Let’s say you have just noticed an unprecedented drop in social media engagement. You are creating relatively similar content to what you posted before, but it does not seem to have the same impact. Is it the content? Did the new social media platform update cause this? Is it just another annoying bug that will be fixed in a few hours? Or have users suddenly decided to ignore you?
If none of the above makes sense, there is a possibility that you have been “shadow banned.” If your account is shadow-banned, you are invisible! Of course, that’s the last thing you want for your online presence. In this article, we will take a look at what exactly a “shadow ban” is and then explain how to deal with it on the most popular platforms. Let’s get started:
What Is a Shadow Ban?
Shadow banning, also called stealth banning, hell banning, ghost banning, or comment ghosting, is when your posts or online activities are not visible to other users. You have not received any official notification, but you are practically banned. This causes a lot of confusion as users can still access their accounts and content without knowing why others can not see their content.
For many reasons, shadow banning is a good practice to prevent the spread of spam on social platforms. The reason is that once spammers realise their account is locked, they immediately create a new account, and the cycle continues. However, when they are shadow banned, they continue posting without harming the platform or the people on their social network.
There are a few drawbacks, however. The main one is that there is little way to find out if you have been accidentally shadow-banned. Shadow banning only works on the basis of this uncertainty, which can make it even more frustrating.
Which Platforms & Websites Use Shadow Bans?
We have a serious problem in answering this question. Because most websites deny that they use shadow-banning algorithms, it’s not a practice to be outspoken about. Yet most platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, LinkedIn, and YouTube, seem to use shadow banning in one way or another.
Moreover, there is no specific procedure for Shadow Banning. Each website or platform may take a different route if it determines that an account has violated its terms. Some may block certain features and allow the user to continue posting. Others impose a temporary block that may return to normal after a while.
Let’s see how shadow banning works on the most popular social media platforms:
Twitter Shadow Banning
In 2018, Twitter announced that it doesn’t”deliberately make people’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it.” Twitter was very clear about the controversial practice of shadow-banning in this article:
“People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not.”
They added that political viewpoints or ideologies definitely do not play a role in punishing users on this platform. Nevertheless, Twitter will use complicated search result algorithms to penalise spammers, trolls, and “bad-faith actors.”
In short, if Twitter feels that you are spreading misinformation and getting blocked and reported more often than usual, it will take action to prevent bot-like behaviour. This can result in you ranking much lower than expected in search results and the newsfeed. So yes, Twitter is implementing a shadow ban, in a sense.
How to Avoid a Twitter Shadow Ban?
The “bad-faith actor” has a few characteristics for Twitter, including:
- Unconfirmed email address
- No profile picture
- Recency of the account
- Followed and retweeted accounts by you
- Credibility of the account that mute, follow, retweet and block you
So the first step is to avoid being classified as a bad-faith actor. Confirm your email and upload a profile picture. Avoid spamming and trolling. And more importantly, be extra careful with your marketing promotions. Hard selling on Twitter can lead to many reports and blocks, which will result in a shadow ban on your account.
Too much promotion, confrontation and argumentation in posts and comments don’t do well on your online credibility. If you’re using Twitter for marketing purposes, try to post useful articles. Read the room, so to speak, and slowly build your follower base.
Instagram Shadow Banning
Does Instagram shadow ban? Yes and no. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said unequivocally that shadow banning is not a thing. But he added that being listed on the search results “isn’t guaranteed for anyone; sometimes you’ll get lucky, sometimes you won’t.” But is it all about luck? No, of course not!
Instagram published a guide that addresses inappropriate content in 2019. They confirmed that “inappropriate” content will be excluded from the Explore and Hashtag pages. And this is where it gets tricky. “Inappropriate” content may not violate the guidelines, but Instagram will still maintain its “Big Brother” observatory posture.
Basically, there are unspoken and unclear guidelines that may not necessarily result in a ban. The platform allows some types of content, but its search algorithms do not recommend it.
How to Avoid an Instagram Shadow Ban?
Like any other platform, Instagram has some rules, non-compliance with which are certainly punishable. First, you should follow Instagram’s community guidelines and avoid posting inappropriate content, specifically posts containing violence, sexually suggestive content, and misinformation.
Fake engagements are also frowned upon by Instagram. Paying for likes or comments, using bots to build your follower base, following too many people and commenting on too many posts, and using banned hashtags will damage your account’s credibility.
TikTok Shadow Banning
TikTok, too, denies shadow banning. However, in 2020 some documents were released, indicating that admins were explicitly suppressing content from certain demographics of creators. TikTok still denies the shadow banning, but it also recommends users to follow its Community Guidelines to rank better through the platform’s recommendation algorithm.
How to Avoid a TikTok Shadow Ban?
Apart from following the community guideline, there are some ways to get better exposure on the platform and avoid penalties. Mostly, these are the same rules and principles that apply to any other popular social media platform: Avoid sharing content that promotes or contains illegal material, violence, hate speech, spam, and other similar topics.
If you’re unsure if you’ve been shadow-banned on TikTok, use a hashtag in a post and then search for that hashtag. If you found your post under that hashtag, you’re fine. If not, you’ve been unofficially shadow-banned!
Facebook Shadow Banning
Facebook has been suspiciously quiet about the shadow ban. They neither deny it nor confirm it. However, Facebook’s famous “remove, reduce and inform” policy is somewhat similar to the shadow ban practice. Under this policy, posts that violate community standards or ad guidelines are ranked lower in the News Feed.
This so-called “problematic content” sounds very familiar to Instagram’s inappropriate content. Neither explicitly violate community standards or ad guidelines, but they still result in lower visibility on the platform. Facebook’s problematic content includes posts that are “misleading or harmful and that the community does not want to see on Facebook – things like clickbait or sensationalism.”
How to Avoid a Facebook Shadow Ban?
Essentially it all boils down to producing quality content. If your posts aren’t considered high quality, Facebook won’t promote them. So the first rule seems to be avoiding posting content that doesn’t benefit the community.
Also, Facebook takes sharing links to fake or misleading information very seriously. Repeated violations of these rules can result in a shadow ban. Remember that content on the site is reviewed for accuracy by independent fact-checking organisations. So follow a more serious content creation and publishing strategy for Facebook.
Similar to many other social media platforms, Facebook doesn’t appreciate clickbait. The clickbait detection algorithm is quite complicated, but low-authority websites without many inbound and outbound links that generate a lot of clicks raise the most suspicion.
YouTube Shadow Banning
The official YouTube stance on the topic was announced on its twitter account: “YouTube doesn’t shadow ban. It’s possible the video was flagged by our systems as potentially violative & needs to be reviewed first before it shows up in search, etc.”
Low-performing or unsearchable videos on YouTube are therefore not because of shadow ban, but because of the violation of the community terms by the user. Although many YouTubers will argue otherwise.
How to Avoid and Fix a YouTube Shadow Ban?
If you suspect a shadow ban, the first step is to report the situation to YouTube’s support team. add a few screenshots of the page and where the issue has emerged to give an accurate picture of the problem. The details will help to solve the issue faster and more efficiently.
Also, try to read YouTube Policy guidelines and keep yourself updated. The guidelines are updated regularly. So, to avoid problems, show your commitment to protecting other users’ interests. Avoid all the content that falls under harmful categories like copyright infringement, child protection, etc.
Having a solid online presence and preventing unfortunate circumstances like shadow reporting bans is pretty simple. Create original, high-quality, useful content that others will appreciate and recognize. And, of course, you need to play by the rules if you want to win the game. This will increase not only the credibility of your account with the platform admins but also your online image.
To get more insights on how to increase your social engagement and other marketing tips, check out our blog. At Broadweb, we do everything to help our clients boost their brand image online from search engine optimization, to web and app design, marketing, maintenance, etc. We cover it all! Contact us today.