What is A Shadow Ban? (and How to Fix It)

A graphic with the words, "shadow ban" on it.

Have you recently noticed a huge drop in social media engagement? Suddenly, your social media activity doesn’t seem to show up at all. 

It’s like you don’t even exist on the site…weird!

Is it a bug? Even big sites can suffer from issues occasionally. Maybe you should just check back later. 

There’s another possibility—you might have been “shadowbanned” (previously called ghost banned.)

Shadowbanned accounts are placed into a kind of invisible mode. In other words, they become a “shadow” that no one can see, except the user who is banned. 

If this happens to you, you can take steps to lift your shadowban. We’ll explain the steps for each platform and explain how to avoid getting shadowbanned in the first place. 

What Is Shadowbanning?

Shadowbanning occurs when your posts or activity aren’t viewable to other users, but you haven’t received an official ban or notification. In most cases, the user can still see their own content and have no idea no one else can see their posts. 

It’s a way to let spammers continue to spam without anyone else in the community (or outside of it) seeing what they do.

Why do sites use shadowbans instead of just telling users? If spammers realize they’re banned, they’ll immediately start to look for ways to get around the ban, often by creating a new account. 

With a shadowban, they just keep posting because they don’t even realize they’ve been banned.

This might sound a little odd, but it’s pretty effective. Since most websites and apps deny they shadowban, there’s no way to know for sure that it’s happened—which can make it that much more frustrating. 

If you suspect a shadowban, a change in the website’s search or newsfeed algorithm might actually be to blame. Since the algorithms are the property of social media companies, it’s not in their best interests to reveal how they work to the public. 

Regardless of whether you’ve been penalized deliberately or accidentally, the effect is still the same… no one can see your posts.

What Sites Use Shadowbans

Now that you understand what shadowbans are and how they work, let’s talk about what sites use shadow bans. 

That’s where it gets sticky—the practice isn’t totally out in the open and most platforms deny they use it. 

However, shadowbanning has been reported on sites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, among others. 

Respondents to a survey called Posting Into the Void reported four general types of shadowbans:

  • A username or hashtag not showing up in search suggestions
  • A decrease in follower engagement
  • Blocking certain features (e.g., likes or replies) 
  • A temporary ban that reverts to normal after an unspecified time 

Here’s how to tell if you’ve been shadowbanned on popular social media sites:

Twitter Shadowbanning

Does Twitter actually shadowban people? Well, yes and no.

In a blog post, Twitter claimed they don’t “deliberately make people’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it”, and they “certainly don’t shadowban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”

However, they do, “rank tweets and search results” to “address bad-faith actors”. Basically, if Twitter thinks you’re a spammer or a troll, its algorithm will penalize your content.

How to Avoid a Twitter Shadowban

Twitter lists these as some of the factors they use to tell if you’re a “bad-faith actor” or not:

  • Whether or not you’ve confirmed your email address
  • Whether you’ve uploaded a profile picture
  • How recently your account was created
  • Who you follow and retweet
  • Who mutes, follows, retweets, and blocks you

To avoid a Twitter shadowban, you should confirm your email address and upload a profile picture.

Don’t spam people, and don’t be overly promotional. If you’re trying to sell a product or service and are posting too much, other users might block your content, causing a shadowban on your account. Instead, aim to post useful or interesting content on Twitter. 

You should also avoid trolling, getting into online arguments, or being too confrontational in your posts and comments. This can lead people to mute or block you.

How to Tell If You’re Shadowbanned on Twitter

There’s no way to tell for sure if you’ve been shadowbanned on Twitter. However, you try to search in an incognito browser to see if your tweets show up. Here’s how: 

  1. Logout of Twitter. 
  2. Open an incognito browser and type in //twitter.com/explore. 
  3. Search for your user name. 
  4. If you see your user name, you are not shadowbanned. 
A depiction of a Twitter account to see if you are shadowbanned.

However, there is a chance Twitter is still reducing the reach of your Tweets. The only way to know if this occurs is to pay attention to your engagement. If Twitter analytics shows a drastic reduction in impressions, there’s a good chance your reach has been limited. 

In most cases, reductions in reach last a few days. Avoid posting content that goes against Twitter’s terms and services and your metrics should return to normal after a few days. 

Instagram Shadowbanning

It’s frustrating to work hard to build an Instagram following, only to find your posts suddenly aren’t showing up. If that occurs, you might start wondering if you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram. 

Instagram’s CEO has publicly claimed, “shadowbanning is not a thing”, but like Twitter, that’s not entirely true.

While your account might not be shadowbanned, the algorithm could still hide your Instagram posts.

Instagram’s algorithm removes certain content. Namely, the algorithm penalizes content Instagram considers “inappropriate”, even if the content doesn’t go against the app’s Community Guidelines

Specifically, they mention sexually-suggestive content. According to their Community Guidelines, spammy content and content associated with illegal activity or violence is also a no-go.

Instagram prefers “photos or videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience”… so less family-friendly content could put you at risk for an Instagram shadowban. 

How to Tell If You’re Shadowbanned on Instagram

There’s no surefire way to tell if you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram, but there are a few ways to tell if it’s happening. 

The first way is to use an incognito browser and search “instagram.com @<your user name>” If your account shows up in the search results, you likely aren’t shadowbanned. 

The second way to see if you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram is to look at your Instagram Insights, especially overall reach. If your reach declined dramatically recently, you might have a shadowban. 

Like Twitter, most shadowbans on Instagram fall away after a few days. Avoid posting content that goes against Instagram’s terms and remove content that might violate their rules. 

Reddit Shadowbanning

Shadowbanning on Reddit is a bit different from shadowbanning on other social media sites. Until 2015, Reddit openly shadowbanned users who broke the site’s rules by hiding their posts.

Then, Reddit announced its shadowbanning system was replaced with an account suspension system. Basically, some Reddit staff thought the shadowban tool had been useful for dealing with bots, but that banning real human users without telling them what they did wrong was unfair.

However, the site appears to occasionally use shadowbans and the r/ShadowBan subreddit is still active.

A depiction of a Reddit post to see if you are shadowbanned.

According to its official content policy, Reddit may enforce its rules by “removal of privileges from, or adding restrictions to, accounts,” and also by “removal of content,” among other methods. 

How to Avoid A Reddit Shadowban

To avoid getting shadowbanned on Reddit, you need to follow their rules. But it’s tricky because the rules on Reddit actually depend on the subreddit you’re on. 

For example, some subreddits ban self-promotion, while others don’t. Some communities ban specific topics entirely. You’ll want to read and comment before submitting your own links. Watch how people react to various types of submissions in each subreddit, and then act accordingly. Many subreddits list their rules in the sidebar (on desktop) or under “About” on mobile. 

You can also check out this unofficial guide on how to avoid being shadowbanned. Some key points:

  • Don’t spam or post too many links to your own content (if you post a lot of other things too, posting one or two links to your own work is generally okay.) 
  • Don’t harass or constantly downvote another user. 
  • Don’t dox others or encourage doxxing (posting someone’s personal information without their consent.)
  • Don’t post illegal or inappropriate content. 
  • Don’t abuse moderators or admins. 
  • Don’t block admins or moderators. 
  • Follow the rules of the subreddit you’re posting in. 

How to Tell if You’re Shadowbanned on Reddit

To find out if you’re shadowbanned on Reddit, make a post in the r/ShadowBan subreddit. A bot will respond, letting you know if you’re shadowbanned.

Even if you’re not, the bot will tell you which posts of yours have been removed recently (if any.) 

If you are shadowbanned, there’s no telling how long it might last, unfortunately. Give it a few days, but you may need to create a new account. Just follow the rules if you create a new account and don’t use it to get around the ban. 

TikTok Shadowbanning

TikTok is a popular social network for sharing short videos. Unfortunately, you can get shadowbanned there, too (sort of.)

How to Tell If You’re Shadowbanned on TikTok

While there’s no official mention of the term “shadowban” in TikTok’s Community Guidelines, like other social media networks, TikTok uses algorithms to rank content. If you get on the wrong side of the algorithm, fewer people might see the content you post.

Your account is also less likely to show up on TikTok For You Page. 

How to Avoid Being Shadowbanned on TikTok

To increase your reach on TikTok and avoid penalties, follow best practices for TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, and always follow the Community Guidelines.

Stay away from illegal material, violence, hate speech, spam, and other similar topics.

To check if you’ve been shadowbanned on TikTok, look at your pageviews and “For You” page statistics. 

You can also use a hashtag in a post, then search for that hashtag. If your post shows up under that hashtag then you aren’t shadowbanned. 

Since TikTok doesn’t “officially” shadowban users, there’s no way to tell how long the decline in reach may last. 

Facebook Shadowbanning

Facebook calls its content moderation policy “remove, reduce, and inform.”

Basically, content that violates Facebook’s Community Standards will be removed from the site, while other undesirable content (like misleading information) may be less visible on Facebook or have a warning label placed on it.

If Facebook is consistently reducing the reach of your content, that could be considered a type of shadowban. In some cases, Facebook will outright ban accounts that share ‘fake’ or ‘harmful’ content.

How to Tell if You’re Shadowbanned on Facebook

If you’re worried your personal page, business page, or group might have been shadowbanned on Facebook, check for a change in engagement levels on your recent posts.

If you notice a recent drop in engagement or impressions, you could have been shadowbanned. 

How to Avoid Being Shadowbanned on Facebook

The main step to avoid a Facebook shadowban is to avoid sharing links to fake or misleading information. Content on the site is checked by independent fact-checking organizations.

Facebook also penalizes links from websites that its algorithm considers clickbait. Low-authority websites without a lot of inbound and outbound links that generate a lot of clicks on Facebook may be considered clickbait.

Facebook groups where a lot of misleading links and clickbait are frequently shared may be shadowbanned.

LinkedIn Shadowbanning

While people don’t often think about a LinkedIn shadowban, it’s possible for your content’s reach to be throttled on the site. 

Like other social media sites, LinkedIn has Community Policies members must follow. 

Since LinkedIn is a professional site, its content policies are stricter than other platforms. Not only should your content be safe, legal, and appropriate, it has to be professional, as well.

Although LinkedIn is obviously a place for career growth and self-promotion, spamming people is still a no-go.

You’ll need to respect others’ privacy and intellectual property. You should also avoid harassment or unwanted romantic advances toward other members.

If you violate LinkedIn’s policies, they may “limit the visibility of certain content, or remove it entirely.”

That said, the LinkedIn algorithm is pretty complicated. Even if your content is perfectly professional and high-quality, it might still not be getting the reach you want.

Engagement and relevance are the top two factors to keep in mind when creating content for LinkedIn.  

YouTube Shadowbanning

While it’s not exactly a social network, it’s definitely still a site where people go to learn and share content. Can you be shadowbanned from YouTube?

YouTube shadowbanning has been in the news because of popular creator PewDiePie. According to his fans, the Swedish video game YouTuber’s channel was penalized in YouTube searches.

Officially, YouTube says it doesn’t shadowban channels, but that some videos might be flagged and need to be reviewed before they show up in search.

In an interview with Polygon, they said they were “currently working on fixing the issue.” 

If you’re worried about shadowbans on Twitter, make sure you follow their Terms of Service and avoid posting spam on the site. 

7 Ways to Avoid Getting Shadowbanned on Social Media

Every social network has its own terms and rules about what type of content is acceptable and what violations merit a shadowban. To avoid shadowbans, make sure you follow the rules of each platform you use.  

However, there are definitely some general trends worth noting. To avoid a shadowban, make sure you: 

  • Follow the Terms of Service of each platform. 
  • Follow and watch power users in your category (see what and how they share.)
  • Don’t post links or copy-pasted content over and over again. 
  • If you’re unsure if the content is appropriate, avoid sharing it. 
  • Treat others politely and respectfully. 
  • Don’t use banned hashtags. 
  • Avoid posting about illegal topics. 

In most cases, if you follow the rules and post content that is interesting and useful, you shouldn’t have to worry about a shadowban. 

FAQs

What is a shadowban?

A shadowban occurs when a social media platform bans a user’s content from showing up without notifying the user. In most cases, the user can still post and respond, but only they see their content. They don’t receive an official ban or notification, hence the name shadowban. 

What sites shadowban users?

Most social media platforms use shadowban in some format, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. Many platforms claim they don’t “officially” shadowban, but their terms and services effectively reduce the reach of posts by some users. 

How do I avoid a shadowban?

Follow the site’s terms of service, don’t post spam or links that aren’t allowed, don’t post illegal content, and always treat others with kindness.

How do I end my shadowban?

The steps to end a shadowban vary by site. For some, it’s just a period of time you have to wait, while others require reaching out to customer service. Some users get permanently shadowbanned as well.

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Conclusion

You may not realize you’re shadowbanned—at least at first. However, if your reach or impressions has drastically dropped recently, a shadowban is possible. 

What you should do to protect yourself is to be careful that what you post isn’t against the terms and conditions of the site or app. Also, try to avoid spamming content, starting fights with and trolling other users, or posting things that might be considered inappropriate.

A shadowban can be frustrating, especially if you don’t feel like you deserve one. Maybe you don’t agree with the social media algorithm about what is or isn’t inappropriate, or maybe you think you were having a constructive debate while the algorithm thinks you were being a troll.

Hopefully, the tips in this guide can help you avoid being shadowbanned in the future, 

so your content can get better engagement.

What other ways can help people know if they’ve been shadowbanned? Let us know in the comments.

Source: New feed 2