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How to remove bots and trolls and clean up your Twitter feed in seconds

Some simple changes to your Twitter account settings instantly removes most of the bots and trolls and anything else you don't want from your feed, which results in a much more pleasant experience.

Twitter is overrun with bots and trolls, and there is little prospect that Twitter's management will do anything about it. However, you can remove most of them from your Twitter timeline in less than a minute, just by changing your settings.

Many of Twitter's problems stem from the fact that it's easy to open an account... or thousands of accounts. Whatever checking Twitter does on sign-ups, it appears to be easily avoided.

Making it easy to create accounts may well be part of Twitter's strategy to grow its user base. It certainly provides value to the various entrepreneurs who sell thousands of Twitter followers at low prices. For example, you can buy 10,000 for only $40.

Also: Twitter hopes trolls can be stopped by eradicating ignorance

It must also be popular with the people who run bots and troll-farms, including Russia's Internet Research Agency.

Fake Twitter accounts are disposable. When one is removed, it is easily and almost instantly replaced.

Real social media accounts are different. They are run by real people, or teams of real people working for real companies. They include bios and identifiable images, which often includes corporate logos. Their users have confirmed phone numbers and/or email addresses. They may have invested a lot of time and/or money in building their following, so these accounts are worth protecting.

Also: Troll-killing internet software Trollteq arrives

Bots and trolls have no such concerns. They value anonymity, and the accompanying lack of accountability. They tend to use the default profile image -- formerly an egg -- and rarely confirm their phone numbers and/or email addresses. Why bother when it's easier to create a new account instead?

twitter notifications settings

That makes it easy to exclude most bad actors from your Twitter feed. Simply go to Notifications in Twitter's "Settings and privacy" section, and mute people:

(1) Who have a default profile photo.

(2) Who haven't confirmed their email.

(3) Who haven't confirmed their phone number.

Three clicks converts a Twitter feed from a toxic hellstew into a relatively benign place. The bots and trolls may still be spewing venom, but you can't see them, so why would you care?

Also: Twitter ramps up effort to combat abusive bots, trolls CNET

You may still see some bad stuff, but in my experience, the change is dramatic.

You will also see some trolls from confirmed and even verified accounts that Twitter refuses to -- or perhaps cannot afford to -- ban. The best response is to report and block these accounts separately. This is worth doing because, over the long term, it influences Twitter's algorithms and "quality filter."

Like Facebook, Twitter no longer shows every tweet you could see in chronological order: There are too many. Instead, it tries to show the best tweets, according to how well they have been received. This includes the number of replies, retweets, and likes, but also the number of mutes and blocks.

Also: Internet trolls rely on social defaults TechRepublic

Twitter explained in a blog post that one of the signals it uses to identify "bad-faith actors" is "How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)." If a lot of people block and report an account, Twitter is less likely to show its tweets.

Twitter may claim that it is providing a platform for free speech by allowing deliberate misinformation, insults, libels, and threats. However, the rest of us are not obliged to listen to hate speech and lies. Having the right to free speech doesn't protect users from the consequences of abusing it.

Previous and related coverage:

Why Facebook is powerless to stop its own descent

People are engaging far less on the world's largest social network, and trust in the company has plummeted.

Can regulating Facebook and Twitter stop the spread of fake news?

A report by UK MPs has rejected the idea that tech companies are merely platforms.