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Shadow bans or getting sandboxed is one of the worst things that can happen; oh and it happens a lot!

Your posts, comments, and interaction with others don’t get any attention? And previously you had a lot of interaction with others on social media. Most likely you have been shadowbanned! This sounds alarming, and it should be! But what even is shadow banning?[1]

Shadowbanning was previously called ghost banning. This kind of ban puts you into a kind of invisible mode. You can post and interact with others, but they don’t see any of your interactions. On your side, everything looks normal. But in reality, it is just like you didn’t post at all. You become a “shadow” or “ghost”. The tricky thing about shadowbans is that you don’t get any notification about it. It happens and then you have to find out about it yourself. Which can sometimes be difficult. 

Even famous groups and people like Donald J. Trump have been shadowbanned in the past. If people with massive followings can get ghosted, so can you![2]

In this article, we will talk a bit about shadowbans, how to detect them, and avoid them. 

What Is Shadowbanning?

Shadowbanning is a new kind of ban popularized on big social media websites. The user affected by the ban doesn’t get a notification or alert of the change. The change itself makes it so that anything you post, comment, or interact with is only visible by you. Some social media do a complete ban so that nobody can see your posts and some tweak the algorithm. The second one is getting more common as your content is still being seen by some people, but not all. It limits your reach and is hard to detect. Users often have to speculate if they have been banned or they just get low views/interactions. 

The reason this kind of ban is so popular on social media. Is that the user most likely doesn’t realize that he has been banned or limited. So he doesn’t complain or create new accounts.

Every social media platform uses some of these techniques. Some deny doing it but most evidence shows that all of them do it to some extent. They use it for censoring certain topics, views, and unwanted behavior. It is also the cause of much controversy. Some people think they are manipulating the public perception of things. 

Most websites use these types of shadowbans:

  • Blocking usernames or hashtags from search results
  • Limiting discoverability and reach of certain groups of people
  • Decreased follower engagement
  • Blocking of features (likes, replies, reacts)
  • Algorithm tweaking 
  • Temporary ban that reverts after some time

Famous Cases of Shadowbans

In recent years the political scene in the US has strong opposing parties. The Democrat voters are big on left movements, inclusivity, and social justice. The Republican voters are usually more right-wing oriented. They have strong and conservative views on particular subjects.  Most silicon valley tech giants are democratic oriented. Republicans, conservatives, and right-wingers usually get the short end of the stick. Most platforms straight away shadowban or completely ban them.  

This was obvious during the 2020 election. There a lot of conservatives were banned from social media. Most of these bans were shadowbans so that the users wouldn’t notice an immediate ban. This culminated with the real ban on US president Donald J. Trump on social media. 

Twitter was one of the companies that issued the most bans. There have been rumors that over 250,000 users have been shadowbanned in recent months. That’s a massive amount and the number of shadowbans will only increase. [3]

One of the recent controversies regarding shadowbanning was YouTube’s biggest individual creator. The controversial PewDiePie has a massive following of over 109 million subscribers. His channel got shadowbanned it seems by accident. His videos weren’t pushed to sub boxes and his channel wouldn’t appear in the search results. [4] This issue was resolved but it proves that no one is safe from these bans. 

Now that you know what it is, it is time to find out how you can detect it and avoid it. Let’s focus on different social media networks and how each of them deals with these bans. 

How To Tell If You Are Shadowbanned and How To Avoid It

Twitter

Twitter, like most companies, claims they don’t shadowban its users. However, they do admit to changing the algorithm to penalize some content. [5] During a hack of the platform, it was found out that Twitter has internal tags. Trend blacklist and search blacklist were used on accounts Twitter wanted to suppress.  [6]

To find out if you are ghost banned you can check out websites like https://shadowban.eu/. Such websites and services offer a glimpse into your account standing. 

To avoid getting shadowbanned from Twitter there are a few things you can do:

  • Limit posting about controversial topics
  • Avoid conspiracies and non-official narratives
  • Confirm your email address, upload a profile picture
  • Have some followers and follow others
  • Don’t use the services of follower boosters and bots
  • Don’t spam and troll people
  • Avoid getting muted, blocked, and reported by other users

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook has a policy called “remove, reduce, and inform” active since 2016.

  • They remove any content that is against their community standard. 
  • They reduce the visibility of undesired information. Things like conspiracy theories, misinformation, etc…
  • Providing users with additional information

Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, their internal policy is somewhat similar. Instagram usually reduces the visibility of “borderline content”. That borderline content is content that is close to breaching community standards. Some of that content is:

  • Violence 
  • Graphic and shocking content
  • Sexually suggestive content
  • Misinformation
  • Spam messages

Detecting a shadowban is difficult. You will have to ask a few of your friends if your posts appear in their feeds. Some services try to get that info, but they aren’t always accurate. 

If you notice you are shadowbanned, try remedying the situation. 

  • Remove any posts you might think are causing it
  • Stop any activity that might go against TOS
  • Revoke App Permission for third party apps
  • Stop using bots if you are 
  • Don’t use hashtags that are banned
  • Take a few days off
  • Stop posting extremely frequent
  • Avoid Getting Reported
  • Reach out to Instagram support

Hopefully, you should go back online and continue normal within a week or two. [7][8]


Reddit

Reddit is one of the first websites to implement shadowbanning. At first, it was meant for bot accounts that spam posted subreddits. But soon people started getting shadowbanned as well. Reddit announced that there will be changes. The current shadowbanning system will be replaced with an account suspension one. But shadowbanning still happens to some users and subreddits. 

To find out if you are shadowbanned, you can do a simple check. Make a post on r/ShadowBan. There a bot will respond to you instantly if you aren’t shadowbanned. If you are, the bot will also show which of your posts are affected by it.

You can also use the online website https://nullprogram.com/am-i-shadowbanned/. It should show you if you are impacted by a ban or not. 

Here are some tips to avoid getting shadowbanned:

  • Don’t spam or post links to your content
  • Don’t harass or downvote/report other users in mass
  • Don’t dox or encourage doxing
  • Follow the TOS
  • Don’t abuse moderators or admins

TikTok

If you are often on this social media you have seen a bunch of people complaining about shadowbans. Hashtags like #shadowbanned are on around 300 million videos on the platform. TikTok has denied claims of shadowbanning anyone but we all know that most companies deny it. 

It’s a bit harder to check as you need to analyze the data yourself. You will have to check your page and “For You” views. You need to then analyze that data and see if you have any big dips in engagement.  But if you notice a dramatic decline in views, that might be it. To stay on TikTok’s good side do the following:

  • Stay away from controversy
  • Don’t post violent, sexual, or hate videos
  • Don’t spam 
  • Don’t promote illegal activities

[6]

Conclusion

Shadowbanning is a real issue that can affect any of us. No matter if the account is personal or a business one. The bans impact both of these equally. If you have posts that are against or on the border of crossing TOS. Get ready for a fight for your visibility and reach. 

Shadowbans are one of the worst things that can happen to your account. The bans aren’t public so you might spend a lot of time and money in vain. Do whatever you can to make it as unlikely as possible to get this kind of punishment. Stay within the guidelines, don’t be negative, don’t spam, etc… 

If you are lucky you won’t need to worry about these kinds of bans. Stay smart and increase your reach and engagement! Good luck with your social media accounts!

What are your experiences with shadowbans? Share your stories with us in the comments!

Sources:

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