How to Tell If Your Content Is Being “Shadow Banned” on Facebook
Published November 9, 2020
Facebook has not exactly been the role model in privacy and security, as they have undergone numerous investigations for how they handle user data. The world’s largest social media platform reportedly uses user data as a bargaining chip in striking deals with competitors. Consequently, the government plans to slap antitrust lawsuits against Facebook by year’s end for apparently using its powerful market position to stifle competition. These are just among the several privacy issues raised against Facebook, and that’s without mentioning “shadowbanning.”
I think House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline perfectly summarized the considerable effects Facebook’s (and other tech companies’) decisions have on our lives. Cicilline said, “Because these companies are so central to our modern life, their business practices and decisions have an outsized effect on our economy and our democracy. Any single action by any one of these companies can affect hundreds of millions of us in profound and lasting ways.”
While Facebook potentially selling and leveraging our data for a profit is a pressing matter, shadowbanning is a bit less severe of a topic. Back in 2015, Facebook successfully filed and completed a patent to “moderate content in an online forum.” While this sounds completely benign, this patent could be fatal for several reasons.
What is shadowbanning?
When someone is shadowbanned, their posts on that platform are virtually invisible to everyone but themselves. Their presence on that platform is limited, and their voice effectively suppressed. If we’re being technical, the patent’s complete abstract reads:
“Users of social networking system are provided with user interface elements permitting the user to post comments on pages within the social networking system. Pages may be provided for any non-user entity, including for example, pages for businesses, products, concepts, etc. Embodiments provided herein permit page moderators to ban certain content from being displayed on a page. For example, the social networking system may receive a list of proscribed content and block comments containing the proscribed content by reducing the distribution of those comments to other viewing users. However, the social networking system may display the blocked content to the commenting user such that the commenting user is not made aware that his or her comment was blocked, thereby providing fewer incentives to the commenting user to spam the page or attempt to circumvent the social networking system filters.”
The primary message that their patent is sending is that Facebook reserves the right to moderate what content people see. “Proscribed” means prohibited or forbidden by law. So, if Facebook sees proscribed content, it may limit the visibility of such content. This content is displayed only to the sharing user, and in many cases, they won’t be aware that they’ve been shadowbanned. Facebook does this to prevent the user from spamming the page and finding loopholes in the filtering system.
What’s the use of shadowbanning?
The main purpose of shadowbanning is supposedly to keep feeds clean and social media users happy. Facebook does not want people spreading content that comes off as spammy, or worse, offensive.
How do I know if I’ve been shadowbanned?
Because Facebook does not inform you of this shadowban, you won’t really know if you’re experiencing it. You could go about your day, routinely posting and sharing content, and you could not notice anything wrong. However, the telltale symptom of a shadowban is a dip in engagements. You’ll see that your posts or comments aren’t getting as many reactions or replies as they usually would. Whereas your posts would normally reach 1,000 interactions, you find that you’re struggling to reach 50.
Another way to tell if you’ve been shadowbanned is to use another friend’s account to see if your posts show up on their feed. Shadowbans will typically hide these posts from other people, and you’ll have to visit the banned person’s profile to view these posts.
Who can get shadowbanned?
Anyone. No matter who you are or how many friends and followers you have, you can receive the Facebook shadowban. Legit accounts following rules could be just as much at risk as a malicious account abusing the platform. Shadowbanning is still a work in progress, so you can expect to have some outliers here and there. Facebook apparently uses this to enhance the overall customer experience, so you shouldn’t take it personally. In some cases, the platform may have committed a simple mistake in banning you even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
What does this mean for me?
A shadowban can be detrimental for businesses relying on Facebook as their primary platform for conducting transactions. But for personal accounts, this may not be as severe. There are a few things you can do to remedy this situation.
How do I resolve a Facebook shadowban?
If you suspect you’ve been shadowbanned by Facebook, there are some things you can do to smooth this problem over.
- You can visit Facebook’s help center to find an explanation as to why you might be experiencing your problem.
- If you are a business take a look at this page.
- If you have an ad account you can contact Facebook advertising support and get a support rep to review your page and ad account.
- Avoid using banned hashtags in your posts.
- If you see an option to appeal a restriction they notified you about, then use the appeal form provided.
How do I reduce my chances of receiving a Facebook shadowban?
Here are some things you can practice to reduce your odds of receiving a Facebook shadowban:
- Share only rich and valuable content.
- Don’t use bots to gain followers or likes.
- Don’t use banned hashtags.
- Avoid being spammy. Don’t post the same comments or go overboard in promoting something on different pages.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.