April 17, 2017:
The term ‘shadow ban’ (also known as ‘stealth’ or ‘ghost’ banning, as well as ‘comment ghosting’) is the banning of a person’s account from an online community without their knowledge. From the user’s perspective, everything seems normal, but in reality, no one can see the photos, comments or videos they’re posting.
Social networks like Reddit, Twitter and Facebook have all been in the news for their shadow-banning practices – mostly this is linked to user behavior that is deemed inappropriate by moderators, or to check the authority of users sharing links, comments or other types of content.
But photography blog PetaPixel has claimed in the last few months that their tip line has been ‘flooded by reports’ that Instagram is shadow banning accounts, ‘destroying’ engagement on selected photographer’s profiles. Most of these users have business profiles, but a number of personal accounts have also reported the same issue.
Now, this isn’t shadow banning in the traditional sense. Several of these reports have been linked to Instagram’s tagging system: A user’s image may include several hashtags, but while this image can be seen on their profile, it will not be visible on the hashtag page when viewed by another account. Understandably, the resulting drop in engagement has sparked frustration amongst users.
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Instagram responded publicly to these concerns in February, acknowledging the problem and saying they were ‘continuously working on improvements’ to the system. In the meantime, the company recommends its users to stop relying on hashtags and instead focus on ‘having a growth strategy that targets the right audience… Good content on Instagram is simply good creative.’ They then break this down into three areas: 1. Having a distinct visual presence, 2. Being a storyteller, and 3. Putting thought into your creative in order to stand out.
The reaction to this statement was not hugely positive. How do you reach new followers if only you and your current followers can view your content? How does a new follower find you if this ‘bug’ prevents your posts from showing up on hashtag searches? And what is behind this selective shadow ban in the first place?
Some users have temporarily ‘fixed’ the issue by reverting back to a personal account or logging in from a different device with a new IP address. But PetaPixel suggests ‘the problem is only getting worse’ from the increasing amount of emails they’re receiving now that the news is spreading around the community.
Are you one of the users affected by Instagram’s shadow ban? Share in the comments!
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