What Is Shadow Banning?

Shadow banning is confusing and can destroy an Instagram account

Man holding up a piece of cardboard with curse symbols on it.

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Shadow banning is when a social media company, admin, or moderator hides certain posts from everyone but the original poster. Posts affected by shadow banning are no longer shown to other users in their respective social network timelines and can also be hidden from search results.

Shadow banning can also be written as "shadowbanning" and can sometimes be referred to as "stealth banning," "comment ghosting," "hellbanning," and "ghost banning."

How Shadow Banning Works

In all cases of shadow banning, the creator of the posts is completely unaware that their posts are being hidden from other people. They are given no notification of the change and usually only become aware of being shadow banned when other users let them know they’re not seeing their content or when they notice a significant drop in post engagement or views.

In extreme cases of shadow banning, the entirety of a user’s account, including their profile, can be hidden from a social network’s user base.

What Does Shadow Banned Mean on Twitter?

Twitter’s official stance on shadow banning is they don’t do it to the average user. However, the company has also confirmed they do hide tweets from accounts that have been muted or blocked by a large number of users or who have a history of guideline violations.

Essentially, Twitter does shadow ban. They simply choose not to call it that.

Twitter also uses a dynamic activity feed powered by an algorithm to show popular tweets, or those posted by accounts Twitter has deemed popular or important, before others. This can result in tweets by many everyday users being pushed to the bottom of a feed and can create the illusion of them being completely hidden or shadow banned. This algorithmic ranking also affects the order accounts are shown in search results.

This can be frustrating, but this isn’t technically shadow banning.

If you find yourself missing a lot of tweets from accounts you follow, you can switch back to Twitter’s chronological timeline. You can also encourage your followers to do the same if they’re missing your tweets.

In 2018, Twitter was accused of shadow banning politically conservative accounts from the social network’s auto-suggestion search results. However, this was a technical glitch that was quickly rectified.

What Is a Shadow Ban on Instagram?

Shadow banning on Instagram mostly involves hiding posts from searches and hashtag feeds. The shadow banning process appears to be mostly automated by a system that detects accounts performing suspicious activity and hides their content.

This system is primarily designed to stop bots and fake accounts from flooding users’ Instagram feeds with spam, but it often affects regular users as well.

It’s very common for Instagram accounts to have posts shadow banned for specific hashtags after overusing the same hashtags on a regular basis. For example, even if all of your Instagram posts are travel related and you use "#travel" on every post, Instagram may think you’re spamming the hashtag or trying to dominate its results page and will hide all of your posts from that hashtag going forward.

Being shadow banned for a hashtag on Instagram effectively renders that specific hashtag useless for your account.

You can find out which hashtags you’ve been shadow banned on by browsing the hashtag while logged in with a different account and seeing which of your posts are showing up under the recent tab.

Does YouTube Shadowban Accounts?

Similarly to Twitter and Instagram, YouTube also uses an automated system to moderate its users activities and has been known to shadow ban people in the comments section of YouTube videos.

Shadow banning on YouTube usually happens when an account is suspected of being a bot or is spamming the system with an unusually high level of comments. Accounts can also be shadow banned if their comments receive a lot of reports from other users for being inappropriate or violent.

In addition to comment shadow banning, YouTube is also known to shadow ban videos from users’ subscription feeds. This appears to be primarily done to improve the overall quality of videos in a user’s subscription feed and is not a reflection of the YouTube video’s creator.

For example, if a user subscribes to several hundred YouTube channels and a lot of them upload new videos on the same day, YouTube may hide some of them so the subscription feed doesn’t become too overwhelming. This can also happen if a single account uploads a large number of videos at once.

YouTube will also shadow ban videos containing sensitive topics from its recommended or suggested video sections on the YouTube website and apps and within videos themselves after they finish playing.

What to Do When You're Shadow Banned on Social Media

In most cases, the most-effective way to reverse a shadow ban is to reflect on the possible reasons for why you were shadow banned, change your behavior, and then wait for the social network’s system to remove the ban.

Here’s some tips for how to post on social media when you’re shadow banned:

  • Stop swearing: Curse words can often trigger moderation algorithms.
  • Avoid fights: Getting into fights in the comments can make other users mute, block, or report you, which can extend your shadow ban.
  • Stop using hashtags on Twitter: Don’t use any hashtags until the shadow ban is lifted.
  • Reduce your hashtag usage on Instagram: Five hashtags is a safe number to aim for.
  • Change your Instagram hashtags: Don’t use the tags you were using before the ban and try using different ones each day.
  • Disconnect all third-party apps and services: If you use an automated program to post on social media, turn it off and disconnect it from your effected accounts completely.
  • Stop spamming: Limit yourself to a few tweets per hour, one Instagram posts every 12 hours, and one YouTube video each day.
  • Avoid sensitive topics and nudity: Posts containing either have been known to affect accounts and trigger shadow banning.

Shadow bans are almost always temporary and have been known to last anywhere from a a couple days to a few weeks. Waiting is almost always the best strategy, but the above tips may help you regain control of your accounts’ audience a little bit faster.