Shadow banning, also known as stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting, is a method used by online community managers and social media platforms to make a user’s content invisible to others without blocking or deleting the user’s account. This underhanded approach enables the platform to effectively silence a user without attracting their immediate attention.
The concept of shadow banning originated from online forums where administrators wanted to control spammers without alerting them to the sanctions set against them. Over time, the term has evolved to include more mainstream social media platforms.
When a user is shadow banned, their comments, posts, likes, or shares are hidden from other users. However, the shadow banned person is not directly informed of these changes by the platform. Instead, they are led to believe that everything is functioning normally. Therefore, they keep posting as usual, unaware of their invisible status and the fact they are not viewed or interacted with by other users.
Shadow banning is applied for various reasons. It could be due to a breach of the platform’s community standards or rules, such as sharing harmful or false information on sensitive topics like health or politics. It could also be applied to people who abuse features of the platform, like the “follow” functionality on Instagram, where users follow and then quickly unfollow a large number of people to inflate their follower count.
Another potential reason for shadow banning is to restrict the spread of extremist ideas or harmful conspiracy theories. Shadow banning is a tool that social media platforms can employ to help curb such spread without overt censorship or banning of users, which could potentially spark protest among users.
While shadow banning may seem unfair to some, it is generally applied with the intent to keep online spaces safe and enjoyable for everyone. It does, however, come with controversy. Critics argue that shadow banning can be used to suppress free speech and opinion diversity, and there is a lack of transparency from social media platforms in informing users about this practice.
To identify if you’ve been shadow banned, you can observe if your posts receive little to no interaction, even from your followers. Excessive posting or sudden changes in post behaviour can also potentially trigger a shadow ban.
In conclusion, a shadow ban is a punitive measure by social media platforms designed to curtail users’ activities without their knowledge. While this practice may limit spam and abusive behaviour, it also raises concerns about freedom of speech and transparency in online platforms. If suspected, regular and non-spammy behaviour combined with respectful online interactions may help to lift the shadow ban.