Updated on August 13, 2022
Twitter’s become infamous in recent years for having major problems with trolls, harassment, racists, and bullying. Not helping is Twitter’s lackluster response.
Various suggestions have been made for why Twitter has a hard time fighting harassment: the fact fighting online harassment isn’t easy; Twitter supposedly needing a high user count for business reasons, no matter who they are as people; Twitter taking a very libertarian adherence to freedom of speech; and so on. The 2022 (pending) sale of Twitter to Elon Musk also hasn’t inspired confidence.
Fortunately, there’s a few ways to block Twitter trolls other than its default features. Below are some ways to block Twitter trolls in bulk, as well as blocking trolls on a more nuanced basis.
Bulk block trolls with Megablock
One option to block Twitter trolls in bulk is using the website Megablock. This site lets you block not only a specific offensive tweet, but also its author and anyone who’s liked that tweet.
To use Megablock, log into their site using your Twitter username and password. When asked if Twitter can allow usage of Megablock, select “Authorize app.” You’ll be redirected to a screen asking you to paste into a box the URL of the offensive tweet. (It might be easier to do this on a desktop or laptop computer, versus a mobile device.) You’ll be asked to confirm if you really want to block this; after confirming, Megablock will finish its job.
Given Megablock is a third-party service accessing your Twitter account, and requires a lot of permissions, you might want to remove it from Twitter after you’re done using the service. To do this, in Twitter go to Settings and privacy > Security and account access > Apps and sessions > Connected apps. Select Megablock’s listing, then click “Revoke app permissions” to delete it.
I’ve had mixed results using Megablock, finding tweets or Twitter users aren’t actually blocked. As such, I don’t use it. However, I thought I should list it anyway; it’s a popular service, and when it does work, it seems to work well.
Bulk block trolls with Twitter Block Chain extension (Chrome, Edge)
Another “scorched earth” approach to blocking harassers is Twitter Block Chain, an extension for the Chrome browser. However, it’ll also work in Chromium-based browsers like Microsoft Edge.
To use Twitter Block Chain, install it in Chrome or Edge, then go to a user’s Twitter page. Click on the user’s follower or following page, then click Twitter Block Chain’s icon and select “Run Block Chain.” A pop-up confirmation window asks if you really want to block the user’s followers or who they’re following. If so, click “OK,” and the users will all be blocked. Depending on the number of users, processing might take awhile.
When done, your block list on Twitter will contain all of the users blocked. You’re also free to unblock any or all users like normal.
I note this plugin was last updated (as of this writing) in 2019. I also couldn’t find a version (or counterpart) for Firefox or Safari; those browsers’ users might want to install a Chromium-based browser just to run this plugin.
Testing this plugin in my copy of Chrome worked, but caused a few problems with the Twitter website reloading; clearing the browser cache/Twitter’s cookies fixed it. Some also commented on Twitter that the plugin’s not working for them at all, period. If you’re having problems with this plugin, I recommend using one of the other blocking options I’ve listed in this post instead.
Filter trolls with Block Party
Block Party is a newer third party tool for handling problematic tweets on Twitter; launching publicly in early 2021, it’s received attention from Consumer Reports and others. NPR ran an article about the creator of Block Party, Tracy Chou, and how her experience with harassment in the tech industry led to developing the service.
Briefly, one signs up for the site, links their Twitter account to Block Party, and then goes back to using Twitter as usual. Block Party will filter out problematic tweets based on user set criteria (and/or built-in preset options) and not display them on your main Twitter feed. If you want to check said filtered tweets, you can go into Block Party and do such.
When signing up for Block Party, there are two options: a free tier where there’s a delay (up to a few days) before your account’s active, or a paid tier (originally a one-time payment of $8; it’s now two tiers, at $12/month and $13/month) that grants immediate usage. This is Block Party’s way of making the service sustainable and trying to filter out trolls from also using the service.
Block Party also comes with two-factor authentication and similar security measures. Filters include excluding Twitter accounts without a profile photo, that have less than a certain number of followers, and so on.
Switch your Twitter country profile to Germany
To avoid neo-Nazi propaganda and similar hate speech, one tactic that’s gained popularity is to switch Twitter’s country profile from one’s native country to Germany. German law has severe restrictions on Nazi propaganda, hate speech, and the like. Therefore, Twitter’s forced to filter out such material for German users, or at least as much as possible.
To switch to Germany’s filters:
- Go to Settings and privacy > Your account > Account information; enter your password if prompted, then select “Country.”
- Under “Country,” select Germany, then click “Agree and continue.”
Your Twitter displayed language will stay in English, and the profile bio location will stay as-is. However, users flagged as violating German hate speech laws will be filtered out.
This feature isn’t perfect. Snopes reports that some stuff will still get through. However, some might find this worth trying.
Twitter’s built-in tools
Twitter has its own built-in tools for trying to minimize harassment.
Select who can respond to tweets
By default, anyone can respond to a tweet. Twitter, however, now allows you to set who can respond. On a new tweet, click on “everyone can reply”; in the pop-up menu, you can select “Everyone,” “People you follow,” or “Only people you mention.” The latter two will block those you don’t follow or non-mentioned readers (respectively) from responding to tweets.
That said, it’s not perfect. A troll could simply retweet the tweet as a quote tweet, with their trolling remarks included.
Mute or block Twitter accounts manually
Finally there’s the traditional Twitter standby of manually muting or blocking individuals. Both achieve similar goals, but muting is a bit gentler than outright blocking. Lifewire feels muting’s better, as unlike with blocking, the account that’s muted won’t know about it. It also might work better with someone you can’t block for whatever reason (a relative, etc.).
On the other hand, blocking is more thorough as a measure, as Kotaku notes in its argument for blocking over muting. Personally, I prefer to block Twitter trolls outright.
Hopefully, the above suggestions are useful for anyone who needs to block trolls on Twitter beyond the default features. I also hope that Twitter improves troll blocking in the future.
As for the idea blocking trolls infringes on free speech, I’ll refer to this often-circulated xkcd comic strip. While the strip uses slightly NSFW language, it sums things up well. The House That 280 Characters Built isn’t obliged to cater to racists any more than my blog does.
Photo from Pixabay.