Illustration of a hand erasing speech bubbles, to represent methods to block hate speech and hoaxes from social media feeds.

As a social media manager, Chaseedaw Giles has learned to tune out most of the disturbing and angry posts she sees online. But after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, that changed.

“I just noticed myself getting really overwhelmed,“ she says. Repeated exposure to images of Floyd's death and other violent incidents, along with angry rhetoric about the protests that followed, sometimes left her short of breath and wanting to cry. She found it hard to concentrate. “It was an assault on the self esteem I’ve fought for my whole life, being African American, a woman, and coming from a low-income neighborhood,” Giles says.

Psychologists say we tend to mirror the emotions expressed in the social posts we see. A constant stream of rants or disturbing videos can affect your mood, and ultimately, your mental health. “You're going to start feeling more negative, maybe depressed, more stressed, more anxious,” says psychologist Larry Rosen, Ph.D., professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “The advice I’d give is to identify where the negative stuff is coming from, and hide it all.”

More on Social Media

That doesn’t mean pretending that nothing bad is happening in the world, Giles says. It’s a matter of controlling what kinds of posts you see, and when. She wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times with suggestions on how social media companies could improve the way they present disturbing material.

Then, Giles adjusted her own accounts, using the settings on Facebook and Twitter to filter the material in her feeds. “I think more people should explore their settings on social media," Giles says. "Mute people that are too loud for you right now, maybe even think about deleting some people.”

These settings can help you avoid not just violent news clips, but also conspiracy theories and bogus claims about everything from COVID-19 to mail-in voting.

Below you'll find detailed steps for avoiding much of the toxic content that's shared on leading social media sites, starting with the largest platforms, and working down. We also tell you how to report users or posts that violate a platform's policies. (There's no guarantee that a company will take action in response.)

The instructions are for a computer browser, except for services that are used primarily as mobile apps, such as Instagram and WhatsApp. You can jump right to any service by clicking on one of the red buttons, below.

In addition, Consumer Reports has compiled a detailed guide to the rules these platforms have put in place to regulate misinformation as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the 2020 presidential election approaches.

How to Block Hate Speech And Misinformation on:

Facebook

Facebook provides a number of tools for limiting your exposure to posts you’d prefer to avoid. You can unfollow or block a user or group, or “snooze” them if you just want a 30-day break. One tool tucked away in a menu lets you sort your news feed chronologically, in the order people post things, instead of having the company's algorithms decide what you see first. You can also direct the platform to show you fewer ads about certain subjects, such as alcohol or politics. (Instructions: desktop browser.)

A screenshot of the menu which lets you hide a post.
Several tools for filtering your Facebook feed are available with a single click from a post or profile.

See fewer posts like the one you’re looking at: Open the menu in the top right corner of the post > Hide Post.

Block or unfriend a user: Go to their page > Click the three-dot menu icon near the top right of the profile > Choose “Block.” To unfriend them, use the adjacent menu with the person-shaped icon and select “Unfriend.” (If you don’t block them they can still contact you, and you may see them around the site.)

Unfollow or snooze a user or a group: Open the menu in the top right corner of one of their posts on your timeline > Select “Unfollow” or “Snooze.” (This will let you stay friends or remain in a group without seeing the user's posts on your timeline. You can unfollow using the menu near the top right of a user’s or a group’s page.)

Leave a group: Go to the group’s page > Click the three-dot menu icon near the top right of the page’s profile > Click "Leave Group."

Sort your feed in the order people post things: Navigate to your home feed (click the home icon near the top of the page) > Click “See More” on the left side of the screen > Most Recent. (This adjustment is temporary; you'll need to click that button again next time you return to Facebook and want a chronological feed).

A screenshot of the Facebook ad topics menu.
Facebook lets you reduce the number of ads you see on certain subjects, including politics.

See fewer ads on selected topics: Go to the ads settings page by clicking the menu in the top right > Settings & Privacy > Settings > Select "Ads" from the left hand side > Open Ad Topics > Select “See Fewer” next to any subject you want to avoid.

Report a post: Open the menu in the top right corner of one the post > Click on "Find Support Or Report Post."

Report a user or a group: Navigate to their page > Click the three dot menu icon near the top right of the profile > Report.

Instagram

Instagram is owned by Facebook, and it provides similar tools. You can unfollow or simply mute comments from an account. In the Explore tab, Instagram recommends posts from accounts you don’t follow. There, you can flag content you're not interested in to help the platform tailor its future recommendations. Like Facebook, Instagram lets you opt for fewer ads on certain subjects. You can also automatically block comments users add to posts, if Instagram classifies the comments as "offensive." You can filter out comments containing words that you designate. (Instructions: mobile app.)

A screenshot of the buttons you can use to mute, restrict, or unfollower a user on Instagram.
You can mute or restrict a user as an alternative to unfollowing them.

Mute, restrict, or unfollow a user: Navigate to their profile > Tap the “Following” menu > Tap the action you want to take. (Muting a user keeps their posts off your feed. Restricting a user prevents other people from seeing their comments on your posts, and lets you read direct messages they send without them knowing.)

Curate Instagram’s suggestions in the Explore tab: Tap on a post > Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right > Click "Not Interested."

A screenshot of the Instagram ad topics menu
Like Facebook, Instagram lets you reduce how many ads you see on selected subjects.

Block offensive comments, filter certain words: Go to your own profile by clicking the icon in the bottom right > Open the menu in the top right > Settings > Privacy > Comments > Hide Offensive Comments. (On the same menu, you can also use the Manual Filter to type in words you want to block.)

See fewer ads on selected topics: Go to your own profile by clicking the icon in the bottom right > Open the menu in the top right > Settings > Ads > Ad Topic Preferences > Tap the subject you want to avoid > Tap "Save."

Report a post: Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right of the post > Report. 

Report a story: Tap the three dot menu icon in the “Send Message” field > Report.

Report or block a user: Navigate to their profile > Tap the three-dot menu icon in the top right > Tap “Block” or “Report.”

YouTube

YouTube's billions of videos include an array of disturbing and unpleasant clips, from political vitriol to street violence, from endorsements of white supremacy to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. However, you can tailor what videos the platform recommends to you. Indicate that you’re not interested in a particular video, and the company says it will avoid recommending similar content in the future. You can tell YouTube to skip videos from an entire channel. You can also clear your viewing and search history entirely for a fresh set of recommendations. (Instructions: desktop browser.)

A screenshot of the menu that lets you tell YouTube you're not interested in a video.
Click on YouTube's "Not interested" button to gradually adjust what videos the platform recommends to you.

Curate videos recommended on the home screen: Hover over a video’s title and click the menu button with three stacked dots on the right side > Click "Not Interested." (YouTube says the feedback can help tune the content it recommends to you in the future.)

Stop recommendations from a particular channel: On the home screen, hover over a video’s title and click the menu button with three stacked dots on the right side > Click "Don’t Recommend Channel."

A screenshot of YouTube's
YouTube's recommendations are based partly on your search and watch history. Clearing that record will give you a fresh start.

Clear your watch and search history: After logging into your YouTube account, navigate to the YouTube History page by clicking the menu icon in the top left of the page > History > On the right hand side, click “Clear All Watch History.” Then select “Search History” from the list on the right > Click "Clear All Search History."

Report a video: Click the menu button with three dots next to a video’s title > Click "Report."

Report a channel: Open the channel’s page > About > Click the flag icon. 

Twitter

Twitter has become relatively aggressive in restricting misinformation and hate speech from politicians and other high-profile users. However, hoaxes and vitriol are still abundant on the site. And Twitter's rapid-fire mix of news, opinion, and short-form rants can easily suck users into "doomscrolling," finding one reason after another to feel despair or rage.

The platform provides multiple tools to improve the quality of your experience. Among other actions, you can click a button to tune your feed by telling Twitter you're not interested in a tweet, use filters to block tweets containing particular words, and turn on a setting to see warnings before Twitter displays potentially disturbing content. (Instructions: mobile app.)

A screenshot of the button which sorts your Twitter feed chronologically.
Twitter places more engaging tweets at the top of your feed, but that may include more upsetting content. You can try switching to a chronological feed.

See tweets in the order people post them: Click the icon in the top right of the home feed > See Latest Tweets Instead. (You’ll need to do this periodically; Twitter says it will switch back to the algorithmic feed “after you’ve been away for a while.”)

Tell Twitter you're not interested in a tweet: Open the menu in the top right of the tweet > Tap "Not Interested In This Tweet."

Unfollow, mute, block, or report a user: Navigate to their profile > Open the menu in the top right > Select the action you want to take. (You can also perform some of these functions from the menu in the top right of a particular tweet.) 

Avoid posts a particular user retweets: Navigate to their profile > Open the menu in the top right > Tap "Turn Off Retweets."

A screenshot of Twitters Muted Words menu.
Muting words lets you keep certain topics out of your Twitter feed.

Filter tweets containing specific words: Open the menu in the top left by tapping your avatar > Settings And Privacy > Privacy And Safety > Muted > Muted Words > Hit the plus icon to add a word, then choose how long you want it blocked from your feed. 

For warnings on "sensitive" content: Open the menu in the top left by tapping your avatar > Settings And Privacy > Privacy And Safety > Switch off the toggle for “Display Media That May Contain Sensitive Content.” (The term "sensitive" covers certain sexual or violent posts that don't violate company policy, but that some users may want to avoid. The platform will ask you before showing each sensitive post.)

Limit who can respond to your tweets: As you're composing a tweet, tap "Everyone Can Reply" > Select the action you want to take.

Report a tweet: Open the menu in the top right of the tweet > Tap "Report Tweet."

Pinterest

Pinterest has some of the strictest rules against posting misinformation and hate speech, and it also gives users a number of tools to control what they see on the platform. Pinterest says the content it recommends is based on your activity and the boards and topics you follow—removing a piece of content or unfollowing a board makes it less likely you’ll see related or similar material. The service also has a tool to “tune” your home page directly. Reporting content and users is simple as well. (Instructions: desktop browser.)

A screenshot of a user hiding a COVID-19 conspiracy post on Pinterest.
Hide pins (or posts) that Pinterest recommends on your home feed to train the service not to show you similar content.

Hide a recommended pin from the home page: Click the three-dot menu icon on the pin > Select the action you want to take.

Unfollow a user: Navigate to their profile > Click the “Following” button.

Block or report a user: Navigate to their profile > Click the three-dot menu icon on the left hand side > Click “Block” or “Report.”

A screenshot of a user using the Tune Your Homefeed function on Pinterest.
You can "tune" posts, boards, and topics you've interacted with to influence Pinterest's recommendations.

"Tune” your home feed: Click the downward-facing arrow in the top right > Tune Your Homefeed. (You can turn off recommendations based on individual pins you interacted with, and unfollow boards and topics that are generating content you don’t like.)

Report a pin: Open the menu on the pin > Click "Report."

Reddit

For years Reddit resisted calls to moderate all but the most obscene and abusive content, but recently the company has taken a more proactive approach, shutting down a number of high-profile groups that consistently violated its policies.

The content Reddit shows you is based primarily on which “subreddits” you follow. You can choose to leave a subreddit and avoid the content its users post, but the company provides few other tools for controlling what you see. Blocking users will let you avoid them entirely, but the process is cumbersome: You need to type their username into a form unless they've interacted with you directly. Other settings will let you take actions such as avoiding posts marked "not safe for work" and preventing GIFs from autoplaying. (Instructions: desktop browser.)

A screenshot of the tool to block users on Reddit
Blocking users on Reddit takes a little more effort than it does on most platforms.

Block a user: Note the account’s username > Go to reddit.com/settings/privacy > Enter the username in the “Block New User” field. You can also block users if they’ve replied to one of your posts by using the button in your inbox. (If you report a user's posts, they'll be blocked automatically, according to a Reddit spokesperson.) 

Leave a subreddit: Navigate to the subreddit and click the “Joined” button. (It will change to “Leave” when you hover your mouse over it.)

Adjust your feed settings: Open the menu in the top right by clicking the arrow next to your username > User Settings > Select "Feed Settings." There, you can employ settings for a number of tasks, including blurring thumbnails of media marked "not safe for work," or blocking NSFW content altogether. You can also stop videos and GIFs from playing automatically, and control how posts are sorted within subreddits.

A screenshot of the report button on a Reddit post.
"Report" lets you alert Reddit if you a think another user is violating the company's rules.

Report a post: Click the three-dot menu icon on the bottom right of a post > Click "Report."

Report a user: Copy the URL of a post, comment, or private message from a user you want to report > Go to Reddit's report form > Select the reason you want to report them > Add a link to content you want to report. If you wish to, you can add a description of the problem.

Snapchat

In an unusual move, Snapchat stopped promoting President Trump’s account in June for comments he’d made on other platforms. In a blog post, CEO Evan Spiegel wrote, " . . . there is no grey area when it comes to racism, violence, and injustice—and we will not promote it, nor those who support it, on our platform."

The platform makes it easy to report offensive posts, and there are several tools for avoiding content you don’t want to see. You can mute or remove friends, or tune Snapchat’s recommendations by hiding posts that show up in the Discovery or Stories feed. You can report individual messages, stories, or accounts for harassment, bullying, or other problems. However, blocking people is more cumbersome than on most other platforms. (Instructions: mobile app.)

A screenshot of the tools to mute, remove, or report a user on Snapchat.
You can limit your interactions with a user on Snapchat by pressing on their name in the chat window.

Tell Snap to show less content like a post you’re looking at: From the Stories or the Discover feed, tap and hold on a story > Tap "Hide." (This will also prevent an account from showing up in your Discover feed.)

Mute, remove, or block a user: Swipe right to access the Chat screen > Tap and hold their username > More > Select the action you want to take. (If you block them they won’t be able to see your posts or contact you. If you just don’t want to see their stories, muting or removing them from your friends list does the trick.)

Report a user: Navigate to the user’s profile > Tap and hold their username > Tap the menu button in the top right > Tap "Report."

To report content: Press and hold on a story, a snap, or tile > Tap "Report." In addition to other content, you can report "lenses" other users have created. (Lenses overlay augmented reality filters on posts.) Navigate to a lens in your carousel > Tap the information icon > Tap "Report."

WhatsApp

Unlike the other services here, WhatsApp is strictly a messaging platform. It’s end-to-end encrypted, meaning only the sender and the recipients (and not the company, which is owned by Facebook) can access what people send. That protects user privacy, but also makes it harder for the company to police bad behavior. Experts agree that hate speech shared through WhatsApp helped spark ethnic violence in India and Myanmar, and the service has been a conduit for misinformation elsewhere.

WhatsApp has taken a number of actions in response, such as piloting a new tool that makes it easy to search online for information about messages that are forwarded to you. The company also facilitates connections to a network of fact-checking organizations through the app. WhatsApp gives you a number of tools to block or mute notifications from users or groups, and to report them if they send messages that break the company's rules. (Instructions: mobile app.)

A screenshot of the buttons that let you leave or report a group chat on WhatsApp.
Leaving or reporting a group chat on WhatsApp is as easy as tapping on the group's name.

Mute, block, or report a user: Open the user’s profile by clicking their name at the top of a chat > Select the action you want to take. 

Mute a group chat: Tap the name of the group at the top of the chat > Tap "Mute Notifications" > Select 8 hours, 1 week, or a year. 

Leave or report a group chat: Tap the name of the group at the top of the chat > Tap “Exit Group” or “Report Group.”

TikTok

TikTok is the newest service on this list, but it’s exploded in popularity over the last year, and the company has already found the need to push back against misinformation. According to an executive order by the president, TikTok will be banned in the United States this fall, but a potential purchase by Microsoft or legal actions could keep that from happening. The platform provides several tools for curating the content TikTok recommends on the home screen, and you can block or report users and content. (Instructions: mobile app.)

A screenshot of the buttons that let you hide content on TikTok.
TikTok lets you block videos from a user, or all videos that use the same audio as a particular video. (Many videos use the same soundtracks.)

See fewer videos like the one you’re watching: On the home screen, tap and hold a video while it's playing > Tap "Not Interested." Or, you can tap “More” to open a menu that lets you hide all videos from that particular user, or hide all videos that use the same audio track as the video. 

Report a video: Tap and hold while the video is playing > Tap "Report."

Block or report a user: Go to their profile > Open the three-dot menu in the top right > Tap “Block” or “Report.” 

Report content in a private message: Navigate to the chat > Open the menu in the top right > Tap "Report."