Have you noticed lately that life on your social media accounts is somewhat slower than it once was? Perhaps you aren’t getting as many comments on your posts as you typically do; maybe you have fewer new followers than you have come to expect, or your posts aren’t trending under certain hashtags like they once did?
It could be that a good chunk of your followers are taking a technology break. Although, another option could be that you have been shadowbanned.
What is shadowbanning?
Shadowbanning, sometimes known as “stealth banning” or “comment ghosting” is a practice commonly believed to be used by a variety of social media platforms to control activity they deem to be unhealthy. In fact, most social platforms deny that they impose shadowbans at all. Twitter, for example, says it takes action against bad-faith actors on its platform but does not use the term shadowban. Instagram also says they don’t do it, but the workings of its algorithm have resulted in what some say looks a lot like shadowbanning. Reddit, on the other hand, is open about doing it to enforce its user rules.
In essence, shadowbanning mutes or deprioritizes certain user activity in particular areas. For example, a user’s comments might not be visible on the platform, or posts bearing certain hashtags may not show up in searches where they should. The effect of these efforts is to remove users from the discussion.
The “shadow” component of shadowbanning involves the fact that users are not told when — or why — they are shadowbanned. They go on believing that their activity is as accessible as it has always been when in reality others cannot see what they are posting. Platforms take this approach against those who post inflammatory content to lead them to believe that their posts are not attracting attention. The hope is that they will go away quietly without complaining about being censored.
Is there a dark side to shadowbanning?
If you are a casual user of social media, getting shadowbanned may not be a huge problem for you. Then again, if you are a casual user, you probably will never be the subject of a shadowban. Typically, they are aimed at people who are attracting a lot of attention on social platforms. Among those people are influencers who rely on their social traffic for their livelihood. For them, shadowbanning cuts them off from the people who have chosen to follow them, as well as new people who may discover their content.
“Practices like shadowbanning, regardless of their intent, are taking social media platforms in an unhealthy direction,” explains Scott Swanson, Founder of Bonder. “They frustrate the creation of organic communities, which is supposed to be the core of social platforms. Users — not the platform administrators — should be the ones who decide who they want to connect with and what content they want to engage with.”
Swanson is a Silicon-Valley veteran and global infrastructure consultant to some of the world’s largest and most influential corporations. His latest endeavor, Bonder, is the world’s first Location-Based Communication Platform.
How can you lift a shadowban?
Officially, most social platforms offer little help when it comes to lifting shadowbans. Remember, most do not admit that they exist. Still, there is some guidance that has emerged on how to get your content back into the mix once it has been banned. Here are some steps that you can take.
“Legitimize” your account: Have you provided a confirmation email address? Do you have your profile information filled out completely? Do you have a profile picture? Those are the kinds of things that legitimate users do. Trolls, who are the main target of shadowbans, often avoid those things.
Don’t make trouble: Each platform has its own approach to managing behavior, but none of them like troublemakers. If you are sharing content that is inflammatory or inappropriate, you could find yourself subject to a shadowban.
Follow the leader: If you are truly interested in becoming a widely-followed influencer in a particular field, check out your competition. If they are thriving, they probably aren’t shadowbanned. See what you can learn from them about setting healthy parameters for your content.
If none of that sounds palatable to you, your best bet may be to find a platform that gives users more control. Swanson’s own platform, Bonder, which is designed to bring people together online by allowing them to define their own connections and communities, is an example of that.
“I believe that social media succeeds when it empowers users to build purposeful ecosystems of people who are doing things together and helping each other,” Scott explains. “Bonder gives its users all the tools they need to gather a whole community of people who can help them to live a better life, and puts that community right at their fingertips, without concerns about surveillance or shadowbanning.”