Regardless of how big or small you are on TikTok, nobody, and I mean nobodyShe wants to be a shadow ban. The term “shadow ban” has cropped up a lot in relation to TikTok and other social media apps, with most users referring to it when a platform seemingly starts showing a creator’s content to a few users and suddenly their content stops well working.
It can be difficult to prove that you are the victim of shadow ban since popular apps usually deny that shadow bans exist. However, there is evidence that these platforms actually control what content is and isn’t shown to their users. For example, a September 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that TikTok is censoring some LGBTQ+ hashtags in certain countries such as Russia, Bosnia and Jordan. In a statement to Pink Messages At the time, the app confirmed that it had “partially restricted” conditions (such as “gay” in Russian and Arabic and “transgender” in Arabic) “due to relevant local laws,” adding that “other terms were restricted because they were primarily used when searching for pornographic content.” TikTok denied this was censorship, but many media outlets defined it as a shadow ban. Black creators have also reportedly commented on TikTok censorship of their content, with a user pointing out a bug in the Creator Marketplace algorithm in July 2021, which banned the use of the word “Black” while allowing terms like “pro-white” and “neo-Nazi”. (TikTok later apologized and said it is working to fix the “significant error”.)
The number of people claiming to be experiencing shadow bans is large and growing, with people of color and LGBTQ+ appearing to be hit hardest. And according to those who say they’ve experienced it, a shadow ban can be difficult to shake off. Read on to learn more about the shadow ban and how to unshadow the ban if you think it happened to you.
What is shadow banning?
In earlier internet days, shadow banning referred to a more targeted approach in which Moderators made malicious user posts invisible to everyone but the users themselves (think bots, spammers, trolls, etc.). Modern use of the term “shadow ban” can still imply that it is a target, although this does not always seem to be the case. Well, shadow banning more broadly refers to any way a platform can hide or limit the visibility of someone’s content.
As a result, a Shadow banned user may not receive as many likes, comments, and views on their posts. Users of apps like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have reported suspicions that their accounts are shadow-banned when they see a sudden, sustained drop in engagement.
How to get Shadow banned on TikTok?
Since apps don’t even confirm that shadow bans exist, we don’t know why users get shadow bans – and if it happens, it’s likely that there isn’t just one reason for it. One possible explanation has to do with the fact that apps like TikTok tries to restrict spammers. So if you act like one by liking many posts in one day or following many accounts in a row, you might find TikTok silently stop showing others your videos on the For You pages.
Another possible reason for shadow banning? Repeated violations of TikTok’s Community Guidelines with content containing hate speech, nudity, drugs, fake news, violence, or other inappropriate behavior that the app does not condone – see for a full list TikTok website.
It’s also worth noting that some content may not be overtly banned (i.e. reported or removed from the platform) but may be removed from the For You page. This feed “is intended for a general audience that includes everyone from our teens to our great-grandparents,” TikTok’s website explains. “We consider the breadth of our audience when determining what content is eligible for algorithmic advertising on the platform.” This may include videos that TikTok deems potentially harmful to minors, content that depicts “dangerous sports or stunts,” or “overtly sexualized content.” (For reference, the TikTok algorithm runs on a combination of “machine learning and actual user behavior,” according to The New York Times, which reviewed an internal document explaining how the app’s recommendation system works. The app gives each video a score based on likes, comments, and the time users spend watching the video, and “returns videos to users with the highest scores,” the document says.)
How do I know if I’ve been banned from Shadow?
If, out of the blue, you notice a drastic drop in interactions with your content, it’s possible that you’ve been shadowbanned in some way. If so, your videos may not show up as often on aggregated feeds (like TikTok’s For You page), or you may not be able to find them when you search for them with a hashtag. There is however other possible reasons for a drop in engagement, such as For example, posting in the app is too slow, a decrease in followers, or posting new or different content than your followers are used to. The best way to tell if you’re experiencing shadow ban is to switch to a TikTok Pro account and monitor your engagement using the analytics provided. The data section can tell you if your engagement has increased or decreased over time and help you better understand what time of day you should be posting and what type of content resonates best.
How to Get Un-Shadow Banned on TikTok?
Users have tried uninstalling and reinstalling the app to bypass the Shadow ban, as well as deleting any conflicting content an app’s community guidelines. However, the consensus seems to be that it’s best to wait out the shadow ban and let it lift itself. You can also try giving your account a break from posting new content for a few days and starting over.
— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan