July 9

How to block toxic comments online

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This story has been updated. It was originally published on March 1, 2019.

Some corners of the internet act as bastions of healthy discussion, but out there on the wild web, discourse appears worse than ever before. If you’re tired of feeling your blood boil every time you get to the bottom of an article or open up your social media app of choice, here’s how to clean up your internet conversations.

Block comments on news sites and blogs

More and more sites are doing away with comments altogether, but there are plenty that have stuck by their discussion section—even if it’s littered with spam and hateful garbage. You can’t stop commenters from spewing their garbage, but you can banish them from your view. Shut Up is a simple, open-source tool that will automatically block most comment sections across the web. It’s available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and iOS. Just install it on your platform of choice, and comment sections will disappear as if they were never there.

If there’s a site that you actually like to read comments on—yes, there are still a few decent ones out there—you can click the Shut Up button in your toolbar or press Ctrl+Shift+X to whitelist that site. It will remember your preferences, so your favorite comment sections will reappear. Sadly, there’s no way to mute certain comments based on keywords.

Note that due to the way Chrome’s annoyingly broad permission system works, this extension will request access to read and edit data on all sites you visit, but you can read the developer’s privacy policy here. And if you’re still uneasy, you can always inspect and inject the Shut Up CSS code yourself, if you have a stylesheet extension you like.

Mute words on Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks

Blog comments are just a small fraction of toxic internet conversation—most of it happens on social networks. Shut Up will block comment sections on some networks, like Facebook and Reddit, but that defeats the purpose of having those networks at all. Thankfully some services, like Twitter and Instagram, have caught on and built “mute” functions that let you hide comments that contain certain keywords, for more control over what you see.

On Twitter, you can mute tweets with certain words or phrases by heading to the Twitter website, and clicking on More from the sidebar on the left. Next, go to Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Mute and block > Muted words. Finally, click the plus icon in the top right to add words to your list. In the mobile app, the steps are similar: tap the three lines in the upper left-hand corner of your screen, then Settings and privacy and Privacy and safety. Scroll down to the Safety heading and tap Muted, followed by Muted words. Hit Add in the bottom right to build your list.

When you add the words you want to avoid, you can also select how long you want to mute it—which is useful if you’re just trying to avoid spoilers for a few days.

[Related: How to make your Twitter account more secure]

Instagram’s Mute feature is similar, though it only applies to comments on your posts (not other people’s). Head to Settings > Privacy > Comments and enable the Manual Filter. You can then enter words separated by commas to hide them from your comments. You can also flick a switch to hide comments Instagram thinks may be offensive if you want to do a little less work.

Other social networks, like Reddit, don’t have a mute feature built-in. However, browser extensions like the ever-popular Reddit Enhancement Suite will allow you to mute comments with certain words just the same. Install the extension and open the RES Settings Console. Navigate to Subreddits > filteReddit, and create filters to your heart’s content. You can hide posts with specific terms in the title, or block posts that come from chosen websites. You can also build filters for comments, provided you know how regular expressions work—there’s a small tutorial on this page.

Finally, Facebook is in a weird spot when it comes to muting or filtering comments. Back in June of 2018, Facebook began testing a feature called Keyword Snooze that would allow you to hide any comment containing words you specified. It wasn’t available to everyone and that test ended in January 2021. Now, your best bet is to hit the three dots in the top right corner of any post on your News Feed and choose to “See fewer posts like this,” or snooze and unfollow certain people that clog up your timeline.

In the absence of a built-in mute button, a popular browser extension called Social Fixer can create powerful keyword filters from the Filters section of its settings. Like Reddit’s Enhancement Suite, these can get a bit complex and require a certain syntax, but you can read more about your options here. And again, if you’re wary about installing extensions from developers you don’t know, you can browse the code yourself and install it separately.

Remember, any time you install a browser extension to gain this feature, it’ll only mute posts on that specific computer—so Social Fixer and Reddit Enhancement Suite won’t help you in mobile apps, where the extensions can’t be installed. We can only hope that companies like Facebook continue to build these features into their apps, so we don’t have to rely on third parties and workarounds to do it for us. But for now, it’s better than nothing.

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Blogs, CI_2019, comments, DIY, Instagram, news, Science, social media, Tech, tech hacks, technology, Twitter


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