Suddenly you notice that none of your social media activity seems to be showing up at all. It’s like you don’t even exist on the site… Weird!
Is it a bug? Every website suffers from them sometimes, and the interactive features can often be the first to go haywire. Server maintenance could also be the culprit.
But another possibility is that you might have been “shadowbanned” (previously called ghostbanned).
Accounts that are shadowbanned are put into a kind of invisible mode. In other words, they become a “shadow” that no one can see.
In this post, we’ll talk more about what exactly shadowbanning is, and how you can tell if it happened to you.
What Is Shadowbanning?
Shadowbanning is when your posts or activity don’t show up on a site, but you haven’t received an official ban or notification.
It’s a way to let spammers continue to spam without anyone else in the community (or outside of it) seeing what they do.
That way, other social media users don’t suffer from spam because they can’t see it. The spammer won’t immediately start to look for ways to get around the ban, because they don’t even realize they’ve been banned.
Now, all of this might sound a little odd or shady. Since many websites and apps deny that they shadowban, there’s no way to know for sure that it’s happened.
If you suspect a shadowban, a change in the website’s search or newsfeed algorithm might actually be to blame. And since the algorithms are the property of social media companies, it’s not in their best interest to reveal everything about them publicly.
Regardless of whether you’ve been penalized deliberately or accidentally, the effect is still the same… no one can see your posts.
Sites That Shadowban
There’s no way of getting a full list of sites that shadowban people, since the practice isn’t entirely out in the open.
However, shadowbanning has been reported before under certain circumstances, 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
- certain features (e.g. likes or replies) being blocked
- a temporary ban that then reverts back to normal later on
Here’s how to tell if you’ve been shadowbanned on some popular social media sites:
Does Twitter actually shadowban people? Well, yes and no.
In a blog post, Twitter claimed that 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 did say they “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 Getting Shadowbanned by Twitter
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 getting shadowbanned on Twitter, 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.
You should also try to 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 could try using the site Shadowban.eu, which claims to be able to detect a shadowban.
How frustrating is it to work hard at building up an Instagram following, only to see that your posts suddenly aren’t showing up?
Like with Twitter, Instagram’s CEO has publicly claimed that “shadowbanning is not a thing”, but as with Twitter, that’s not entirely true.
While you personally might not be being shadowbanned, the algorithm could still be hiding your posts.
Instagram’s algorithm is designed to remove certain content. Namely, the algorithm penalizes content that 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 may be at risk of a 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 sites that say they can test it. Triberr is one option.
Shadowbanning on Reddit is a bit different from shadowbanning on other social media sites. Up until 2015, Reddit openly shadowbanned users who broke the site’s rules by hiding their posts.
Reddit then announced that the shadowbanning system had been replaced with an account suspension system. Basically, some Reddit staff thought that 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 still occasionally be using shadowbans, with the r/ShadowBan subreddit still active.
According to their official content policy, Reddit may enforce their rules by “removal of privileges from, or adding restrictions to, accounts”, and also by “removal of content”, among other methods.
How to Avoid Getting Shadowbanned on Reddit
Of course, to avoid getting shadowbanned on Reddit, you’ll need to follow their rules. But one tricky thing about that is that the rules on Reddit actually depend on the subreddit you are submitting to.
You’ll want to read and comment a lot first before submitting your own links. Watch how people react to various types of submissions within a specific subreddit, and then act accordingly.
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 OK)
- 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
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 to you, 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).
You could also use a third-party tool, like Am I Shadowbanned?
TikTok is a popular social network for sharing short videos. Unfortunately, you can get shadowbanned there too (kind of).
While there’s no official mention of the term “shadowban” in TikTok’s Community Guidelines, like other social media networks, TikTok uses algorithms to privilege certain content. If you get on the wrong side of the algorithm, fewer people might see the content you post.
To have more people see your content and avoid penalties, try to 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 and see if your post shows up under that hashtag.
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” your content, that could be considered a type of shadowban.
The main thing you can do to trigger a shadowban on Facebook is to share 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.
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.
While people don’t often think about getting shadowbanned on LinkedIn, it’s possible for your content’s reach to be throttled there.
Like other social media sites, LinkedIn has Community Policies that all members need to follow to avoid problems.
Since LinkedIn is a professional site, its content policies are even 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 towards 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.
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?
Well, YouTube shadowbanning has been in the news because of popular creator PewDiePie. According to his fans, the Swedish videogame YouTuber’s channel was penalized in YouTube search.
YouTube’s official response was that 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.”
7 Ways to Avoid Getting Shadowbanned on Social Media
Different social networks have their own opinions on what type of violations merit a shadowban. However, we can definitely see some general trends that are worth noting.
Adhere to these guidelines if you want to be safe from a shadowban:
- Always stick to the Terms of Service
- 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
- 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
You may not have any idea you are being shadowbanned. At least not at first… though over time, you may begin to suspect it.
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.
However, 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.