Over the years, a number of users have pointed to a mysterious Instagram shadowban and its impact on their engagement and reach.
While it has yet to be confirmed by Instagram, we’re diving into the Instagram shadowban, what allegedly causes it, and how you can avoid it from happening.
What Is an Instagram Shadowban?
“Shadowban” isn’t an official Instagram term, but we know that Instagram has the power to deprioritize accounts on the app. Posts can be hidden or restricted, often unbeknownst to the user.
This can make your content (or account) undiscoverable via hashtags and the Explore page. And in some cases — the content may be taken down completely.
Everyone tell @tmz that @instagram is muting my voice please. I’ve had over 50 complaints about how followers can no longer find me. Or posts they commented on and their comments removed. I thought we were supposed to be #amplifymelenatedvoices not continuing to silence them.— Mehcad (@MehcadBrooks) June 4, 2020
Getting shadowbanned can decrease reach, limit who can see your posts, and seriously affect engagement.
And with so many uncertainties surrounding Instagram shadowbans, it can be unnerving for creators and business owners trying to grow their communities and reach new audiences.
My instagram is still shadowban, but is starting to come back to life little by little— •᷄ɞ•᷅⁷ (@Morgane__arts) June 3, 2021
I still don’t understand why I’m shadowbanned but I guess i will never have the answer pic.twitter.com/8YwTCbUmqn
So what does Instagram say?
In 2018, Instagram’s team claimed: “Shadowbanning is not a real thing,” and stated that they do not hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.
However, a year later, Instagram acknowledged that posts categorized as “inappropriate for our international community” would not be featured on the Instagram Explore Page — even if they are within Instagram’s Community Guidelines:
Image Source: Instagram Help Page
In summary, shadowbanning may not be an official term at Instagram HQ, but there are measures in place to restrict content that could be deemed as “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.
In 2020, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri addressed shadowbanning in response to concerns that Black voices were being silenced on the platform.
In an effort to ensure Instagram is a place where everyone feels free to express themselves, Mosseri shared steps they were taking to improve users’ experiences:
Reviewing how content is filtered on Explore and Hashtag pages
Diving deeper into algorithmic bias and how it may affect Instagram’s products
Releasing more information about the type of content to avoid on the platform
Earlier in 2021, Mosseri wrote that “we haven’t always done enough to explain why we take down content when we do, what is recommendable and what isn’t, and how Instagram works more broadly.”
He said they were developing better in-app notifications so users know when a post goes against their Recommendations Guidelines.
And keeping to their word, Instagram has now released the "Account Status" tool:
With it, users will now be able to see if their posts have been taken down, flag if they disagree with Instagram's decision, and learn what to do next.
To check your status, go to Settings, tap Account, and then hit Account Status:
In short? Instagram shadowbans — however labelled — are here to stay.
And while the "Account Status" tool is a step in the right direction, we hope the transparency continues as their moderation evolves.
DID YOU KNOW: Later is an official Instagram partner, meaning using our app has Instagram’s stamp of approval. Easily plan and schedule your content with Later's Instagram Scheduler!
What Causes an Instagram Shadowban? (+ How to Avoid One)
It’s not totally clear how Instagram determines what content gets restricted (or “shadowbanned”) on the platform.
However, these five actions are rumored to significantly increase your likelihood of being penalized:
Violating Instagram’s Community Guidelines or posting inappropriate content. This includes posts with violence, sexually suggestive content, and misinformation.
Fake engagements, such as paying for likes or comments, using bots to increase followers, and participating in engagement pods.
Spammy activity, for instance, using over 30 hashtags in a single post. Some users have also claimed that they’ve been shadowbanned for commenting on too many posts or following too many people within an hour.
Using banned hashtags. While Instagram hasn’t released an official list, here’s a blog post with certain hashtags to avoid.
Using a hashtag that receives a sudden surge of activity. This occurred in June 2020 when users shared information about #BlackLivesMatter. Instagram’s Comms team claimed it was an error — their technology detected the flurry of activity as spam.
How to Avoid an Instagram Shadowban
In addition to taking the above points into consideration, Instagram strategist Alex Tooby published a handy guide about shadowbanning with plenty of takeaways.
Here are four tips to keep in mind:
Don’t use software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service such as bot-like software. Luckily, if you use an Instagram-approved tool like Later, you’ll be a-okay!
Don’t use banned or broken hashtags.
Avoid big surges in Instagram activity. Instagram imposes limits on user activity to crack down on bots. If you suddenly follow 50 accounts or like too many posts, it may be interpreted as “bot activity”.
Avoid spam-like activity, such as copy and pasting the same comment or DM, and following and unfollowing accounts.
Criticisms of the Instagram Shadowban
Many users have spoken out about Instagram’s algorithmic bias and the inconsistency regarding its definition of “inappropriate content”.
The #IWantToSeeNyome campaign was created by model Nyome Nicholas-Williams, photographer Alex Cameron, and activist Gina Martin, after a semi-nude image of Nyome was repeatedly taken down.
The aim of the campaign? To draw attention to the double standard regarding Instagram’s nudity policy.
As Nyome stated in a post, “Slim white bodies are praised for being nude and appreciating their form on this platform all the time and never have images taken down.”
As the movement grew, Instagram’s team responded and officially updated their nudity policy on October 28, 2020.
In another instance, Indigenous activists and creators noticed 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’s very suspicious that it was only missing and murdered Indigenous Women’s Day posts.”
Instagram’s Comms team apologized and said it was a “widespread global technical issue not related to any particular topic.”
Adam Mosseri also tweeted, apologizing for the error:
Yesterday we experienced a technical bug, which impacted millions of people’s stories, highlights and archives around the world. For people impacted by this bug, they saw their stories that were re-sharing posts disappear and their archive and highlights stories were missing. https://t.co/E2WTcTN7Jt— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) May 7, 2021
With conversations surrounding Instagram shadowbans increasing, the need for more tools like "Account Status" is at an all-time high.
How to Remove an Instagram Shadowban
So, you think you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram — you’ve followed all of the rules, but your posts still aren’t reaching users, and your engagement is decreasing.
What can you do? Alex Tooby suggests the following:
Report Your Shadowban to Instagram
Remove Apps That Use Autobots
Review Your Hashtags
Take a Break From Instagram
Report Your Shadowban to Instagram
There are two ways to report your shadowban:
With the new "Account Status" tool, you can see if a post has been taken down and then request a review directly from the page.
Use the native “Report a Problem” option within the Instagram app. To do this, go to your Instagram Settings, tap Help, and select “Report a Problem.” A pop-up should appear with a few options. Choose “Something Isn’t Working,” and write a message describing your issue.
Remove Apps That Use Autobots
We get it: using an Instagram scheduler that automatically posts your photos to Instagram is a great way to save time.
But if you use one that isn’t an official Instagram partner, you can end up on the Instagram shadowban list.
To find out if you have any bot services or unapproved apps linked to your account, head to your Instagram settings, tap Security, and then “Apps and Websites”.
Here, you’ll be able to see all of the active apps your account is using, any that have expired, and those you’ve removed.
TIP: If you’re looking for an approved Instagram Scheduler, you can download and connect Later!
Audit Your Hashtags
We’ve spoken about hashtags a lot, but for good reason! Using a banned hashtag is likely to get you shadowbanned on Instagram.
Review your hashtags and search for them on Instagram. If the “Top Posts” section appears but nothing else, it’s likely it’s been banned.
Sometimes Instagram will even leave a short message on the Hashtag Page explaining that posts have been hidden for not meeting community guidelines.
If a hashtag you frequently use is suddenly banned, remove it from your posts and keep an eye on whether the ban is lifted in the future.
Take a Break From Instagram
Some users have said that taking a few days off of Instagram has helped lift their Instagram shadowban.
This means, no posting, commenting, or even logging onto the app. After your break, there’s a chance you can go back to liking and posting as you normally would.
But remember to engage with everyone manually. It might take more time and effort, but it proves to Instagram that you’re abiding by their Terms of Service (and that you aren’t a bot!).
How Long Does an Instagram Shadowban Last?
At the moment, there isn’t a concrete answer, but it’s rumored to get lifted within two to three weeks.
However, there are outliers who’ve said it has been a month or longer.
Your best bet? To try and steer clear of an Instagram shadowban altogether.
ICYMI: Later is an official Instagram partner so you can plan and schedule your Instagram content with Later without getting flagged. Start posting today — for free!