Shadowbanning: Instagram’s Secret Sauce To Cut Down Reach

It's like someone getting slapped with no sound.


Social media consumes most of our time these days. The pandemic responsible for major transitions in our lives has ended up in upbringing an “influencer” in every place. But what astonishes many is how the social media algorithms work and throw content right to the audience’s choice.

Well, Instagram has taken a step forward and published a blog on how it works. However, one thing that caught my attention is the mention of shadowbanning, something which would sound spooky to the influencers. In your free time, you can also read about things that can get you banned on Facebook.

Shadowbanning on Instagram

Ghost Banning on Social Media

Facebook-owned social media network Instagram has accepted its investment in resources like shadowbanning or ghost banning. It can now limit users’ reach without telling them or even kick them out of the platform.

To be more precise, if a comment on a post is shadowbanned, it won’t be visible to any users other than you. A shadowbanned content can be a photo, video, or comment.

In the blog post, Instagram claims to be transparent but still beats around the bush on how exactly shadowbanning happens. The company emphasized more blogs with detailed explanations in the future.

According to Instagram, it cuts down the reach of the users who violate its recommendations and guidelines. Taking a gist of it, Instagram mostly seems to remove content that promotes hate speech, misinformation, bullying, self-injury, graphic violence, etc., among many reasons.

But still, there are some takeaways, Instagram is working on an improved notification system to notify people on why their post was taken down. This can ensure transparency and improve understanding.

Shadowbanning is a general term

Instagram isn’t the only one using shadowbanning; its parent company Facebook does it too. Twitter hasn’t followed the same approach yet. However, it takes action against people who cross the line.

Generally, shadowbanning is a practice where a piece of content is made undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted. The intensity of the implementation may vary according to the platform.

Also, this isn’t something that popped overnight. We can find its roots in the 1980s when the Citadel bulletin board hid posts made by a flagged user, known as “twit,” so that they could only read posts made by others.

Popular news aggregator Hacker News also introduced its own version of ghost banning called Hellbanning to curb spam on the platform.

However, one thing that irks many people is the social media platforms don’t notify when shadowbanning them or don’t provide enough reasoning.

Shadowban can’t be labeled as entirely bad practice because it’s used to keep offensive or inappropriate content out of social media platforms. However, rephrasing the English proverb, sometimes there are a few white sheep in the flock.

Now, if you’re wondering why the practice of shadow banning is followed? Why shouldn’t we ban the user from the platform? A common thought is that the miscreant would be annoyed due to ghost bans and would eventually leave the platform instead of creating a new account.

Everything you don’t see isn’t shadowbanned

It’s not like social media platforms are running for their lives to ghost-ban people. If your post is getting fewer comments and likes, that’s because it didn’t show up in front of many users. It also depends on constraints like friends, followers, shares, and much more.

According to Instagram, many people can’t even browse through half of their Feed. And that’s not even surprising, considering the truckload of content posted every minute. Here, Instagram deploys its algorithms to display content that a user is more likely to enjoy, like, and react to.

Nonetheless, it’s almost evident that your digital life isn’t truly yours. It’s controlled by some AI algorithm that decides what you should see and what you shouldn’t. Adding to that are filter bubbles and echo chambers about which we have talked in the past.

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya likes to cover topics related to Microsoft, Windows 10, Apple Watch, and interesting gadgets. But when he is not working, you can find him binge-watching random videos on YouTube (after he has wasted an hour on Netflix trying to find a good show). Reach out at [email protected]
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