Over the years, a number of users have pointed out a mysterious Instagram shadow ban and its impact on their engagement and reach.
While it has yet to be confirmed by Instagram, let’s dive into the Instagram shadow ban, what is supposed to cause it and how to avoid it.
What is an Instagram shadowban?
“Shadowban” is not an official Instagram term, but we do know that Instagram has the authority to suspend accounts in the app. Posts can be hidden or restricted, which is often not known to the user.
This may result in your content (or your account) being untraceable through hashtags and the Explore page. And in some cases, the content can be completely removed.
Please tell @tmz that @instagram muted my voice. I have had over 50 complaints that followers can no longer find me. Or posts they commented on and removed their comments. I thought we should be #amplifymelenatedvoices and not silence them any further.
– Mehcad (@MehcadBrooks) June 4, 2020
Shadowbans can reduce reach, limit who can see your posts, and seriously detract from engagement.
And with so much uncertainty surrounding Instagram shadow bans, it can be unnerving for YouTubers and business owners trying to grow their communities and reach new audiences.
My Instagram is still Shadowban, but it’s slowly coming back to life
I still don’t understand why I shadowbanned but I think I’ll never have the answer pic.twitter.com/8YwTCbUmqn
– • ᷄ɞ • ᷅⁷ (@Morgane__arts) June 3, 2021
So what does Instagram say?
In 2018 it is Instagram Crew claims: “Shadowbanning is not a real thing”, and said they don’t hide people’s content because they post too many hashtags or take other action.
But a year later Instagram confirmed that posts that were categorized as “inappropriate for our international community” would not appear on the Instagram Explore page – even if they followed Instagram’s community guidelines:
To sum up, shadowbanning is not an official term at Instagram headquarters, but there are measures in place to restrict content that could be considered “inappropriate”.
And with over 95 million photos and videos shared on Instagram every day, the app’s moderation process is largely automated.
However, this process can be flawed.
2020 is Instagram Adam Mosseri addressed the shadow ban in response to concerns about black voices being silenced on the platform.
To ensure that Instagram is a place where everyone feels safe and free to express themselves, Mosseri common steps they took to improve the user experience:
- Review how content is filtered on Explore and hashtag pages
- Delving into algorithmic biases and how they can affect Instagram’s products
- Publish more information about the type of content that should be avoided on the platform
In summary? Instagram shadow bans – however labeled – are here to stay. But with the further development of the moderation of Instagram, we hope for a more precise and optimized approach.
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What causes an Instagram shadowban? (+ How to avoid one)
It is not completely transparent how Instagram determines which content is restricted (or “shadowbanned”) on the platform.
However, it is rumored that these five actions increase significantly Your likelihood of being punished:
- Violating Instagram or Post Community Guidelines inappropriate content. This includes posts with violence, sexually suggestive content, and misinformation.
- Fake engagements, such as paying likes or comments, using bots to increase followers, and participating in Engagement pods.
- Spam activities, for example, with over 30 hashtags in a single post. Some users have also claimed that they were banned for commenting on too many posts or following too many people in an hour.
- Use of forbidden hashtags. While Instagram hasn’t released an official list, here’s a blog post for sure Avoid hashtags.
- Using a hashtag that gets a sudden burst of activity. It did so in June 2020 when users shared information about #BlackLivesMatter. Instagram’s communications team claimed it was a mistake – their technology recognized the activity as spam.
How to avoid an Instagram shadowban
With the above in mind, there are some clear steps you can take to avoid Instagram shadowbaning.
Instagram strategist Alex Tooby published a handy guide to shadowbanning with many takeaways.
Here are four tips to keep in mind:
- Do not use software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service, such as bot-like software. Fortunately, if you are using one approved by Instagram Tool like later, you’ll be a-okay!
- Don’t use forbidden or broken hashtags.
- Avoid large spikes in Instagram activity. Instagram restricts user activity to take action against bots. If you suddenly follow 50 accounts or like too many posts, this can be interpreted as “bot activity”.
- Avoid spam-like activitiessuch as copying and pasting the same comment or DM, and following and unfollowing accounts.
Criticism of the Instagram Shadowban
Many users have commented on Instagram’s algorithmic bias and inconsistency around the definition of “inappropriate content”.
The #IWantToSeeNyome campaign was created by model created Nyome Nicholas-Williams, Photographer Alex Cameron, and activist Gina Martinafter taking a half-naked picture of Nyome over and over again.
The aim of the campaign? To draw attention to Instagram’s double standards regarding nudity policy.
As Nyome stated in a post, “Slender white bodies are commended for being naked and cherishing their shape all the time on this platform, and images are never removed.”
As the movement grew, the Instagram team responded and officially updated its nudity policy on October 28, 2020.
In another case, indigenous activists and creators noted that their educational posts about MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) had disappeared from their followers’ Instagram stories.
writer Emily Laurent Henderson told CBC: “It is very suspicious that only contributions to the day of the indigenous women were missing and murdered.”
The Instagram communications team he apologized and said it was “a widespread global technical problem that is not related to a specific topic”.
Adam Mosseri also tweeted, Sorry for the mistake:
Yesterday we experienced a technical glitch that affected millions of stories, highlights, and archives from people around the world. People affected by this bug saw that their re-shared stories disappeared and their archive and highlight stories were missing. https://t.co/E2WTcTN7Jt
– Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) May 7, 2021
As talks about Instagram shadow bans increase, the need for transparency is at an all-time high.
How to remove an Instagram shadowban
So you think you’ve been shadow banned on Instagram – you’ve followed all the rules, but your posts are still not reaching users and your engagement is decreasing.
What can you do? Alex Tooby suggests the following:
- Report your Shadowban on Instagram
- Remove apps that use Autobots
- Check your hashtags
- Take a break from Instagram
Report your Shadowban on Instagram
While Instagram has an officer Support email, we recommend using the native “Report a Problem” option within the Instagram app.
To do this, simply go to your Instagram settings, tap on Help and select “Report a problem”.
A popup should appear with a few options. Select Something Is Not Working and write a message describing your problem.
Remove apps that use Autobots
We get it: using an Instagram planner that automatically posts your photos to Instagram is a great way to save time.
But if you use one that is not an official Instagram partner, you can land on the Instagram shadowban list.
To find out if bot services or unapproved apps are linked to your account, go to your Instagram settings, tap Security, then tap Apps & Websites.
Here you can see all of the active apps that your account is using, that have expired, and that you have removed.
TIP: If you’re looking for an Instagram-approved scheduling app, you can download it and connect Later!
Check your hashtags
We’ve talked a lot about hashtags, but for good reason! Using a forbidden hashtag will likely shadow you on Instagram.
Check your hashtags and search for them on Instagram. If you can see the Top Posts section but nothing else, it is likely that it has been blocked.
Sometimes Instagram even leaves a quick message on the hashtag page explaining that posts were hidden because they didn’t meet community guidelines.
If a hashtag that you use frequently is suddenly banned, remove it from your posts and see if it gets unblocked in the future.
Take a break from Instagram
Some users have said that taking a few days off Instagram helped lift their Instagram shadow ban.
That means no posting, commenting or even logging into the app. After your break, there is a chance that you can like and post again as usual.
But remember to interact with each one manually. It may take more time and effort, but it proves Instagram that you abide by the Terms of Service (and that you are not a bot!).
How long does an Instagram shadowban last?
There is no specific answer at the moment, but rumor has it that it will be lifted within two to three weeks.
However, there are outliers that say it was a month or more ago.
Your best bet? To try and avoid an Instagram shadowban altogether.
ICYMI: Later is an official Instagram partner so you can plan and schedule Your Instagram content with Later without being tagged. Start Posting Today – For Free!
Monique is a content marketer at Later who loves helping brands define their voice and content strategy. She usually drinks matcha or adds another book to her ever-growing TBR list. Say hello on Instagram – @wordsbymonique