What to do about shadowbanning


Up until a few days ago I'd never even heard of shadowbanning, or soft banning/stealth banning/ghost banning, but it happened to me so I'm going to tell you what I've learned.

I'm going to talk about the experience of shadowbanning and content blocking/link blocking on Facebook and Instagram, as this is what I've experienced. I've had problems on Facebook and Instagram for almost 6 weeks, only being let out of Facebook/Instagram jail yesterday. If you think you may have been shadowbanned on other social media sites, Google is your friend.

WHAT IS SHADOWBANNING ON SOCIAL MEDIA? 

Shadowbanning is a process where the user thinks their social media account appears to be working fine, but few other people can see their content.

WHY ARE PEOPLE SHADOWBANNED?

Instagram is having massive issues with bots and fakers at the moment - either fake accounts - if you've been tagged in one of those 'Get free followers!!!' posts you'll know what I mean - or automated comments and likes by bots on Instagram. This is where people grow their follower count by following new accounts, liking photos and commenting on photos via automation - it basically works for you while you're asleep or not even on your phone. This is how you end up with comments like 'I love it, check out my account!' on posts about dead children and other terrible tragedies.

The trouble is Instagram's algorithm picks up perfectly innocent actions as spam or bot activity and slams the ban hammer down on your account without you even knowing it. You may only get an inkling something fishy is going on when your follower count stagnates. This is because the hashtags you're using may not be coming up in the search page for those hashtags. My followers could see what I posted, but no one else could. While my shadowban was going on the only new people finding me were randy men who slavishly search through other girls' follower counts to find new meat to pester.

Here's what you can do to get yourself unbanned.

  • Don't use the same hashtags all the time
  • Don't leave the same ol' comment on every photo you comment on
  • Don't use the same emojis in comments all the time 
  • Don't leave 30 hashtags in a comment on your own post
  • Keep your hashtags to the caption and stick with a low amount like 5 hashtags (at least until you're off IG's shitlist)
  • Delete any hashtags with expletives in them like #fuckflattering, #fuckthepatriarchy
  • Delete any hashtags which have been taken over by NSFW content, like #curvy was last year
  • Be very careful about replying to people you don't follow, especially if you @ a few of them at a time. This simulates the activity of those 'get free followers' spammers who @ a whole bunch of people at once.

Basically to Instagram's algorithm ANY repetitive behaviour signifies you're a bot or spammer. Once you're on their shitlist it's really hard to get off it. I deleted all my hashtags I'd left in my own comments going back to March. If I had any hashtags in the caption with 'fuck' in them I deleted them from the caption. Now I'm sticking to 5 expletive-free hashtags in the caption and changing them up each time things seem to be OK. My follower count immediately sprang up as people can see me in hashtag searches again.

As well as being shadowbanned on Instagram I'd also been on a total link/content block on Facebook and Instagram. I wasn't allowed to share ANY link to my blog anywhere on Facebook (and neither was anyone else). I wasn't allowed to have my blog link on my personal or blog's FB page and I couldn't use my link in my Instagram bio either. Facebook owns Instagram so if you're in the doghouse with one, you're in the doghouse with both.

If you want to know what kicked off this 6 weeks of jail time, read on.

WHAT STARTED MY SHADOWBAN & LINK BLOCKING

Back in March I was acting as an admin on an account on Instagram where I do a shift once a week posting photos and moderating comments. As part of the deal admins are allowed to upload a photo of themselves. After I did my shift I logged back in from my personal account and replied to 3 people who'd said nice things about my photo. Being short for time I @ all three of them in one go thanking them. It turns out (although I didn't know it then) because I don't follow any of them from my personal account IG marked me as a spammer or bot. When I uploaded a photo to my personal account later on the caption didn't come out. I deleted the photo and tried again. Same thing - I couldn't caption my own photos. I also couldn't reply to comments, or like/comment on anyone else's photos either. I made a few Instagram stories to explain what was going on, only to realise no one else but me could see them. I had a few days in IG purgatory and not much success in finding out what was going on, until I realised if I deleted the comment that got me banned it might fix it.

That partly fixed it - I could upload photos and use a caption, other people could see my stories, and I had full freedom to reply to comments and like/comment on others'. But my link was hidden from my IG profile and I was soon to realise this was the case on Facebook too. I couldn't share any of my blog posts to Facebook the whole time, so my follower count on my blog's Facebook page stagnated too. Every time I put in a help request on Facebook or Instagram it was ignored. Infuriatingly, this went on for nearly 6 weeks in total. Finding THIS link to report my blog link being banned seemed to help. After filing a report 3 days running they finally relinquished full control back to me yesterday. It's just as well I'm not one of these 'Link in bio' Instagrammers who makes thousands from their profiles in affiliate links because I would've been howling with rage. It was stressful enough because during this time period I also had a malware attack on my blog, although I think that was incidental to the link ban, as that was already going on before the malware attack. The most frustrating thing about the whole experience was realising just how powerless you are to do anything when you're dealing with a company like Facebook or Instagram. It's like pleading with a hurricane not to blast through your house - entirely pointless. They'll get back to you when they can be bothered. Sadly social media is very far from social right now.

Have you ever fallen foul of the Instagram or Facebook ban hammer? Whilst on the topic: Popular Instagram bot site shut down

Thanks for reading. Leah xoxo

4 comments

  1. Thanks for this - very useful and insightful.

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    1. My pleasure Steve! I'm glad it was useful to you.

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  2. I take a step away from blogging for a bit and lots of new things pop up I've never heard of! This was very helpful - thank you!!

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    1. Thanks Cathy! There's very little that's sociable about Instagram at the moment - as usual the actions of a small percent of cheaters ruins things for everyone else. :/

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