his article will discuss issues surrounding shadowbanning: what it is, how to fix it, and finally, it’s prevention.  Shadowbanning can often take users by surprise, as it is a ban that comes without a prior warning, and is not very apparent. By being able to recognize it's signs, users may then be able to lift the ban, and by extension, learn how to prevent further bans in the future. However, this is not to say that shadow-bans are entirely without purpose. They help to keep spam accounts and inappropriate content out of our feeds, and out of our minds. This article will address specifically those who have been accidentally banned without their knowledge.

Wait, What is Shadowbanning? 

Alt Text: Amidst a pile of rocks, a single rock with a question mark drawn onto it stands out. 
If you haven’t been shadowbanned before, it’s hard to know exactly what the ban entails.  

Recently, dating apps (and Tinder in particular) have been employing a tool called a “shadowban.” But what exactly is it, and what does it mean for the users affected? 

Shadowbanning occurs without the user’s knowing. However, there are recognizable signs that you have been shadowbanned. For one, your profile will get next to no views/action. This is because Tinder has made it all but invisible to others, and is usually the result of breaking community guidelines. Something as simple as changing your profile multiple times can get you shadowbanned, as it is commonly seen as a sign of sketchy/dishonest behavior. 

A Tool to Keep You safe 

While it is certainly an annoying feature if you’ve been unjustly banned yourself, shadowbanning is not without its functions. Why, without the notorious shadowban, scammers and hackers alike would run rampant. 

Here are a few stereotypically negative things that a shadowban may be protecting you from as we speak: 

  • Bots 
  • Posts with banned hashtags 
  • Stale profiles which post the same things over and over again
  • Anything which has been reported to be false, pornographic, or abusive by other users 

Until it Turns Against You

However, the focus of this article is not the pro’s of shadowbanning. Rather, it aims to serve as a guide to you on how to lift your own ban (provided–and, we’re assuming–it’s unjust). 

For starters, here are a few things to note when it comes to determining whether or not you’ve been banned. 

How can I tell if I’ve been Shadowbanned? 

Alt Text: A minimalist sketch of a woman looking at her phone in distress and confusion.
A shadowban, unlike in the case of other bans, comes with no warning. (unsplash)

Look for your Profile’s Progress

Not matching with anyone is the most surefire way to determine whether or not you’ve been shadowbanned. Some shadowbans might come with a warning, the platform informing you that you’re close to a ban due to “suspicious activity.” Others still won’t give you a heads-up whatsoever. 

Do These Sound Familiar? 

  • No new likes/comments/matches
  • You are unable to delete your account
  • You initially dismissed this error as a “glitch”
  • It is as though you have “disappeared” from the online world without a trace…

Okay, so I’ve been banned. So now, how do I lift it? 

Alt Text: A person is screeching out the word “facebook” on their iphone. 
There are ways to work around shadowbans, but they are usually unconventional and require a bit of cleaning-up on your part. 

It’s not that Simple…

Unfortunately, the process required to lift a shadowban is not simple. You may 1) Make an appeal to the platform 2) Give up and create a new account or 3) Discontinue use of the account in the hopes that the ban will be lifted naturally. 

Follow These Steps 

When pursuing the route of contacting the company that banned you, it is important to keep in mind the following: 

  • Contact support and calmly and clearly explain what has happened 
  • Do not approach them as a scammer or bot might, be professional
  • Provide all account details necessary

Note: In an incredibly desperate situation, you might wait until your current phone wears out and purchase a new phone. With no old photos tied to your banned account, you should be able to interact with the app without any issues, and without it being linked to your past account activity.

Using the social media platform Instagram as an example, here is the right way to proceed in requesting a ban to be lifted: 

  • Phone 1-650-543-4800
  • Or visit the websites help center (settings, help center, popular topics)
  • Select an issue pertaining to your specific case
  • Or, on the website: Profile, Settings, Help (at bottom of web page) 

However, this doesn’t always work

While contacting the site that banned you might appear a foolproof method of lifting the ban, some are dubious of this process–as the ban might’ve been put into place for dubious reasons to begin with. 

For example, the organization Posting Into the Void, claims that shadowbanning is a means by which social media platforms can work against protesters, organizers, activists, and even sex workers. Their website alleges, “What we know to be true about shadowbanning—and what our research supports—is that shadowbans are felt intensely by the marginalized and radicalized communities that do sex work and movement work. This impact isn’t being discussed outside of our very niche community.”

Twitter denies the claims of the report. The social media platform claims that anyone may utilize their platform to speak about anything, provided that it does not qualify as hate speech. Certain things, deemed inappropriate for certain audiences, may in fact be limited with regards to whom may view them, however, this is not what is known as “shadowbanning”--which serves as a total ban of a person’s content. 

While it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they have been wrongfully shadowbanned, it is certainly worth considering both sides of this argument when deciding how to handle a ban on your account. Perhaps there really is no room for appeal? 

Shadowban Prevention In Future 

Alt Text: Scrabble letters spell out the words “KEEP SAFE.”
Shadowbanning happens for a reason. It is important to learn from your ban what you can do in the future to prevent it again. 

There are steps that you can take to ensure that you will not be banned again in the future. For one, you can keep up your engagement so that your account appears to be tied to you, and not a random bot or scammer. Interact with others’ posts, comment on their stories, and include likes where you can. Additionally, establish an amount of time/interaction per week and continue to be aware of those hours so that you can prevent a sudden uptick in activity that may appear to the website as being fishy. Finally, be mindful of the amount of hashtags you use, and which ones. A social media post with dozens of hashtags is an eyesore at best, and confusing at the worst. And, ultimately, confusing is exactly what you want to avoid being in the eyes of the platform you're using. A sudden switch of profile or identity? Confusing, and therefore banned. Sudden uptick in usage? Confusing. Banned. No account activity whatsoever? You get the idea…

Here are a few things you can do if you’re having trouble following the above rules as they are laid out: 

  • Create a social-media/dating app schedule. Only check your profile at certain times, so as to establish yourself as a regular and predictable user. 
  • Sleep on whatever you are about to post. What may look perfectly fine tonight, might strike you as “not adhering to community guidelines” tomorrow. 
  • Limit yourself to five or so hashtags per post. (Potentially even less.) 
  • Cultivate a profile that you love and will want to keep for some time. Before you post, ask yourself if what you are posting will hold up to the test of time. 
  • Don’t swipe “too much.”
  • If possible, stick to a single profile. 

Does a shadowban follow you? 

All of this information is well and good, but what is there to be said about whether or not a shadowban can impact you in the future? Can a ban like this one impact your career, your life? It’s not a wrongheaded question to ask, as many different kinds of bans can have a long lasting impact on your relationship with the site itself. 

For example, Youtube does not allow for a channel which has been suspended to re-open another channel. While it may mean relatively little to those of us who don’t utilize the site in our daily life, for an influencer it can mean a career death sentence if they don’t adjust quickly enough to other platforms, for example TikTok and Instagram. 

Fortunately, in the case of shadowbanning, the general consensus is that it will not impact you going forwards, especially if your account was banned for benign behavior (for example, copying and pasting the same comment over and over again) rather than banned behavior (such as explicit imagery, hate speech). 

A Shadowban isn’t the end of the World

Being shadowbanned is an inconvenience, certainly, but there is no reason to believe that it will have any impact on your career or outside life. In fact, if you find yourself banned, there are quite a few steps that you can then take in order to restore your account, or else create a new one with entirely new photos. Finally, being shadowbanned can open your eyes to behavior that you had previously thought was acceptable but in fact isn’t--for example, including too many hashtags, copying and pasting messages, as well as uploading content going against site rules. 

Sep 27, 2023