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Are Your Tweets Being Hidden By a Twitter Shadowban?

Are Your Tweets Being Hidden By a Twitter Shadowban?

Updated August 22, 2022

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.

What Does Shadowbanning Mean?

Also known as ghost banning, comment banning, and stealth banning, shadowbanning is the practice of social media platforms masking users’ content from the feed, search bar, and other forms of site-wide distribution.

In most cases, a shadowbanned user can continue posting as normal with no indication they are being penalized, at least until their engagement bottoms out. Think of it as “Diet Account Suspension.”

While the term has been in use since the reign of the Something Awful forums in the early aughts, there’s been a serious uptick in the past five years.

We can likely chalk this sudden addition to our vocabulary up to three key catalysts:

Savvy Users Gaining Access to Engagement Insight Data

With the rise of new services designed specifically for monitoring retweets, shares, saves, and likes, the layman’s social media user has unprecedented access to follower engagement data.

At the click of a button, we can access ongoing trends to see what our loyal fans are most interested in and, more importantly, when there’s been a suspiciously sudden drop in interactions with your new content.

The Sheer Ubiquity of Social Media Networks in Our Everyday Routine

Even if you don’t creep your personal analytics like a digital marketer, you probably have a pretty good idea of what content your followers will respond to based on patterns you’ve seen in the past.

For example, if pictures of your cat typically garner dozens of likes, but the most recent snapshot doesn’t have so much as an “awww toe bean baby 🐱” comment on it, it’s clear that something shady is happening.

An Uncanny Knack for Knowing Just What to Say to Get People Talking

For users who enjoy engaging in a rousing bout of online incivility, their feed posts are typically chock-full of relevant content designed to spark a reaction from their target audience.

So, when inflammatory troll posts aren’t getting the same rabble of naysayers raging in the comments, it’s easy to get suspicious that there are unknown forces at work putting a chokehold on your online arguments.

Does Twitter Shadowban?

The short answer is yes; Twitter shadowbanning is real.

The Infamous RNC Twitter Users Shadowban Scandal Timeline: A Case Study in Dramatic Tension and Timing

Okay, so Twitter is confirmed to shadowban, but their admission only comes on the heels of plenty of hemming, hawing, and outright denials. Before we jump into the ins and outs of navigating your own Twitter shadowban, let’s explore the timeline leading up to their 2020 change of heart.

March 1, 2018: Jack Dorsey Announces That Twitter is Building a New Framework to Keep Trolls From Disrupting Community Conversations

Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter, tweets:

May 15, 2018: Twitter Partners with Academics to Study Behaviors Indicative of Trolling

In March of 2018, Twitter released a statement under the title “Serving healthy conversations” that clarified the site’s new approach to handling troll-like behaviors by their user base, specifically those that were annoying, spammy, or inflammatory but didn’t necessarily violate the ToS.

Del Harvey, Vice President of Trust and Safety, and David Gasca, Senior Director of Product Management & Health, go on to explain:

“… We’re tackling issues of behaviors that distort and detract from the public conversation in [communal places] by integrating new behavioral signals into how tweets are presented. By using new tools to address this conduct from a behavioral perspective, we’re able to improve the health of the conversation, and everyone’s experience on Twitter, without waiting for people who use Twitter to report potential issues to us.”

With that in mind, they rolled out their new policies, which included the expertise of social and behavioral scientists, to key in on markers of troll-like behaviors and explore two areas of interest:

  1. The circumstances under which particular groups of people construct their political viewpoints.
  2. Whether or not empathy-building through exposure to diversity and other perspectives can decrease instances of echo chambers, discrimination, problematic discourse, and intolerance.

July 25, 2018: Vice Publishes a Call-Out Article After Noticing a Conspicuous Twitter Username Absence in Auto-Suggested Search

Vice publishes an article called “Twitter is limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans in search results — a technique known as ‘shadow banning’ — in what it says is a side effect of its attempts to improve the quality of discourse on the platform.”

In that red-hot political climate, the news that a public social media platform was limiting free speech rights to a specific party was controversial, to say the least.

When Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel heard the news, she was quick to call out social media giant, stating:

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American. Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on.”

When Vice reached out to Twitter for comment, a spokesperson noted that they were aware of the issue and were working on a fix. When pressed about the political specificity under which they shadowban users, they shot back with:

“I’d emphasize that our technology is based on account behavior not the content of Tweets.”

As the discussion grew from a spark to a full-blown bonfire amongst politicians, law practitioners, and the media at large, Twitter PR reps were sent into a tailspin. There had been rumors and hearings floating around for months that social media platforms were targeting Conservative accounts by rendering people’s content undiscoverable, and they’d just proven that, at least in this particular instance, it was true.

Meanwhile, other users engaged in their own discourse surrounding the topic, with a few key questions rising to the top of the collective Twitterverse.

  • If a shadowban could happen to arguably some of the most influential and high-ranking government officials, why couldn’t it happen to the everyday Joes who weren’t playing by Twitter’s rules of “healthy conversations?”
  • Why were only a certain group of Conservatives facing a ghost ban while others were free to continue sharing blatantly obvious examples of hate speech and harmful content,

July 26, 2018: Platform Officials Make a Bold Stance on the Twitter Shadowban Rumors

Twitter officials Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour released a blog post titled “Setting the record straight on shadow banning.”

In it, they explicitly state,

People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not… You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t [do so] based on political viewpoints or ideology.”

The TL;DR version goes on to explain several points, the most important of which are:

  • Twitter relied on a hierarchy to rank tweets, starting with other Twitter users you’re interested in, followed by popular Tweets that are “likely to be interesting.” Coming in dead last are the “bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation.”
  • They listed some of the characteristics of the so-called bad-faith actor, which included account properties, the actions you take on Twitter, and how other Twitter users interact with you.
  • Gadde and Beykpour acknowledged that some people weren’t showing up in the auto-suggested search but said that other accounts never lost the ability to find tweets or profiles of those impacted.
  • Regarding which profiles were targeted, Twitter pointed the finger at how others interacted with the impacted user’s tweets rather than the content itself. They laid the blame at the feet of the “communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement.”

The same day, Vice renamed the July 25th article, “Twitter appears to have fixed ‘shadow ban’ of prominent Republicans of the RNC chair and Trump Jr.’s spokesman.”

September 5, 2018: Dorsey Faces the House Energy and Commerce Committee

After his opening statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Dorsey also tweeted out to his followers, the former CEO confirmed that many users fell victim to a faulty algorithm, to the tune of 600,000.

He further commented on the platform’s intentions to “…always improve our technology and algorithms to drive healthier usage, and measure the impartiality of outcomes.”

 

January 1, 2020: Terms of Service Takes Another, Completely Opposite Hard Stance on the Twitter Shadowban Rumors

Since January 1, 2020, Section 4 of their ToS has stated:

We may also remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service, suspend or terminate users, and reclaim usernames without liability to you.

In layman’s terms: We’ll hide your content if our bots detect potentially problematic behavior.

How Can I Tell If I’ve Been Shadowbanned on Twitter?

Twitter takes the concept of shadowbanning quite literally, as they won’t even inform you if you’ve been penalized.

If you suspect you’re under the thumb of a Twitter shadowban, these three tried-and-true methods are the easiest way to confirm.

Use an Incognito Browser

Because your profile will always appear in the search results when you look it up from your Twitter account, you’ll need to use an incognito browser to scope out the situation

Navigate to Twitter, then 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. You may just be shadowbanned on Twitter search suggestions.

Continue typing out the rest of your account name, then hit search. If it’s still not showing up, you’ve ascended to the highest level of the Twitter no-no list.

Alternatively, just ask a friend to search for your account.

Conduct a Twitter Shadowban Test

There are two excellent, easy-t0-use Twitter shadowban tool options available online. All you have to do is type in your username, hit check, and they’ll give you the straightforward answer that the Twitter support team won’t.

Tool #1: Shadowban.Yuzurisa

Tool #2: Shadow Bird

 

Why is My Twitter Account Shadow Banned?

Once you’ve confirmed that you’re facing a Twitter shadowban, the next step is trying to figure out why. Deleting offending content is often the first step in getting your audience back.

Bot or Spam Behavior

  • Having multiple accounts or creating a new account too soon after your initial account
  • Using your Twitter account for posting automated tweets or too many tweets in close succession
  • Tweeting out links to spammy content, sharing too many links in close succession, or commenting on other tweets with spam links
  • Spammy tweets centered around promotions, sales, or “business opportunities”
  • Mimicking another Twitter account by posting the same content or using the same profile picture
  • Unconfirmed email address

Growth Hacking to Generate More Traffic

  • Following and unfollowing other accounts
  • Following huge swaths of people at once
  • Using irrelevant trending hashtags to show up in search results or Twitter Explore

Violating the Rules of Healthy Conversation

  • Aggressive language
  • NSFW and inappropriate content
  • Encouraging harmful behavior
  • Prejudiced or offensive content towards particular groups of people

Types of Twitter Shadowbans

Twitter shadowbans come in four flavors, each with a different set of consequences ranging from hiding replies to other users to all your tweets temporarily disappearing from the platform.

The severity of your penalty depends on how many times you’ve faced a Twitter shadowbanning in the past, as well as the severity of your behavior.

Reply Ban

A reply ban, or reply barrier ban, is the least serious of the Twitter shadowban penalties.

If you add comments to other users’ tweets or threads, they are hidden under a “show more replies” button.

Thread Ban

Thread bans are one step up from reply bans, minus the barrier button. Until your profile is out of the woods, no one can see your comments on other tweets.

Search Suggestion Ban

A search suggestion ban entails your profile no longer appearing in the Twitter search auto-suggestion results.

Instead, folks on Twitter would have to type in the exact name match of your Twitter account to find your profile.

Full-Search Ban

A full-search Twitter is the most serious of their platform’s penalties and is typically reserved for those who can’t avoid trolling as often as possible or profiles suspected of trying to spam people with harmful links.

Once you’re hit with this “final form” of the Twitter shadowban lineup, your entire account, right down to every tweet you’ve ever written, is completely hidden from everyone else.

This goes far beyond not showing up in search results. Your Twitter account will quite literally not exist until the clock ticks down.

How Can I Remove a Twitter Shadowban?

Fortunately, lifting an official ban doesn’t take long. In most cases, accounts return to normal within 48-72 hours.

Until then, though, it’s crucial that you take a break from Twitter. No matter how angry you are or how many

Completely Stop Tweeting

Once you’ve confirmed your shadowban, DO NOT CONTINUE TWEETING. Other members can’t see them anyways, and you’re more likely to prolong the penalty ad nauseum.

Posting during a ban can lead to yet another 48-72 hour sentence in Twitter jail once the initial one has ended.

That means that it’s totally possible for you to trigger a new ban every day, leaving your tweets invisible until you decide to do your time and all of your accumulated bans have elapsed.

Use Accurate Personal Information and Photos

Bot accounts usually leave their profiles incomplete, so your recent Twitter shadowban might result from the platform’s search results filtering out accounts that lack identifiable information.

First, if you have multiple accounts, try deleting your unused ones.

Then, ensure your main account has a name, username, bio, and profile picture, then wait it out.

Delete the Offending Posts

If you can figure out the content that most likely triggered the Twitter shadowban, deleting it is your best bet for ending your ban ASAP.

Audit your content thoroughly, including thread replies or contributions to a particular hashtag, and if it’s not up to snuff, get rid of it.

Try the Twitter Support Team

If you notice that your sentence seems inordinately lengthy, you can try to contact Twitter Support Team via their DMs. They may be willing to share what they expect you do next to restore full presence on the platform.

Tired of Shadowban Stress? Let NATIV3 Handle Your Social Media

While it can be frustrating to deal with being shadow banned or any perceived violation of your freedom of speech, little can be done about the issue. Instead of stressing over everything you tweet, why not leave your social media in the hands of the experts. At NATIV3, we’ve pros at ensuring our clients’ 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.

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