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Have You Been Shadow Banned?

By Ian Moyse | @IMoyse

Have you been shadow banned?  If your social accounts or online profile means anything to you, you need to be aware of this phenomenon. 

Shadow banning (also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting) is the act of blocking a user or their content from an online community such that the user does not realise that they have been banned. (Source: Wikipedia)

In the online community, we see it happening increasingly across Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram. So forewarned is forearmed!

For example, Facebook has been tinkering with its algorithms in the past month to eliminate hate speech. In the process, it has mistakenly caught bloggers and social influencers, blocking them without telling them.

The mystery of the disappearing profile

The real issue with shadow banning is that you will not know it has happened. You will continue posting, sharing, commenting and liking and it looks as if everything is normal. However, no one else will see your interactions or posts. None of your posts will appear in anyone’s feeds (no matter if you tag them in).  The only way they will see them is if they visit your actual profile. Your follows will start to drop off, you will not get any second or third level views and retweets, shares, comments, and likes become non-existent.

None of this is new. In 2017 photographers reported Instagram for doing this to their valid accounts. And we have numerous reports of people suspicious of being shadow banned to limit their influence because of their opinions.

I have witnessed this happening to other influencers and one of my accounts as well. It’s worrying when an account you have developed and nurtured is suddenly rendered inoperable. More so when it is someone else sending you a message that alerts you to the issue. It feels as if social networks presume guilt, put you in jail and don’t even tell you!

So, you get no notification it has happened. No one tells you why and what action to take to fix it. When, and if, your account does come back, you have no idea what to do to avoid it happening again. Is it time for a Social Media Ombudsman?

Is it time to bin shadow banning?

This lack of transparency and accountability on social platforms is likely to be their ultimate downfall. Interestingly, in other cases where a user blatantly flouts their rules, they take no action (Read my coming Blog on ‘Social Exemptions’ for how Trump should have been banned from Twitter!).

Want to check if you have been shadow banned, try these:

If you find you have been affected, what action should you take?  Usually an automated shadow ban unlocks itself in around 72 hours. Of course, that means you are out of sight and action in that time and when it comes back you also need to be careful, especially if you have no idea what got you into that situation in the first place!

Some have found that by contacting the social media platform and discussing placing ads, spending money – and mentioning a shadow ban in the flow – that these bans are mysteriously lifted.

Social media firms have unsolicited power, a god-like authority to make any decision and administer the punishment, with no need to inform or explain. This should be questioned, especially when they take little or no action against obvious offenders.

Be careful out there in the wild social west. If you do find yourself blocked, share it wide and loud across social platforms. The more we widen awareness of this issue, the more the social networks will be motivated to better balance their automated convictions and better communicate with loyal members.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

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