Over the years, a number of users have pointed to a mysterious Instagram shadowban and its impact on their engagement and reach.
Now, with recent updates from CEO Adam Mosseri, we're diving into the infamous Instagram shadowban, what allegedly causes it, and how you can avoid it from happening.
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What Is an Instagram Shadowban?
“Shadowban” isn’t an official Instagram term, but we know that Instagram has the power to deprioritize posts (or accounts) on the app.
This can make your content (or account) undiscoverable, hidden, or restricted. And in some cases — the content may be taken down completely.
The result? Decreased reach, lower engagement, and a whole lot of frustration.
And with so many uncertainties surrounding Instagram shadowbans, it can be unnerving for creators, marketers, and entrepreneurs trying to grow and connect on the app.
So what does Instagram say? Keep reading, below.
Instagram Shadowbans: A Brief History
While Instagram most recently addressed shadowbanning in August 2023, here’s everything the app has said about it since 2018:
2018: Instagram Denies Shadowbanning
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.
2019: Instagram Clarifies Explore Page Ranking
In 2019, Instagram acknowledged that posts categorized as “inappropriate for our international community” would not be featured on the Instagram Explore Page — even if they were within Instagram’s Community Guidelines:
Image Source: Instagram Help Page
“We strive to ensure that the content we recommend is both safe and appropriate for our community. We are therefore stricter on the content offered in the Explore section and on hashtag pages.”
2020: Adam Mosseri Addresses “Shadowbanned” Black Creators
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
2020: Instagram Updates Its Nudity Policy
Later in 2020, Instagram updated its nudity policy in response to the #IWantToSeeNyome campaign.
The campaign, which was created after a semi-nude image of model Nyome Nicholas-Williams was repeatedly taken down, aimed to draw attention to the double standard regarding Instagram’s nudity policy.
However, as Nyome and others continue to fight for body autonomy on social media in 2023, policies like these could be due for a refresh.
2021: Instagram Introduces Account Status Feature
In 2021, Mosseri Mosseri wrote: “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.”
And keeping to their word, Instagram released the Account Status feature:
With it, users can see if their posts have been taken down, flag if they disagree with Instagram's decision, and learn what to do next.
TIP: To check your status, go to Settings and scroll down to Account Status under the “More info and support” section.
2023: Adam Mosseri Shares Update on Shadowbanning
In 2023, Mosseri said, “It’s in our interest as a business to ensure that creators are able to reach their audiences and get discovered so they can continue to grow and thrive on Instagram.”
In addition to the Account Status feature, he says Instagram is experimenting with new notifications to tell creators when their reach may be limited due watermarks.
We’ll keep you posted.
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
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 rapidly following and unfollowing accounts.
4 Ways 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
#1: Report Your Shadowban to Instagram
There are two ways to report your shadowban:
With the Account Status feature, 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, select “Report a Problem,” and describe your issue.
#2: 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 could end up on the Instagram shadowban list.
To see if you have any bot services or unapproved apps linked to your account, head to your Instagram settings, tap Website permissions, 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.
#3: Audit Your Hashtags
Every month, set time aside to search for your hashtags on Instagram. If the “Top Posts” section appears but nothing else, it’s likely been banned.
Instagram will also sometimes leave a short message on the page explaining that content has been hidden for not meeting community guidelines.
TIP: 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.
#4: 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, 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.