What is Shadowbanning, What Causes It, and What You Can Do to Lift a Shadowban

Shadowbanning is something online platform users (particularly smaller brands and creators) bring up every once in a while. What is the mysterious “shadowban” and is it really a thing? Let’s dive into the infamous shadowban, how you can avoid it, and what to do if you think you are shadowbanned. 


What is a Shadowban?

Shadowban is not an official term used by platforms such as Instagram, X, TikTok, or LinkedIn, however, many users deem it the act of muting an account or its content on the platform without informing the user. 


Shadowbanning has gone by many other names over the years, including ghost banning or stealth banning. Some users think it is a conspiracy theory that others cling to during periods of waning popularity. Others see shadowbanning as slang for something that many platforms actually have the power to do, which is deprioritizing posts or entire accounts. 


This deprioritizing essentially makes your content or account undiscoverable, hidden, or restricted. This results in far lower reach and engagement. With so many uncertainties on platforms coupled with the constantly changing algorithms, this can lead to increased frustrations of many creators and small brands just trying to make it in a crowded digital world. 


How to Know If You Are Shadowbanned

If you search “how to see if I’m shadowbanned” on a particular platform, you’ll likely see guides telling you seeing a significant drop in engagement is one of the biggest indicators. However, a decrease in engagement could be due to other factors, such as seasonal behavior of your followers, content no longer resonating, a change in the algorithm, etc. 


The only surefire way to know if you are “shadowbanned” is to check and see if there is an issue with your content by checking your account status (like on Instagram) or keeping an eye out for email notifications (such as with YouTube or Facebook). Another option is to do a profile audit. Go over recent activity (comments and posts) and look for anything that might violate guidelines and remove it. 


What Causes a Shadowban? 

It’s not clear how each platform determines what content gets restricted (shadowbanned) or promoted. But there are some actions that are rumored to significantly increase the likelihood of being penalized by a platform. These include:

  • Violating the platform’s community guidelines.
  • Fake engagement, such as paying for likes or comments or using bots to increase followers. 
  • Spammy activity, such as using too many hashtags, commenting on too many posts, or following too many other accounts within a short period of time.
  • Using banned hashtags.
  • Using a hashtag that receives a sudden surge of activity, which could appear as spam to a platform’s technology.
  • Copyright strikes, such as on YouTube.


How to Avoid a Shadowban

Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you avoid a possible “shadowban.”

  • Review the platform’s community and copyright guidelines and be sure to stick to them.
  • Stay up-to-date on news of the various algorithms. 
  • Avoid spammy behavior, such as calling for likes, tags, comments, or shares. 
  • Avoid spam-like activity, such as copying and pasting or using the same comment on multiple posts. 
  • Avoid using software that violates a platform’s Terms of Service (such as bot software) and never pay for followers. 
  • Use high-quality content (photos/videos).
  • Don’t use banned or broken hashtags. 
  • Avoid big surges in activity, such as following 50 accounts in one hour.


How to Remove a Shadowban

So you think you’ve been shadowbanned? You feel you’ve followed the rules and for some reason, your posts still aren’t reaching users and your engagement is decreasing. What can you do about it? Here is what you can do to try and remove a possible shadowban: 

  • Report your “shadowban” to the platform.
  • Remove apps that use autobots.
  • Review your hashtags.
  • Take a break from the platform. 


How long does it take to lift a shadowban? There is no concrete answer for that either. The rumor for some platforms is two to three weeks, but some users say it’s been a month or longer for them. The best advice is to steer clear of a shadowban as much as possible.


Final Thoughts

The term “shadowban” is a bit of a controversial one, depending on who you ask. But the bottom line is that seeing a decrease in your engagement and reach can be disheartening for smaller brands and creators, especially when you put in so much time and effort on your posts. The key is to avoid things such as spam-like behavior and violating community guidelines to keep your account and posts in good standing with a social platform so you don’t have to worry about a shadowban happening to you.