Have you noticed a significant drop in Twitter follower engagement? Are you left scratching your head over why even your friends and family have stopped liking, retweeting, or commenting on your posts? You might be dealing with a Twitter shadowban.
This term has been cropping up more and more, but you may have heard it described as stealth banning or ghost banning. While Twitter initially denied the claims that they engage in the practice, since January 1, 2020, their ToS has stated that they “… may also remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service…”
But before we can dive into whether or not this is blatant evidence that they do, indeed, practice shadowbanning, we need to understand exactly what it is:
The Origins of Shadowbanning
In March of 2018, Twitter began moving in the direction of “serving healthy conversations.” Essentially, they wanted to address the issue of “trolls” and their abuse of Twitter’s communal areas, specifically behaviors that “distort and detract from the public conversation.” With that in mind, they rolled out their new policies, which included the expertise of social and behavioral scientists, to key in on common signs of “unhealthy Twitter conversations.”
Some of the issues that might prompt a shadowban include:
- Simply having a new account. Accounts that are less than a year old are more likely to trigger a ban in combination with any of the other signals.
- Using the same text or images to reply to other tweets on multiple accounts.
- Using automation tools to post the same replies to other tweets.
- Having less than 500 followers or having a low follower/following ratio.
- Rapid tweeting, or “spamming.”
- Implementing highly generic hashtags into your tweets, especially those that promote contests or giveaways. It’s a better idea to come up with something unique to your brand.
- Using language that is considered aggressive, confrontational, or demeaning. Often, this is the original trigger, with the other factors playing into how much of this aggressive language you can get away with before actually being banned.
So I’m Banned? What’s That Mean?
In a 2018 New York Times article, Monica Stephens, a professor at the University of New York at Buffalo who studies social media said, “Shadow banning is when you are algorithmically being kind of shut down, and that often has to do with, particularly, the content that you are posting. Maybe it doesn’t violate the terms of service, but they make it so other people can’t see that content.” So, you can continue tweeting, retweeting, and commenting as usual, but no one will be able to see any of the activity that you are posting until the shadowban is lifted.
Fortunately, lifting a shadowban doesn’t take long. In most cases, accounts are back to normal within 48-72 hours. That being said, it’s best to leave your account alone until that point. There’s no way to appeal or end a shadowban once it’s started, and posting more activity during that time can lead to yet another ban once the initial one has ended. That means that it’s totally possible for you to trigger a new ban everyday, leaving your tweets invisible until you let your account have its cool down.
How Can I Tell Once I’ve Been Shadowbanned on Twitter?
If you aren’t aware that it’s happening, you may not even notice that something you’ve tweeted triggered the algorithm. Twitter doesn’t alert you, but there are a few signs you can look out for if you think something is fishy. The best way to check is to logout of your Twitter account and search for your username or a hashtag that is associated with one of your recent tweets. If you don’t appear in the dropdown menu for your username or your tweet doesn’t appear in the hashtag feed, it’s a red flag. But, that doesn’t mean that your account is completely invisible.
While Twitter does remove your username from the highly-visible drop down bar, you can still be found in a full search by connections you have been determined to have a strong tie to, such as those that you mutually interact with often. This is how Twitter gets away with saying that they don’t participate in shadowbanning. Because technically your account is still searchable, despite them making it much more difficult to find, you haven’t fallen victim to a true shadowban… At least according to Twitter. But, your activity will continue to be completely unfindable until you’ve served your social media jail sentence.
If you’re still not sure whether or not you’ve truly been banned, you can use sites like Shadowban.eu to check your username. Once you navigate to the site, simply type in your username, and the tool will let you know if you’ve been banned from the search suggestions, tweet search, replying in threads, or if your replies have been “deboosted.”
Avoiding the Penalty
While it can be frustrating to deal with shadowbanning, or any perceived violation of your freedom of speech, there’s little that can be done about the social media practice of shadowbanning. The best solution is to leave your social media in the hands of the experts. At NATIV3, we’ve worked with clients to ensure that their tweets are seen, and that their accounts stay active. Give us a call, and let us walk you through what we can do to boost your social media and digital marketing strategy. By tapping into the power of digital marketing, you are accessing a nearly infinite set of tools, methods, and strategies that can help you be seen by the audiences you are most keen to get in front of. With our experience helping businesses just like yours make their breakthrough to digital, we will design and implement a marketing strategy that brings your brand to your customers on a silver platter.