Between May 29 and June 5, more than 800,000 Facebook users were affected by a bug that unblocked people they had previously decided to block. The company has started notifying users of the glitch on Monday, July 2, it announced in a post, adding that it has been fixed, and everyone has been blocked once again.
According to the company, the bug was caused by a “technical issue.”
The bug did not reinstate any Facebook friendships, and the majority of those affected only had one person unblocked. Those who were unblocked could not see content that a user shared with their friends, but they could see “things posted to a wider audience,” Facebook said, such as photos shared with friends of friends. Crucially, if someone had been unblocked, they could have been able to contact the person who blocked them on Messenger.
The fact that this was possible is a concerning breach of Facebook users’ online safety. The blocking tool helps people escape cyber-abuse. Four in 10 Americans have experienced online harassment, according to the Pew Research Center, which ranges from name-calling, to physical threats and stalking. Generally, younger people are more susceptible to this kind of abuse, and young women are twice as likely to be sexually harassed than men in their age group. People of color are much more likely to be harassed than white people, according to Pew.