What is Shadow Banning?

We reveal everything you need to know about the mysterious phenomenon of ‘shadow banning’.


© Jonathan Daniel Pryce via Vogue.co.uk


Shadow banning is the term for certain users, posts or hashtags being unknowingly blocked on a platform (namely, Instagram) and therefore, undiscoverable. People often use the term to explain decreases in post engagement and reach. When exploring the possibility that your account or your brand’s content has been shadow banned, it is important to consider the effect of Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm (with some accounts seeing around 50% fewer engagements since implementation in 2016).


So, what actually is shadow banning?


To put it simply, shadow banning is thought to render your account invisible and inhibit your ability to reach new people. Users theorise that it is the platform that disables your posts from appearing under hashtag searches (without your knowledge). It is reported that your current followers can still see your content, but that it is invisible to those not following. This could be particularly disruptive to small brands who are trying to reach new audiences and increase their following.


Despite much discussion around shadow banning, Instagram and other social platforms haven’t directly admitted to blocking content, but what the image-sharing app has shared is that certain hashtag searches are disabled, meaning some posts may not surface.


Instagram’s statement


And why does it happen?


Shadow banning allows Instagram to filter out 'spammy' accounts and interactions that do not comply with their terms. This may include accounts that use bots for increased engagement or excessive and irrelevant hashtag usage. Instagram values authentic interactions and engagements and penalises accounts that try to ‘beat’ the system with the use of external software and apps such as Instagress, Followliker or Boostly, Social Envy and Socially Rich.


Aside from inauthentic engagement, shadow banning can reportedly occur if users abuse Instagram’s daily and hourly limits, which includes excessive engagements or follows and unfollows. Additionally, it’s interesting to note that the age of your account can impact your limits. Shadow banning may also occur if one is using broken or abused hashtags or if your account is being continually reported for violating Instagram's terms (spamming, infringing copyright, posting inappropriate content, etc).


How can you fix it?


There are simple solutions to overcoming a shadow ban. The first thing to do would be to stop using any bots or programmes that automate engagements and likes, as Instagram is able to detect this kind of interaction. Check that all programmes are blocked from accessing your Instagram account by going to settings on a desktop and ‘revoking access’ from any ‘authorised applications’.


Another suggestion for revoking a shadow ban is to remove any broken or abused hashtags, from upcoming posts along with any old posts. It can be a laborious process, as you may have to search through each hashtag individually, but it’s worth it to ensure key hashtags are searchable. If a hashtag has been blocked or shadow banned you will either see nothing at all or you’ll see just one page of images followed by a note that says this tag has been blocked due to abuse, etc.


Another fix to restore your Instagram account is to take a break. People have reported a full 48-hour break from using their Instagram accounts can reset the system - think of it as a digital detox!


Finally, following Instagram's rules and regulations is a simple way to ensure a block-free account. Read and follow Instagram's Terms of Use and Community Guidelines and most importantly, aim to post helpful, authentic content and use natural growth tactics.


Words by Lauren Ashdown

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