Earlier this week, in fact just before the 4th of July (was that planned, knowing fewer people would be paying attention?), Facebook announced that a “blocking bug” (actually an “unblocking bug – some outlets have been referring to it as a virus) had hit more than 800,000 users, causing people that the Facebook users had blocked to become unblocked, with no notice or warning.
Let’s be clear, what this means is that people who had blocked someone on Facebook, trusting that it meant that the blocked user would not be able to see what the blocker had posted, or to track or stalk them on Facebook, in fact were wide open to at least one person whom they believed was blocked.
And let’s be equally clear that people block others for all sorts of reasons, and not all of them are just because they disagree with their political position. People block people who are stalking them. People block people against whom they have a restraining order for domestic violence.
People block people on Facebook for some serious sh*t.
Moreover, the bug – whose origin (and indeed whose fault) has not been disclosed by Facebook – was active for a full week (from May 29th through June 5th) and Facebook didn’t even disclose it until nearly a full month later, meaning that it’s quite possible that if you had someone you had blocked become unblocked during that week, that they remained unblocked for a month!
Actually, scratch “possible” – it seems quite likely, as Facebook said on July 2nd “This issue has now been fixed and everyone has been blocked again,” which suggests that the issue wasn’t fixed until, or just a bit before, this week.
Facebook goes on to say that “People who were affected will get a notification on Facebook encouraging them to check their blocked list.”
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They also say that 87% of the people affected “only” had one previously blocked person unblocked.
Cold comfort to the person whose ‘one person’ was the stalker or other psycho who was unblocked for up to a month.
Here’s the full statement:
Facebook’s Full Statement Letting People Know About a Blocking Bug
Starting today we are notifying over 800,000 users about a bug in Facebook and Messenger that unblocked some people they had blocked. The bug was active between May 29 and June 5 — and while someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience. For example pictures shared with friends of friends. We know that the ability to block someone is important — and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened.
When you block someone on Facebook they cannot see things you post on your profile, start conversations with you on Messenger or add you as a friend. Blocking also automatically unfriends them if you were previously friends. In the case of this bug:
It did not reinstate any friend connections that had been severed;
83% of people affected by the bug had only one person they had blocked temporarily unblocked; and Someone who was unblocked might have been able to contact people on Messenger who had blocked them.
This issue has now been fixed and everyone has been blocked again. People who were affected will get a notification on Facebook encouraging them to check their blocked list.
There are many reasons why people block another person on Facebook. For example, their relationship may have changed or they may want to take a break from someone posting content they find annoying. Other reasons are more serious like harassment or bullying.
For further information about how to block someone on Facebook, or for more information about how to deal with bullying or harassment please visit facebook.com/safety.
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