Have you been shadowbanned?

There’s been some panic amongst compers recently as they’ve become the latest victims of Twitter’s shadowban – but what does that actually mean?

A shadowban is where a user is ‘hidden’ from an online community, but they don’t know about it – their tweets or posts can’t be seen by anyone except themselves. So they carry on as normal, unaware that they’re invisible to the wider community. More and more people are reporting it’s happened to their accounts. It’s pretty much the same as the ‘quality filtering’ I blogged about back in 2015 – but with a different name!

If a user is shadowbanned on Twitter, their tweets don’t show up in a search and replies don’t appear in a comment thread. Sometimes, their @ replies won’t even trigger a notification for the recipient, and go unanswered. For a comper, that means retweets, hashtagged competition entries and the occasional reply won’t be seen by promoters.

For public Instagram accounts, a shadowban means that only your followers will see your posts – any post that you hashtag won’t appear in a hashtag search. Shadowbanning can affect individual posts, or a whole account.

Are you shadowbanned? You might be invisible on Twitter and Instagram!

How to check if you’ve been shadowbanned

A clue is a sudden drop in engagement – you might notice that you’re not getting any retweets, likes or replies on your posts or tweets.

On Instagram, there is a simple online tool to check – but it’s not reliable. The best way to check is to upload a new photo to your Instagram account, using a unique hashtag in the caption. Then ask someone who DOESN’T follow your account to search for that hashtag. If your photo doesn’t appear in their search results, you’ve been shadowbanned.

For Twitter, try the online tool at www.shadowban.de/tester. You can also log out of Twitter, then in the search box type from:username (eg. from:superluckydi) – if there are no results, you’re shadowbanned.

Why are users shadowbanned?

Shadowbanning was originally introduced as a technique on chat forums rather than banning people outright – a neat way to silence a troll or spammer without them realising!

Although both Twitter and Instagram deny that they’re ‘shadowbanning’, they are definitely clamping down on spammers, bots and trolls. Both platforms want users to share relevant and interesting content that receives genuine engagement. Unfortunately a large percentage of posts and tweets are spam or automated. Twitter and Instagram are developing algorithms and techniques to filter out this type of content – and often, compers or bloggers get caught out because of their repetitive actions. It’s also suspected that shadowbanning may be used to hide certain political tweets.

What to do if you’re banned

Shadowbans don’t last long – usually your account will be back to normal within 72 hours. It might be best to leave your account alone for that time. But watch out, as you may get banned again straight away!

If you think you’re affected, there’s no way to complain – BUT Mini Adventures & When Tania Talks blogs have come up with a clever solution – they simply contacted Twitter and told them they wanted to place an ad! Within two hours, their accounts were back to normal (they didn’t place the ads – just the enquiry was enough to get the ban lifted). Read more about this at When Tania Talks  but keep in mind it’s more likely to work if you’re a blogger who clearly has a lot of original content worth promoting.

How to avoid a shadowban

  • Don’t just like, follow and retweet – be authentic, create original content and interact with other users
  • Enter less retweet comps, and more comps that require a reply or original tweet
  • Don’t add generic hashtags to tweets – #FreebieFriday, #WinitWednesday etc. – but do use the promoter’s unique hashtag if there is one (this hashtag may be used to pick a winner!)
  • Don’t use bots or software to increase your followers
  • If you schedule or automate tweets or photos, reduce the frequency of them
  • Don’t use Twitaculous to enter comps
  • Don’t tweet out lots of links
  • Don’t use the same hashtags on all your Instagram posts
  • Don’t tweet the same content repeatedly (and avoid the ‘daily tweet’ option on Rafflecopter & Gleam giveaways*)

*Tweets you send using Rafflecopter & Gleam widgets will be recorded using direct links rather than a Twitter search, so they are still visible to a promoter if they check – this explains why shadowbanned compers are still winning prizes in blog giveaways!

Have you been shadowbanned? How long did it last?

Main picture copyright: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Author: Di

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  • Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t know that the shadowbanning extended to Twitter. I’ve only just discovered the shadowban on my Instagram account. I’ve deactivated my account on Instagram and am staying away from it for a while.

  • Kate Fox

    Entering competitions on social media seems to be more and more pot luck (over and above the ‘good’ pot luck we always factor in of course!) FB doesn’t send me notifications if I get tagged. How on earth are you supposed to scan through your whole timeline to see if you’ve won. It’s all this ‘like and share’ business I can’t cope with. It’s just a spam generator and, if you read Private Eye, you’ll see that this sort of advertising just doesn’t work, but FB con advertisers that it does. I keep getting temp bans on FB due to having to do all this sharing….grrrrrrr

  • D Fairman

    I just checked and apparently I am shadowbanned. I’m fuming! I don’t feel like I even enter many comps on twitter. I don’t know how long it has been going on for because when I search my handle, I only see replies to myself and no actual tweets that I have written. How long can they do this for?

  • There’s another issue with instagram and hashtags that doesn’t even involve shadowbans that compers should be aware of. When Instagram changed the algorithm last year they started limiting hashtags. So if a hashtag becomes popular enough Instagram will limit the results that show only the top posts. A while back I entered a competition and initially my entry displayed when i searched for the hashtag. towards the end of the promotion I discovered that my picture had vanished from the hashtag search. I searched, i had my friends search and I had an account that didn’t follow me search. There were a ridiculous number of entries to this competition and it’s possible that the hashtag became so popular that the instagram algorthim kicked in and started limiting posts apart from the absolute most recent and the most popular. In the end I had to delete my original entry and repost it. It still didn’t show in the hashtag search, so i asked a few of my friends to like the post for me. After I had a few likes it appeared in the top posts section ( just in time for the closing date of the competition)

    So moral of the story here is
    1. After posting any picture for a instagram competition that involves a # do a search of the # and check you picture turns up in the results
    2. If its a big competition and one one you want to make sure you’re picked up when the promoter searches through the entries check again that you come up in the results just before closing date
    3. Alternatively try and time your entries towards the end date of the competition in the first place.

    Great post though Di. I believe especially with twitter and instagram the algortihms they use mean you have to do a few extra tweaks to your account and sometimes entries to ensure you actually get seen and have a fair chance of winning!

  • Oh and I forgot to add some poeple have found adding your hashtags to the comments section of your instagram rather than the main post is a way to get round instagram being funny with certain hashtags. I’ve not yet tested this out on a compeition entry to check – BUT i do now as standard put my hashtags for my posts that are not comping related in the comments section!

  • Simon Tinsley

    the other way to check if you are shadowbanned is to copy the address of the tweet you’ve replied to, go into private/incognito mode and paste the link and see if your reply tweet is there. Because you’re not logged in in private/incognito mode, you just look like any other member of the public to Twitter.

  • Tracey Peach

    The asking about placing an ad does not work, twitter just messaged back saying we have looked at your account & you have never placed an ad before!. So I replied no I haven’t but that does not mean I don’t want to start one now, & with your attitude I don’t think many people will!. Stupid Twitter!

  • RogB

    I dont think that i have been shadowbanned, Bu i found the some one is removeing my retweets, so that I have to go and do them again. This I found out, becouse I did a tweet in side a tweet, then went back a few days later and found te the tweet bit add gone, but the tweet in side was sttill there.

  • Alan C

    I have experienced a shadowban on Instagram after the the hack last week as my interactions dropped. The Instagram shadowban tool doesn’t work properly as it keeps saying my posts are ok when I know they are not. This website explains why it doesn’t work: https://thepreviewapp.com/warning-instagram-shadowban-tester-website-doesnt-work/

  • Alan C

    I am currently experiencing a shadowban on Instagram after the hack last week as my interactions dropped. The Instagram shadowban tool doesn’t work properly as it keeps saying my posts are ok when I know they are not. This website explains why it doesn’t work: https://thepreviewapp.com/warning-instagram-shadowban-tester-website-doesnt-work/ I hope it goes back to normal soon

  • Charlotte

    Great article 🙂 I have a question about this. As an example, I retweet & then reply to a competition on Twitter and am Shadowbanned, when the ban is lifted a few days later, does the promoter of the competition then see my retweet/comment as a new notification or will they never see it? Thank you

  • Stacy Sorrell

    well, it says im shaddowbanned but yet im still getting notifications and people can see me!

  • You’re not visible on a search though Stacy – if I search for your username @stacesorrell711 there’s no results except tweets where people mention you.

  • I can’t be sure, but I’d guess that Twitter only sends live notifications so the reply notification would be skipped? The retweet would be visible though… so it depends how they choose the winner!

  • Gleam & RC entries are fine – those widgets store the direct web link of your tweets and if clicked, that link will always display your tweet. So if you win with a tweet and the blogger checks the link, it will be there!

  • I found that website when I was researching for this post Alan, thanks for sharing. It’s really frustrating!

  • Sorry – I’m not too sure I follow this! Do you mean when you quote tweet, and add your own text Rog? Is the original tweet being deleted – could you link an example?

  • I fear maybe too many people have tried this fix and Twitter have got wise to it! :/

  • I’ve noticed more people are doing this now!

  • Great tips Nikki – thanks for sharing!

  • Tracey Peach

    Yes funny though because my account has been like this since April so I must of been before the next lot got caught. It seems only people who are following me can see my tweets, hardly any notifications & my analytics don’t work either oh well I won’r make my fortune this year! 🙂

  • Well since I’ve written this, I’ve heard from people who tell me they’ve been invisible on Twitter for months! So I really don’t know what’s going on.

  • Ah, don’t get me started with Facebook – the comps on there are just a mess! No T&Cs, closing dates, share, like & tag three friends… YUCK!

  • DanielleGraves

    I’ve been invisible from search for a couple of years now but still have regular wins on twitter, I really do think people are getting into a mad panic over it when they don’t need to. As long as people get notifications you are tweeting them then that should be enough.

  • Emma Fox

    A really interesting article Di. I panicked, then checked and luckily I’m not shadow banned – phew. I am guilty of many retweets when I’m bored and on my phone on a Wednesday and Friday and will always check out the giveaways page on a blogs that I’m reading and enter. I also use the daily tweet option a lot on gleam as the link goes to my email. I’m sure that the general idea of ‘shadow banning’ is a good way to reduce bots and spam however there is an unsettling Owellian undercurrent here. A faceless process making a judgement on which users can not challenge their decision!!!

  • But lots of brands do use Twitter search to select winners, rather than their notifications/mentions – whether that’s to track hashtags or to find retweets or replies. And if you’re missing from search that’s quite a few draws you won’t be in, unfortunately!

  • PrizeDeck

    Nice article Di and one which has brought to our attention something we never even knew existed! With our Twitter giveaways, we use Twitter’s APIs throughout the prize draw promotion and from our experience it does not matter whether you retweet at the start or towards the end of the promotion, we still track and collect the entries via the API. For those that have been shadowbanned, we can probably test this and see if their retweets are indeed seen by the API. We find the APIs are pretty reliable but we’ll be focusing on giveaways on our new website which we can then have greater control over. And yes, some promoters are flouting the rules with their social media promotions and it has become a real ‘wild west’. If you know anybody who has been shadowbanned on Twitter and would like to know if we can see their retweets then let us know!

  • Anni Ezmerelda Large

    Thanks for this, Di. I checked when this post went live and I wasn’t shadowbanned. Just checked now and I’m shadowbanned! I haven’t been comping on Twitter any more than usual. :/

  • Sharon

    thanks di,ive just found out from a fellow comper that ive been shadowbanned,ive never heard of it before,i just hope its lifted soon

  • Sharon

    ive just logged out and searched my name and i can see my page and all my tweets,i dont understand it,can somebody help please

  • What’s your username?

  • Sharon

    shazabella33

  • I’ve searched your name and there’s no results for your tweets Sharon. You’ll always be able to see your profile page and the tweets there – but the shadowban removes you from Twitter’s search.

  • Sharon

    oh bloomin heck,i thought id been unbanned because i could still see everything ,i dont understand it,will people be able to see my tweets? i.e on the competition posts? i really dont understand this shadowban malarky,do they unban you eventually ? thanks for your help di

  • Sharon

    hi di,ive made a new account and im still not the wiser,when i searched my name on twitter i found it,an when i clicked on companys tweets that i know ive posted on i could see what i posted even though i didnt follow them or me,its so confusing,i tried contacting twitter but so far i havent got anywere,its so annoying,why doesnt twitter have a proper help centre where you can send a message or chat to someone,its silly

  • Sharon

    hi anni,im having the same problem,its so annoying,twitter doesn’t help either,let me know if you’ve managed to sort it please x

  • Anni Ezmerelda Large

    Hey Sharon. I followed the link in Di’s article to the blog post about enquiring about placing an ad. An hour later I was un-banned! Not sure if that was just a coincidence though. x

  • Sharon

    hi anni,i contacted twitter adds about that but they said they couldnt help,glad you got it sorted x

  • A shadowban usually only removes you from search results and comment threads – your @ replies will usually still be seen by others. But lots of promoters will be choosing winners using Twitter search, especially for hashtag comps, which is why it’s a pain for shadowbanned compers as their entries won’t be seen. Does that make sense?

  • Sharon

    hi di,thanks for replying,i think so .

  • CAROL PATRICK

    Seems as if I have, also a friend – only happened today

  • Sharon

    hi di,well i contacted twitter ads to promote my competition and apparently im not banned,im getting new people following me so im still confused ,its very odd

  • SylviaP70

    I’ve been shadowbanned for the last week and although I have left my account alone it still hasn’t been lifted. Not sure what to do now