Is Shadowban Real?

Social media has emerged as a potent tool for sharing information and its reach is unparalleled. However, just like most other things, there are negative aspects too. Some relevant examples include fake news, morphed images and edited audio/video, which have created significant challenges for the entire ecosystem.

Another concern that many users have reported is the issue of shadowban. In simple words, shadow banning is a deliberate act to muzzle the voice of specific people, group or other entities. In theory, when someone is shadow banned, their posts or comments may not be readily visible to other online users. As such actions are taken in a discreet manner without informing the concerned entity, it is referred to as shadow banning.

While none of the social platforms have acknowledged the existence of shadow ban, many users believe it exists. Here are some clues that can help understand if shadow banning is real or just a myth.

Twitter shadowban – Folks at Twitter have said that tweets and search results are sorted based on relevance. It includes factors like popularity, an individua’s interest areas, etc. But Twitter also says that it downgrades tweets that appear to be manipulative. For specific folks, this may be an example of shadow banning being enforced by specially designed algorithms.

Instagram shadowban – As per Instagram policies, posts that are considered “inappropriate” do not show on Explore and hashtag pages. Even if a user may not be violating any guidelines, their posts can still become unavailable to other users.

TikTok shadowban – Just like other social platforms, TikTok also claims that it does not practice shadow banning. However, leaked documents had earlier revealed that TikTok admins were deliberately suppressing content that was coming from a specific demographics of creators.

YouTube shadowban – YouTube has been quite vocal in saying that they don’t shadowban channels. However, many users think the exact opposite is happening. Users have reported that their videos don’t show up even when their content is the most relevant in relation to the search term. That it happens consistently is a major irritation for specific users.

Facebook shadowban – Facebook has been among the social channels that have chosen not to speak openly about shadowban. They have neither admitted nor denied its existence. But reading the fine print reveals that Facebook algorithm devalues content that it considers as “problematic”. It may not be a violation of community guidelines, but still such content will drop low in News Feed ranking.

Just like humans, algorithms are yet to reach perfection. And as a lot of decisions related to content is taken automatically by these algorithms, it is always possible that some users may end up getting a bad deal.

The real danger is when true voices start getting suppressed on social channels. Whether or not it is happening is not yet clear. We hope social channels will remain unbiased in their approach and are not resorting to dubious technique such as shadowban to muzzle voices of specific individuals or groups.

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