The concept of a shadow ban on Instagram is a much debated topic, and a controversial one. There is no real evidence that it exists and Instagram has never verified that there is such a thing. The shadow ban is a term used by the Instagram community as a description for when a user’s posts is not showing up under hashtags, which it would normally do. The “shadow” label is due to the fact that to the user, everything looks normal, but if you look at the posts from a non-following account, suddenly posts do not appear. If this “ban” has hit you, only your followers can see your posts, resulting in a significantly lower engagement.
There are basically two different explanations to why this happens. 1) Instagram is banning your posts because you have been engaging in some practice that Instagram defines as spammy. Like using the same hashtags over and over again, or using third party apps or bots to like or follow/unfollow hundreds of accounts. 2) It’s a glitch in the algorithm and you are just unfortunate to be affected.
Thousands are banned from Instagram hashtags
But about two weeks ago, the discussion around the shadow ban reached new levels. That was when many accounts got a message that they had to verify their telephone number to be able to access the account. Many even lost their accounts after this verification incident, others reported that suddenly months of posts were completely gone.
Suddenly hundreds if not thousands of users reported that their photos were completely blocked from hashtags, for no apparent reason. I’ve seen users with very small number of followers, up to one account that has 219.000 followers, all affected by this. And it happened to me too. I noticed on the image below that only my followers were liking and commenting. So I looked at the photo from an account that doesn’t follow me, and that’s when I realized that I had been banned from these hashtags.
Eriksbergsparken, a small park in central Stockholm. Had a meeting in the city today, which was a nice change from working from home. Our office has been evacuated for the entire week due to a fire in the garage. . . #capitalofscandinavia #viewstockholm #citygrammers #igscstockholm #loves_united_sweden #ig_week_sweden #stockholm_insta #vsco_sweden #visitstockholm #travelgram #wu_sweden #loves_sweden #visitsweden #igscandinavia #frequenttraveller #goplaces #travelnow #cityviews #parklife #realstockholm #swedenimages #discoversweden #enjoysweden #this_is_stockholm #exclusive_shots
That’s nine days ago, and I’m still banned. Here’s how my latest photo appears under a hashtag with my name (#hanskullin). Below is how it appears to me, the photo is visible under the hashtag. Above is how it appears from a non following account. The photo is now gone.
Petition to fix the hashtag ban
For many users who have spent countless hours perfecting their Instagram presence, this is a real blow. It is now practically impossible to increase the reach of your content or account. And since Instagram is not addressing the issue, users have started a petition called “Fix The Glitch! Innocent Instagram Users Are Banned From Using Hashtags!”
Petition initiator Adele Giles writes:
“From our understanding, normal ‘shadow banning’ is lifted within a few days. This has not been the case for us. This is not a typical shadow banning for users abusing the terms and conditions, this is a glitch that is affecting those who do not deserve it. We have checked if we are using banned hashtags, we have tried not posting or using Instagram for long periods of time, we have tried all that we can but this is in Instagram’s hands. We need you, Instagram, to help us innocent users get our content registering in hashtags.”
So far more than 700 people have signed the petition that will be delivered to Facebook and Instagram founders Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systom. Let’s at least hope that Instagram will acknowledge that there is a problem affecting innocent users and that they will find a solution.