This story has been updated. It was originally published on December 4, 2019.

Twitter is a fast, fluid way to keep your finger on the pulse of just about everything, but it’s also a place where the discourse can quickly become disorganized, combative, or downright toxic.

The team behind Twitter knows this, and its engineers are continually rolling out new features to help manage abuse if and when it becomes a problem.

Hide replies

Twitter introduced this feature in 2019, but you still may not be familiar with it. If you click (or tap) the three dots next to a reply to one of your tweets, you’ll see a Hide reply option. This won’t delete the reply, but it’ll disappear and anyone viewing your tweet (including you) will see only a small icon that indicates the existence of hidden replies. Viewers will need an extra click to actually see them, though.

To unhide a reply, click the Hidden replies icon (three lines within a dotted square), then the three dots next to the hidden tweet, and select Unhide reply. The user who posted the reply won’t be notified when you hide or unhide it. When you hide a reply, Twitter will also give you the option to block the account that posted it.

Block people

If there’s a Twitter account you’re having serious problems with, you can block it. Just click the three dots next to any tweet in your timeline, then choose Block to blacklist the account that posted it. You can also block someone while you’re on their profile page by clicking the More button (three dots) and choosing Block.

[Related: Tips for dealing with trolls on social media]

When you block a user, they won’t be able to view your tweets, message you, or follow you. They also won’t get a notification that they’ve been blocked, but if they visit your profile page, they will notice that they can’t see your tweets. You can’t follow someone you’ve blocked, and you won’t see their tweets in your timeline, either. To see accounts you’ve blocked, and unblock them if needed, tap your profile picture (on the app) or click More (on the web), then navigate through Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Mute and block > Blocked accounts. Or, if you’re looking for a shortcut, just click here.

Mute accounts

Popular Science's Twitter account with the mute option highlighted.
You’d better not! David Nield

Muting is not quite as severe as blocking—you can hide someone from view, without their knowledge, and without unfollowing them. As with the Block option, you’ll find Mute in the drop-down menu next to individual tweets, and behind the More button (three dots) on individual profile pages.

Essentially, the major difference between blocking and muting is that muted users can still send you direct messages and will appear in your notifications if they interact with you on Twitter. Still, their tweets won’t show up in your timeline. To see accounts you’ve muted, and unmute them if necessary, follow essentially the same path as you would if you were viewing blocked accounts: go to your profile picture or the More button, then navigate through Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Mute and block > Muted accounts. Or just head here.

Mute words

Twitter also lets you mute specific words from your timeline—you can cut out all mentions of a particular TV show (maybe you’re trying to avoid spoilers), specific celebrities (perhaps you have no interest in hearing about them), or any words you’d just rather not read.

From the Twitter menu on desktop or mobile, choose Settings and privacy, followed by Privacy and safety, then Mute and block, and Muted words. You can add new words and phrases via the Add button. Letter case doesn’t matter when you mute words, and muting applies to replies and mentions as well as tweets in your timeline.

Tweak your timeline

A Twitter timeline with the option to show fewer tweets and other options.
The digital equivalent of closing the door in someone’s face but you can still kind of hear them outside. David Nield

If tweets from a particular account are proving annoying or are simply no longer of interest, you can just unfollow the account. Click the three dots next to a tweet, then choose Unfollow. Spending a few minutes unfollowing some unsavory accounts you’ve added to your timeline over the years can make checking Twitter a much less stressful experience.

Click the three dots next to any of the tweets in your timeline and you’ll also see an option labeled Not interested in this tweet. This tells Twitter’s algorithms you want to see fewer tweets from a particular account in your timeline, or fewer tweets on a particular topic, without actually blocking or muting any accounts.

Block sensitive media

Another way Twitter lets you control what you see in your timeline is by blocking images and videos that its algorithms or its users have flagged as “sensitive content,” such as nudity or depictions of violence. You’ll need an extra click or tap to view any media like this.

[Related: Resharing videos of violence against Black people can spark more trauma]

The platform hides such material by default, but if you’ve disabled the setting for whatever reason, you can get back to it via Settings and privacy on the Twitter app menu on desktop and mobile. First, select Privacy and safety, then go to Content you see and disable the option to Display media that may contain sensitive content.

Know your reporting options

Twitter's options to block and report a user, or to leave the conversation.
You have the power. David Nield

Twitter lets you report individual tweets or entire accounts if you think they breach Twitter’s terms of service—content that’s spammy, illegal, or abusive, for example. You can find a list of examples of reportable conditions within the platform’s larger help center.

You can report accounts and tweets in various places: the More menu (three dots) on individual tweets and Twitter profiles, and from conversations in direct messages (click the “i” button in the top right-hand corner). If you’re reporting something that’s abusive or harmful, the platform may ask you to include extra information in your report.

Protect your account

Your Twitter account can be public (anyone can see it), or protected (only people you’ve specifically accepted follow requests from can see it). If you want to take more control over who has access to your tweets and who can interact with you, consider switching to a protected account.

You can do so from Settings and privacy in Twitter’s menu: Tap Privacy and safety, then Audience and tagging, and check the box next to Protect your Tweets. Any followers you had before the switch will remain, but you’ll have to approve any new ones.