What Is Shadow Banning and How to Avoid It?

30 NOV 2020

Have you heard of  Instabam shadow banning? Maybe you have noticed some of your posts do not get reach and visibility statistics they used to? Well, you can definitely blame Instagram's shadow banning for that.

Let's first try to understand what shadow banning is. 


What Is Instagram’s Shadow Ban?


Frankly, there are multiple theories about shadow banning, but basically it refers to the platform's act of limiting content reach mainly by decreasing its visibility. You can be sure that you are a victim of shadow banning in case your hashtagged content does not appear on the Explore tab of Instagram users other than your followers. 

No words, this is quite a frustrating situation. But the truth is that Instagram would not have treated you in such an impolite manner unless you have violated any of Instagram Community Guidelines.


What Is Borderline Content? 


Borderline content is the content that is inappropriate but still does not violate Instagram's Terms of Service or Community Guidelines. In fact, Instagram has never published a detailed list of media types that would be hidden. Despite this, there are some clear examples of content categories based on digital specialists’ hunch and driven from thorough research. Those are:

  • Spam messages

  • Graphic or shocking content

  • Sexually suggestive content

  • Content depicting violence

  • Content spreading misinformation


How Does the Algorithm Work?


In order to understand based on what Instagram decides to hide your content from users we need to conduct a small research. You might already know that Instagram is owned by Facebook, so having a look at its parent company “Remove, Reduce and Inform” strategy would provide us with the clue. So, the strategy says:

“This involves removing content that violates our policies, reducing the spread of problematic content that does not violate our policies, and informing people with additional information so they can choose what to click, read or share.” – Tessa Lyons and Guy Rosen, Facebook

The important word here is "Reduce”. Being a Facebook product, Instagram also hides the content that violates Instagram Community Guidelines. According to them, Instagram machine learning tries to identify whether the posted content is eligible to be recommended to a wider audience. In fact, Instagram is training its content moderators to label borderline content. Then, those labels are used by Instagram algorithms to hide inappropriate content.  


Be careful: Instagram has increased its control over each piece of content posted. It has begun to reduce the spread of content that is inappropriate but still does not directly violate Instagram's Community Guidelines. For example, even if a meme does not explicitly constitute hate speech or harassment, but it is considered to be violent, lewd or hurtful, it would still be hidden from a large number of viewers. 


Well, seems like plenty is said in regards to what shadow banning is how the algorithm works. In order to understand how you can avoid becoming a victim of Instagram "bodyguards", you need to understand the anatomy of the platform itself. This part of the article was dedicated to providing information within that framework. If you want to discover what the exact steps for avoiding shadow banning are, do not linger and read the second part of the article in our blog.

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