What Is Shadow Banning? Debunking Shadowbans Online

If you've ever noticed your social media engagement rates taking a sudden downturn, it's possible that your account has been shadow banned. Though the existence of these inexplicit bans - called shadow bans - has been debated, it is possible for your account and your posts to be affected. In this article, learn what a shadow ban is, what platforms use them, and how to avoid getting shadowbanned yourself.

What is shadowbanning?

You might have heard about the concept of a shadowban before, but what does shadowban mean? Shadowbanning, also known as shadow banning, is when a social media platform blocks other users from seeing an account's posts. Shadowbans usually take place when the platform sees an account is violating its terms of service agreement, such as by posting inappropriate images, harmful content, or excessive advertisements. Social media platforms will also shadowban users who include banned hashtags in their posts.

Unlike IP bans, which block the user completely, shadow bans are covert. Though platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, and TikTok have shadowbanning policies, they don't make it known explicitly to users. When a user's content is shadowbanned, they aren't notified by the platform. This makes shadowbans incredibly effective in deterring spam accounts from recognizing the deactivation. Shadowbanned users posting spam or inappropriate content can continue posting without realizing that the platform hid their accounts.

Shadowbanned from social media

However, for real users who mistakenly received a shadowban, these types of bans are annoying and hard to understand. Not only does a shadow ban prohibit other users from seeing a certain profile on their Explore page, but it also stops the profile from showing up in searches. Often, this means that others can't find the profile even if they look for it. This essentially shuts the profile out from the platform.

If you suspect you've been shadowbanned, there's no way to completely confirm it. The entire process of shadowbanning relies on a lack of detection. However, you can take steps to avoid a potential shadowban.

Which social media platforms shadow ban?

Facebook, the site formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have never made official statements on shadowbanning practices. However, even though these platforms have never explicitly used the term, most people concede that these platforms do shadowban users based on certain activity and the restricted visibility that many users have experienced.

X (formerly Twitter)

Though X claims they don't explicitly shadow ban users, they tweeted that they do rank tweets in search results in order to reduce the visibility of tweets that violate their code of conduct. They also label tweets that they determine to contain hateful content. This could impact the visibility of a user's content, therefore making the process essentially Twitter shadowbanning.

Instagram and Facebook

Instagram made similar comments, stating content deemed inappropriate for communities would not show up on other Instagram accounts' Explore pages. Though they claim an Instagram shadowban does not exist, they also state that Instagram's algorithm hides public posts that they considered inappropriate or unacceptable. Likewise, though Meta denies a Facebook shadowban feature, Facebook hides posts that they do not deem appropriate or a scam. They also include alerts with the posts showing that the posts received a flag.

Instagram also added a feature that allows users to see their Account Status. The status tells users about potential issues that could result in a ban on their account. They can also see what to change on their account and whether or not they may be at risk of a permanent ban.


TikTok claims that "content that is not appropriate for a broad audience will be ineligible for the FYF." This essentially admits that they filter through certain content. The constitution of appropriate content versus inappropriate content often falls to social media platforms. Therefore, platforms can ban or limit users' visibility without an explicit reason.

Ultimately, whether or not they use the term "shadow ban," most social media platforms enforce bans that conceptually qualify as shadowbans.

Are shadow bans real?

Though social media platforms do not acknowledge the term, yes, shadowbans are real. The concept of an inexplicit ban that hides an account's content from other users exists on almost every social media platform, from Instagram to TikTok.

How to avoid getting shadowbanned

It's important for social media users to know how to avoid a shadow ban. This is especially true if their goal is to gain publicity and increase engagement. While a shadowban isn't permanant, the ban typically lasts about fourteen days.
The user may then feel the effects of the ban for much longer than just those two weeks. With that in mind, it's best to avoid the potential of a shadowban altogether. To avoid a shadowban, keep these things in mind:

  • Review community guidelines. Most shadowbans are a result of community guideline violations. Make sure you educate yourself on what your platforms permit.
  • Know banned hashtags. Certain platforms, like Instagram and X, have banned hashtags that could result in a shadowban if used. The hashtags are sometimes seemingly innocuous, like #beautyblogger or #singlelife, so make sure you are aware of which ones are acceptable.
  • Don't share inappropriate content. Posting inappropriate, violent, or adult content often results in a shadowban or explicitly ban. For your own safety, avoid posting this content on social media in the first place.
  • Be aware of third-party apps. Some platforms prohibit the use of third-party apps. For example, if you use a third-party app not developed by Meta for content moderation on Instagram, it could result in a shadowban.
  • Avoid spam or use of bots. Bots are a big issue on social media platforms, and many platforms ban accounts that use bots heavily in order to eliminate artificial traffic and activity. If you, as a legitimate user, utilize bots or spam to boost your account, you may receive a shadowban.

Though it's possible to receive a shadowban on accident, if you follow these guidelines, you'll likely be able to avoid being shadow banned from a platform.

How to recognize and get rid of a shadow ban

Because social media platforms are not upfront about their shadowbanning policies, they don't educate users on how to recognize shadowbans or get rid of them if they enact one. However, there are a few signs you may see that indicate a shadowban. If you find that your engagement is decreasing, you are losing likes, and haven't experienced anticipated account growth, it's possible your account is banned.

There's no guaranteed way to get rid of a shadowban, but you can try the following:

  • Take a break from the social media platform. Some shadow bans only go away with time; taking a break from the platform may be your best option. Ideally, once you return, you will have the freedom to post as normal.
  • Contact the platform or enter a support request. If you believe you wrongfully received a shadowban, contact support. Though there's no guarantee they'll do anything to help, it's worth trying.
  • Remove all potentially inappropriate content. Take down post content that platforms could consider inappropriate, including those that connect to forbidden hashtag pages.
  • Disconnect third-party apps if you use them. Stop using third-party apps, as these could cause friction.

Essentially, take the "remove, reduce, and inform" approach. Remove questionable content, reduce the amount of time you spend on the app and the amount you post, and inform yourself on your social network's rules and what may have caused the issue.

Shadowbans are elusive and problematic, but they aren't impossible to avoid. Do your best to educate yourself on a social media platform's rules and regulations before interacting to avoid a shadow ban or other future issue.