with IFTTT and have any public account’s tweets emailed to them, or they could use another account to create a website widget which relays the tweets there.

Replying to tweets from someone who’s blocked you, while logged in
On desktop Twitter you need to click on the speech bubble icon to bring up the reply window (see the pics below). If you click on the tweet itself you’ll be taken to the ‘you are blocked’ page. On all the other platforms I’ve tested, including Tweetdeck, you can click on the tweet and reply to it.

Everyone else clicking on the tweet you’re replying to can see your reply*.

Viewing a “this tweet is unavailable” tweet that’s quote-RTed by someone else
In this scenario I’d simply right-click, open in private browsing window where you can view the tweet while not logged in. You can reply to the person who quoted the tweet while logged in to the regular browser window.

If an account blocks you can they see your tweets? Yes they can, though as your tweets aren’t delivered to them they won’t see them unless they want to. So, practically speaking, this might be ‘no’.

If anyone wishes to ‘not see tweets from someone’ while ‘avoiding being sued for blocking them’ then I strongly suggest MUTE as the better choice. If you are not following an account then MUTING them stops any tweets they send you from arriving. They don’t know they’re muted and can read and reply to your tweets (which others can see, but you won’t).

On desktop and iPhone Twitter (I’ve not tested other apps) you can arrange your settings to that you’ll only see tweets from accounts that you follow, which is basically the equivalent of muting everyone except accounts you follow. Again, no-one else knows.

*Twitter doesn’t show all replies
I don’t know how Twitter determines which tweets it will or won’t show, it may be algorithmic or it may be based on other users flagging up tweets as offensive. Occasionally in a thread I see ‘view more tweets, including those that may contain offensive content’ and they’re rarely all that offensive. Even if Mr Trump hadn’t blocked your account your replies to him might not be shown to him.

Worked example, with pictures
I’ve just blocked myself (@jobrodie) using one of my old work accounts @chi_med. The pictures below show me what I see / don’t see, and how I can reply to the tweet of an account that’s blocked me.

chimedblock01
Fig 1. @chi_med has blocked @jobrodie. When I’m logged in as @jobrodie I see a ‘you are blocked’ page if I try and look at @chi_med’s profile

 

chimedblock02
Fig 2. While logged in as @jobrodie I’ve searched for tweets from @chi_med by typing from:chi_med into the search bar, the results are clearly visible. Note the small speech bubble at the bottom left of every tweet – that will let me reply to the tweet.

 

chimedblock03
Fig 3. This is what I see if I click on one of the tweets (instead of the speech bubble to reply) – I’m taken back to the ‘you are blocked’ page from Fig 1, this is its URL.

 

chimedblock04
Fig 4. Clicking the speech bubble brings up a reply window.

 

chimedblock05
Fig 5. I’m not logged in, but the tweet from @chi_med now displays my reply – visible to all.
chimedblock06
Fig 6. How the tweet looks when I’m logged in as @chi_med. I can see that there has been a reply (see the little ‘1’ next to the speech bubble) but I can’t see what the tweet says because I’ve blocked the account that sent it. Others would see the tweet though.

 

 

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• [No longer working] How to reply to, or RT, tweets from someone who’s blocked you (Dabr, Echofon, Janetter)

by @JoBrodie

Edit 8 September 2017 – it looks like Twitter’s finally fixed this loophole. More testing needed but it appears that you can no longer reply to an account that has blocked you. This is a big improvement at first glance (although I can no longer correct nonsense spouted by homeopaths who’ve blocked me). You can send them new tweets but cannot use the loopholes below to reply to a tweet, so no more contributing to threads. Unless you reply to another reply, in which case you can.

Added 5 June 2017 – it seems that you no longer need to use third party apps when using Twitter / Tweetdeck on a desktop computer with a browser. You can see the tweets of people who’ve blocked you appearing in search results and you can reply by clicking directly on the reply icon (you can’t click on the tweet on Twitter though, though can on Tweetdeck). Or at least I can.

If you’re replying to someone who’s blocked you please try and be polite – your tweets are still subject to Twitter’s community rules and terms of service. Also, remember that the person who’s blocked you won’t actually see your replies (unless they want to), but everyone else can.

Here’s the original post…

tl;dr – use these third party apps – Dabr (desktop) or Echofon or Janetter on iPhone.


This post serves two purposes – mainly to let more people know that if you’ve blocked someone they can still reply to your tweets (and that other people can see and interact with those replies) and to highlight to skeptical or political activists that it’s still possible to correct misinformation tweeted by “the other side” (which of course works both ways!).

Over the years I’ve been blocked by lots of alternative medicine providers and supporters, particularly homeopaths and people flogging live blood analysis. Some of them are pretty harmless but a handful persist in tweeting misleading and occasionally dangerous health information. In those cases I think it’s worth replying to those tweets so that whenever anyone else clicks on them they might see the threaded replies with more correct info.

I think most people now know that if you block someone they can still see your tweets.

Generally this is wrongly believed to involve a bit of effort (in that they’d have to log out and search for your tweets, or log into a different account etc). However if the blockee is using one of the third party apps mentioned below then it involves precisely zero effort – it’s easy to see the tweets and reply to them, particularly if watching a conversation unfold via a hashtag. Most third party apps will now no longer let you view the profile of someone that’s blocked you – but if you’re reading and contributing to a hashtag you’d probably not even notice.

I think fewer people know that blocked people can also reply to your tweets, or retweet them [see note at end], while logged in as themselves rather than some spare account. Remember that if someone’s blocked you the chances are high that they won’t see your reply, but others may well do.

Here’s how they (you / I / we) can do that.

Desktop Twitter

Log into Dabr (http://dabr.co.uk/) by authorising it to interact with your Twitter account, search for a hashtag or the name of someone who’s blocked you – find a tweet, click reply.

Neither twitter.com nor Tweetdeck (now owned by Twitter I believe, so should be considered as an official Twitter app) will let you see tweets from those who’ve blocked you. (Updated 5 June 2017 – I discovered today that this is no longer the case and it’s possible to both view, and reply to, these tweets through web Twitter or Tweetdeck – this may change back to how it previously was of course!).

iPhone

*Note* I do not automatically update my apps, or my iOS version (it all works fine as it is so no particular pressure to do so). This may mean that my version is working while your updated one doesn’t – obviously I can’t really test this, so be aware of that if it doesn’t work for you.

Echofon and Janetter
Download the app (I think free / ad-supported versions are available), log in, search for hashtags or names and click on a tweet to reply. You won’t be able to view their profile (but can see their tweets fine in hashtag- or name-search results though).

Neither the official Twitter for iPhone app nor Osfoora for iPhone will let you reply to the tweets. You can see them on Osfoora but not Twitter for iPhone. I’ve not tried any other iPhone apps. Mobile Twitter (viewing mobile.twitter.com on Safari on iPhone) blocks the tweets entirely too, no viewing (and obviously no replying).

Google, Android or other phones I don’t know about

At this stage I don’t know. It used to be Fenix for Android which let people see tweets from those who’d blocked them but I believe that’s no longer possible so I’m not sure which apps would do this, if any. I’m hoping that someone reading this might let us know and I’ll update the post.

Supplemental:
probably more than you wanted to read about Retweeting

There are a few ways to retweet someone’s tweet – 1 and 2 won’t be available if you’ve been blocked though, but 3 and 4 are

  1. ‘Native’ RTing – on desktop Twitter you would click on the retweet button, it asks you to confirm and if you say yes the RT button goes green and this adds ‘1’ to the tweets RT count
  2. Quote RT – on desktop Twitter this is identical to (1) but this time you add a comment and the green button stays grey and the counter doesn’t increase
  3. Retweet with Comment – on Echofon for iPhone this manually pastes the text into the tweet and lets you edit it and add your own comment
  4. Retweet as Quote – on Echofon for iPhone this manually pastes the tweet’s URL / link into the tweet and lets you add a comment.
  5. I’m sure other variants are available but I’ve not tried it on Janetter or Dabr

Both 3 and 4 work if you’re blocked.

Watch out with 4 though as the tweet would normally show up as an embedded tweet but if you’re blocked it will instead show up as ‘This tweet is unavailable’. On seeing that message many of your followers might reasonably assume that the tweet has been deleted or that the user has blocked them. They might not realise that they’ll be able to see the tweet fine if they click on it, and it’s only you who has been blocked – so be aware that (4) may be a bit confusing and (3) may be better.

Why do I block accounts on Twitter? What’s the point?

by @JoBrodie, originally posted on my main ‘Stuff that occurs to me‘ blog

I spent about 18 months periodically answering questions on Twitter from people asking if people you’d blocked can still see your tweets. The answer is always ‘yes’ and that hasn’t changed. These questions were posed around the time when Twitter made quite a few changes to the way the block appeared to work, but the actual effect was very dependent on the app that you use to view Twitter.

If you try and view the tweets of someone that’s blocked you from an official Twitter app (eg Twitter for iPhone) you won’t manage it and it looks like the block is much stronger. But if you view on a third party app (Echofon for iPhone, Fenix for Android, Dabr for desktop) then you can see and reply to their tweets. And they can do the same to yours. So the block is app-dependent and doesn’t stop anyone from being able to see anyone else’s tweets. Plus everyone can log out and view them anyway.

So why block?

Keeping your follower list tidy / minimising pointless Notifications
This is the number one reason I block people (often reporting as spam before blocking them). Since I began using Twitter in 2008 I have regularly pruned the list of people that are following me or that interact with my tweets.

Everyone experiences phases when bots or fake accounts start interacting with your account. Sometimes they’ll follow, but more commonly they’ll favourite a tweet. This gets your attention in a fairly low-key way but it’s annoying (notifications!) and I think it’s important to report as spam and block so that Twitter can remove them. I know this can work because often (not always) when I check back later the account’s been suspended.

Sometimes these accounts look extremely convincing at first glance but if you begin to see a lot of them you soon recognise their characteristics.

 

 

Incidentally I reported both those particular accounts for spam and blocked them but they’re still there so Twitter disagrees with me (they are spam accounts but easily pass under the radar. One’s not tweeted since April, the other not since July).

Once I posted something fairly innocuous about Afrezza (an inhaled insulin for people with diabetes) and began to notice unusual behaviour on the tweet and replies. They were being favourited and retweeted far more frequently than was warranted so I ended up blocking everyone involved just for some peace and quiet. It seemed to be some weird targetted thing where these accounts tried to boost anything Afrezza related.

Note ‘egg-avi’ means having an egg for the account’s avatar / picture – while it’s not a guarantee that an account is spam it’s certainly a marker for it.

I’ve blocked (often pre-emptively) all of the Right Relevance accounts (there are hundreds of them). They favourite or RT your tweets if you mention a particular word that the bot is monitoring so you can end up with lots of tedious notifications (only on Twitter, I switched off the email thing years ago!). I consider them to be spam but they do provide a service of sorts, boosting tweets about a particular topic, which you may find useful.

Some accounts retweet genuine tweets, though never post anything of their own. I have developed various

Here are accounts that I block and / or report for spam pretty much automatically

  • Egg avatar plus a name with a random string of alphanumerics
  • Accounts that only retweet tweets, never post their own content
  • Accounts that follow 100 celebrities and me, or follow hundreds of people all called Jo
  • Businesses who sell ‘widgets’ who follow me after I’ve posted an unrelated tweet mentioning widgets

Herd immunity
Although blocking someone doesn’t stop them from viewing your tweets it does make it much harder for them to see who you’re following and who’s following you, so blocking a spammer in this way stops them following others in your lists.

Blocking someone means you don’t have to see their tweets if you don’t want to
They won’t be delivered to your timeline or mentions (in some cases you might see them if someone you follow retweets them). Muting actually does the same thing (if you don’t follow them) and it has the added bonus of them not realising as they can still see your tweets. I think people use muting as a sort of fun passive-aggressive block.

Blocking someone stops them seeing your tweets
No, it doesn’t – they can log out, use a spare account or a third party app. This is a bad reason.

What’s the difference between mute & block? (Mute often better)

Mute and block allow you to customise what you see from other accounts. They have no impact on what others can see of your account though. 

Blocking someone on Twitter can never stop them from seeing your tweets (they can log out, use search engines, another account or a third party app to view your tweets).

The block function is pretty absolute and stops all communications from a blocked account. The effect of the mute function varies depending on whether or not you’re following the person you’re muting.

Muting someone that you follow
This will stop their general public timeline tweets from appearing in your home timeline. Any tweet they send that doesn’t include your @-name will disappear, but they can still send you mentions and if they RT or fav one of your tweets you’ll get a notification*. They won’t know you’ve muted them, though I suppose they may be able to work it out if you never comment on any of their other tweets. You can see who you’ve muted here (on desktop Twitter, link won’t work if you’re not logged in)
https://twitter.com/settings/muted

Muting someone that you don’t follow
It’s surprisingly powerful. They’ll completely disappear – they can’t send you a tweet (well they can but the tweet will never arrive and you won’t see it unless you look at their profile or search for tweets sent to your name) and while they can RT and favourite your tweets you’ll never get a notification for those either.

Muting an account that you don’t follow you is a very nice way of blocking them without blocking them. They won’t know that they’ve been muted (whereas they can find out if they’ve been blocked). This may be useful if you don’t want to get into a tedious ‘why have you blocked me’ discussion.

You can still keep an eye on their tweets
Of course you may actually want to see tweets that are sent to you, or activity on your tweets, eg to to check what someone’s up to. You can search for your own username on Twitter and tweets sent from muted accounts will show up, you can also view their profile and see what they’ve RTed / favourited etc.

Blocking has the same effect if you follow them or not
Once you’ve blocked someone their tweets won’t get through. If you were also following them then you’re instantly no longer following them (and if they were following you they’re now not following). However the big difference is that, if they’re using official Twitter apps or platforms, they can work out that you’ve blocked them. They won’t be able to RT or favourite your tweets and they may be told that you’ve blocked them, and they can’t see your tweets. If they’re using third party apps such as Echofon or Tweetdeck etc they won’t necessarily notice. Although your tweets aren’t likely to be sent to them (it may depend on the app) even if they look at your profile they’ll see all your tweets and so if they’re using those types of apps exclusively they may not realise they’re blocked.

If you’ve blocked an account but want to view some of the tweets you may need to click a ‘view tweets’ option to view without unblocking (this is app-dependent). You can log out too of course and view any public account’s tweets. Note that if the person you’ve muted (or blocked) has a very new or high-spam account then its tweets may not appear in search, see ‘Why am I missing from search?‘ (from Twitter’s support pages).

Muting and blocking achieve more or less the same aims but muting does it in a much more nuanced way. If your account is public then you can’t stop anyone from seeing your tweets but you can control (to some extent^) what you see from them, and muting achieves this without drawing attention to itself.

*Notifications
A great thing on desktop Twitter (I’ve not checked to see where else it is) is the option to see only Notifications+ Mentions, or Mentions from people that you follow. This dramatically reduces annoyance from people or ‘bots’ that are aggressively favouriting your tweets and means you don’t get a notification when they RT something. I’m assuming you’ve already switched off any notifications arriving by email but if not you can find the settings option (on desktop Twitter) here:

Email notifications: https://twitter.com/settings/notifications
Web notifications: https://twitter.com/settings/web_notifications

Here are the links for Notifications + Mentions, and Mentions only filtered by people that you follow – these links will only work if you’re logged in to desktop Twitter of course.

Notifications + Mentions: https://twitter.com/i/notifications?filter=following
Mentions only: https://twitter.com/mentions?filter=following

If you are getting lots of annoying tweets from people, or bots favouriting stuff then ‘muting at notifications’ level is probably a better bet as it will wipe out all tweets and activity except from people that you follow, and saves you having to take an action on multiple individual accounts.

^Seeing tweets of someone you’ve blocked
This can happen when other people that you follow retweet their tweet. What’s happening here is that (a) the blockee’s account is public (b) you follow someone and see all the tweets that they send (c) they ‘forward’ (by RTing) a blockee’s public tweet and so you’ll see it.

I don’t know of a way around it beyond switching off RTs from the person you follow (but someone else you follow could also RT a tweet from someone you’ve blocked, so it’s a bit leaky). If anyone knows a solution…

Twitter’s closed its loophole on searching blocked tweets (but not very well)

Note: anyone you’ve blocked can always see your tweets if your account is public. They can log out, or use a second account, or a third party app (eg Echofon) to see them.

If you search for a hashtag on Twitter, let’s say #homeopathy, you’ll probably no longer see tweets from people who’ve blocked you (perhaps for pointing out that they’re making misleading and possibly illegal health claims but that’s for a different blog). You’ll also no longer be able to see their tweets if you run a check using the from:username search string – Twitter now returns zero results.

So it looks as if Twitter’s ‘fixed’ the problem that arose where person B who had been blocked by Person A could still see Person A’s tweets with relative ease. This might seem like a good thing if you don’t want someone that you’ve blocked to be able to see your tweets.

However…
Despite the change that Twitter’s recently implemented it affects ONLY the official Twitter apps (such as Twitter for iPhone, Twitter.com on desktop browsers etc). It does not affect Tweetdeck on browsers, or Echofon for iPhone and I’d conclude from this that third party apps and platforms are unaffected by the change.

This means that users who tweet using official Twitter platforms will see things very differently from those using third party apps (who can see a lot more). Which is fine if they’re aware of that, but it often comes as a surprise.

Most third party apps will also display your profile to an account that you’ve blocked (in fact the person you’ve blocked may not even realise it. I didn’t spot that a homeopath had blocked me as, on Echofon for iPhone, I could (& can) still see and reply to their tweets).

Here’s how people you’ve blocked could see your tweets
(
or Here’s how you could see the tweets of people you’ve blocked)
• use a third party app such as Echofon where they can see your profile, and view tweets sent to a hashtag (even while logged in to their primary account)
• log into a secondary account on an official Twitter app
• view tweets sent TO you when using an official Twittter app (while logged in on their primary account) and click one to see the conversation thread which reveals your tweets
• log out on desktop Twitter (all public accounts are viewable and searchable)

Why do I keep boring on about this?
There is a persistent and mistaken belief among many users on Twitter (I’ve been actively monitoring this for 15 months now) that blocking someone means they can no longer see your tweets. This is not true now and has never been true. In fact it will never be true while it is possible to view public tweets once logged out.

My mum once worked as a secretary for a distinguished professor who had a three drawer filing cabinet. He called my mum into his office once to show off his DIY skills – he’d managed to add a lock mechanism to one of the drawers. Unfortunately he’d picked only the bottom drawer to lock and was a bit despondent when my mum pulled out the drawer above and pointed out that anyone could access his papers that way. That’s a bit like Twitter’s block. It looks like it offers some protection but doesn’t – but it isn’t immediately obvious, and people don’t need technical skills to see the tweets.

Background info on the change
Below are some tweets from someone working at Twitter who answered someone’s enquiries about the change –

“The blocked user won’t see your tweets via search, either” – but only affects official apps. “They will see tweets from other users that @mention you” – and can click on these to see the conversation thread which includes your tweets.

How to stop receiving automated tweets from Paper.li

Paper.li is an online tool used to curate a selection of social media items such as tweets and blog posts to turn them into a customised ‘newspaper’. Often your first introduction to it will be when someone sends a tweet saying that the ‘name of their news bulletin’ is out and that it contains stories from you and other people, with a link to the online newspaper that contains your curated post.

Usually these collections are created or generated around a particular topic or keyword and you may be interested to read what others are writing / curating on that topic, or you may find it irritating. If you are you can easily stop Paper.li from including you in its automated promotion tweets by sending an ‘unsubscribe’ tweet to @newscrier.

More information about what Paper.li is and how to use it, or avoid it, from their ‘What is paper.li?’ support post.

See also sumall and commun.it which are tools that automatically suggest people to follow and interact with. Unfortunately they tend to send out automatic tweets that greet or thank people for connecting. I find them insincere and irritating and don’t know a foolproof way of not receiving automated tweets from them.

Storify is a fantastic tool for curating tweets and it doesn’t send out automated tweets (it does send out automated email alerts to people who have previously used it though) but it lets people send out a promotional tweet which tells you that your tweet has been used in their story. Not much that can be done about that alas.

Twitter now lets you see the tweets of people who’ve blocked you

Updated March 2016 – official Twitter platforms now make it harder to see tweets in search results but this doesn’t affect third party apps.

Actually ‘now’ is a little bit cheeky of me. It’s always been like that and I’m pretty confident it will always be that way – because Twitter is “default public” by which I mean that you don’t need to be logged in to Twitter to view anyone’s account. If someone’s blocked you then you can view their tweets by logging out because once you’ve logged out Twitter doesn’t know that you’re the person they’ve blocked and, if their account is public, it will let you see their tweets.

In fact Twitter is so public that there’s probably no need for you to log out. Most of the apps that people use on their phones and tablets (such as Echofon or Janetter) will show their profile to you and desktop apps like Tweetdeck will do the same. You can also search Google to see any public tweets.

Official Twitter platforms such as desktop Twitter (twitter.com on a web browser) will probably tell you that you can’t view their tweets or follow them because they’ve blocked you but if you search for their name (from:theirname to see tweets they’ve sent or to:theirname / @theirname to see tweets sent to them, theirname (by itself) will bring up either) you’ll see all of their tweets. The only thing you can’t do is to favourite or RT them (you can copy and paste the text of their tweet and manually retweet it though).

There is no technological solution to this other than for Twitter to make its interface more closed. I strongly suspect that Twitter doesn’t wish to do this.

The only way someone can stop someone else from viewing their tweets is to stop everyone (other than approved followers) from viewing their tweets by making their account private.

Some ways you can view people’s tweets even after they’ve blocked you

  1. Search for their name (the desktop version of Twitter is a better way to search) on Twitter or Google
  2. Use a third party app that shows profiles even if they’ve blocked you
  3. Log out from Twitter

Note: this is one of two otherwise identical posts. This one is written from the perspective of someone who’s been blocked by someone else, the other post is from the perspective of someone who’s done the blocking.