The four ‘official’ reasons your Instagram account might have been shadowbanned:
1. Your account is continually being reported.
2. You are using software that violates Instagram’s Terms of Service, such as buying fake followers or auto-posting websites (Buffer is fine). You can use this link to see how to remove third party posters from your account.
3. You are exceeding your daily/hourly limits of engagement. Depending on the age of your account you receive 150 likes, 60 comments, and 60 follow or unfollow per hour.
4. You are using a broken or abused hashtag. Even innocent hashtags such as #besties can, and have become overrun with ‘offensive’ material. Instagram will ban or limit broken hashtags. So, if you use it, you will get shadowbanned. Here is a list of all banned hashtags in 2019.
Shadowbanning—also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting—is the act of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from an online community. Anyone who gets shadowbanned will not be told that they are, and most users will only realise it after a while. Signifiers include a noticeable dip in likes on new posts, or someone else notifying they are unable to tag or search the shadowbanned account.
Shadowbanning has been recorded on various internet platforms since the 80s, but it only started appearing on Instagram in 2017. Instagram explained that the ban is intentionally coded and that it aims to stop bots, spammers, as well as protect younger users from being exposed to ‘sensitive’ material. With around 1 billion users, it’s impossible for Instagram to monitor all its content manually, so specific topics have been classified as triggering. Because of Instagram’s regular changes to its algorithm, these triggers are hard to keep tabs on. That’s why, in the same way banks might block your bank account as soon as they see fraudulent behaviour on it, Instagram shadowbans an account as soon as it deems it contains triggering content. However, as many people have witnessed in the last few months, the ban can sometimes block some accounts that don’t seem to be violating any terms. The question is, what does Instagram really qualifies as ‘triggering content’, and what can be done to avoid getting shadowbanned?
When Instagram started its trial to remove likes last year (mostly in the US at first), the social media platform also asked for a push in ‘authenticity’, and yet, there seemed to be a rising number of accounts deletion and censorship at that time. What I had noticed myself on my Instagram feed had then been confirmed by journalist Chanté Joseph in an article for The Guardian, which highlighted how the platform was, and still is, shadowbanning creative accounts, and queer-inclined ones more specifically.
London’s party and DJ collective Pxssy Palace has been one of the many accounts affected by the 2019 shadowban. Screen Shot spoke with them about it, “There is no denying that the algorithm is targeting specific groups as we can all see it for ourselves. Not being able to search people’s accounts under the ban, not seeing posts from people in months and the list is continuously growing. The fact is that racist posts have been left on feeds as they ‘do not break any of the community guidelines’ and it’s wack, as we have people’s accounts being taken down left, right, and centre for calling out these racist, homophobic individuals.”
Talking about how long exactly this has been going on, the collective added, “This has been going on for a while now, it’s been BPOCs who have been heavily targeted for also speaking out time and time again. The algorithm will never favour us and Instagram denying time and time again that it doesn’t shadowban is beyond frustrating now. It’s also frustrating how much we have been relying on this platform to connect with our community and inform them about events, so we are beginning to foster community offline and in other methods such as mailing lists and WhatsApp groups.”
As Pxssy Palace highlighted, this shadowban is particularly distressing to queer accounts, which actually rely on the social media platform to promote and sell tickets for events. As trivial as it might seem, the ban largely affects the LGBTQ community. “We shouldn’t have been relying on Instagram as the only method [for promotion], however, it was a really great tool. The internet could turn off tomorrow and we would have no idea of what’s going to happen—it’s a wake-up call to make sure we are fostering offline communities, so we are protected. At the moment, Instagram is directly affecting ticket sales, and therefore the livelihood of QTIPOC who work with us regularly,” shared Nadine Ahmad with Screen Shot.
The Instagram shadowban supposedly lasts for 14 days, although many users claim that they have been shadowbanned for several weeks, and sometimes even months.
So, if you think you have been shadowbanned too, here are 10 tips to get rid of that nasty shadowban:
1. Detox: Apparently, some people say that a two-day silence helps remove the ban. After that, feel free to keep on engaging, chatting, and using the platform as usual.
2. Hashtag no more: Delete hashtags from your recent posts, as some of these might be blocked or banned. Additionally, place your hashtags in the caption of your posts, not in the comments section, and don’t go overboard with hashtags. Never go near the maximum number of hashtags (30), and never repeat hashtags.
3. Keep it similar: Don’t make sudden changes to your user info, bio, email address during this period. Avoid any mass liking, mass commenting, following or unfollowing spree.
4. Report: Contact Instagram and tell the company that your posts aren’t showing up in hashtag searches, but don’t tell them you’ve been shadowbanned.
5. Pics and vids: Currently, the algorithm favours videos, and imagery over text, especially for sponsored posts.
6. Sock it: Create a backup account, also known as a ‘sock’.
7. Male only: Try switching your profile to Male as @dyelindsey reports.
8. No third party: Check on Instagram which third-party applications you’ve given permission to, and delete as many as possible.
9. C*nsor your language: Use censored language, such as ‘s*x’, and acronyms.
10. No spam: Avoid engaging in any spam-like behaviour, such as mass liking, leaving short, duplicate comments, or regularly using keywords that are likely to flag as questionable.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the tips above help you prepare for the next shadow ban.
Surely you’ve heard of the blue verification tick on Instagram, that little sign that proves someone’s authority and influence, while increasing their reputation at the same time. Before influencers were a thing, only big celebrities like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian had the right to that tick. Now, brands prefer social media influencers with an organic audience, a specific reach, and that blue tick to the right of their name.
With the growing desire to have a blue tick and its second to none impact on who you are on the platform, it only makes sense that hackers saw this as an opportunity to scam people for their money. Online scammers offer to sell verified Instagram accounts to users or offer to get the account verified in exchange for big money (it appeared that some people paid thousands of dollars for it). In trying to pay for a blue verification badge, users are redirected to a website that looks just like Instagram’s official page, through this site hackers are able to grab all of these users’ account information. This means that scammers gain access to email address, username, and password associated with the account. They then use this data as blackmail to withdraw more money from people. In some cases where the user is unable to pay the amount required, hackers can sometimes threaten to release the user’s data online.
Other scamming techniques included hackers finding users’ phone numbers and chatting with them on WhatsApp and by telephone. Some of the hacking network has been shut down, but it is just one of many groups of people seeking to exploit Instagram’s verification tick for personal gain. This dark new side of Instagram shows how concerning the verification system is. If people fall for this scam in the first place, it’s because, with influencers flooding their timeline, getting the blue tick now seems possible when it was out of the question only a few years ago.
Being ‘verified’ comes with perks. It’s harder to impersonate you, your comments stay on top of everyone else’s, and let’s face it, it just looks cooler. In 2018, Instagram introduced a public verification-request form, making the number of verified users balloon. The company never released the exact number of verified accounts, but more and more influencers seem to have it and the correlation between fame or even the number of followers you have has become more obscure. The fine line between celebrities and average users is now blurred and everyone wants to be part of the influencer category, macro or micro ones.
Screen Shot spoke to Mai Raunstrup Laursen, campaign coordinator at Brandheroes, a Danish influencer management company that just launched its own app in the U.K. “It seems like it has become way easier to get the tick. I see people ranging from 2,000 to 2 million followers getting the tick, which means the tick is becoming more and more irrelevant”, says Laursen. When asked about what needs to be improved on Instagram for the company’s business to thrive, she answered, “The removal of fake followers. Just like hackers, they make our job more difficult because we have to make sure brands get exactly what they paid for”.
Other legitimate companies have also started offering help on getting the highly coveted Instagram verification badge, such as PR News io which can help anyone with getting mentions in federal and global media to go through the verification process on Instagram and get the blue badge.
The way brands and people look at that blue tick has changed. It is more accessible than before, and therefore more common. But when something you don’t have is classified as common, you’ve got to have it—whether it’s free or whether you have to pay for it. It is easy to assume that if this many people have ‘achieved’ verification, it must be something you can buy. In other words, in the flurry to ‘not get left behind’, it has become easy to fall for a scam. Until Instagram publicly explains what the blue verification tick really means on the platform, and offers a transparent process on how to achieve it, hackers and online scammers will exploit people’s confusion and unquenchable desire for it.
In an effort to improve authenticity and boost trust, Instagram gave people more access to the blue verification tick. What did we do with it? We turned it into another thing that makes social platforms profitable for our own self-promotion and profits. This problem shows how dubious we should be, as social media users, and it should only push us to be more careful with how open we can be on the platforms we deem so trustworthy.
Just like with everything else, let’s question what we’re used to seeing, pay attention, and stop caring that much about how other people perceive us through our online presence. Paying for that verification badge should not validate your self-worth, and it is not going to work either, because like Mai Raunstrup Laursen said, “We are living in a time of catfishing”.