Twitter app on screen

How to block Twitter trolls

In 2018, I wrote a post on how to block Twitter trolls in bulk. Said post went on to become my most popular blog post ever, based on site traffic analytics. Unsurprising, I suppose; Twitter’s problems with trolling and harassment are well known by now, as well as its anemic handling of said problems.

That said, it’s been a few years since I wrote the post, and there’s been a few changes. Also, bulk blocking of trolls is a “scorched earth” approach; what if you just want something more nuanced? Thus, here’s an updated take on the original post, listing what tools I could find for minimizing harassment on Twitter.

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 (a one-time payment of $8) 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.

Bulk block trolls with Twitter Block Chain extension (Chrome, Microsoft Edge)

Twitter welcome screen
Photo from Pixabay.

A more “scorched earth” approach to blocking Twitter trolls is blocking both harassers and their followers in bulk. One tool for this is Twitter Block Chain, an extension for the Chrome browser, though it’ll also work in Chromium-based browsers like Microsoft Edge.

To use Twitter Block Chain, install it in Chrome, 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’ll 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.

Update: 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. Again, given the plugin’s not been updated in two years, I recommend using one of the other options I’ve listed in this post instead.

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 > Account information, enter your password, then select “Country.”
  • Under “Country,” select Germany, then click “Agree and continue.”

Your Twitter displayed language will stay in English, and 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

Social media cartoon
Image by ijmaki from Pixabay

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.

“Twitter App” by Brett Jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

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