In the past few years, social media platforms have experienced tremendous growth. Social networks are more than happy to welcome new users. However, more users mean it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s behavior on the site.
When it comes to social media, if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get to use the platform. This is made pretty clear to all users. However, there has been one practice that has been shrouded in mystery for years, so much so that users are confused as to if it actually exists or not.
We are, of course, talking about shadowbanning. So, what is shadowbanning? And what can you do to prevent a social media platform from shadowbanning you?
What Is Shadowbanning?
Social media platforms can ban users in a few different ways. Either you lose access to your account for a short period of time, or indefinitely. They can also ban you from making a new account if the offense was serious enough for an IP ban, which is when the platform shuts you out based on your IP address.
These bans have one thing in common, and that is that the users know that they have been banned. This is precisely what sets shadowbanning apart. Shadowbanning, also known as ghost banning, or stealth banning, is commonly defined as the practice of blocking a user or their content, fully or partially, in a way that it will not be obvious to the user.
This way, the user retains access to their account and can see posts from other users. They can even post as usual, but the social network partially or completely “shadows” the posts, making them invisible to other users. Shadowbanning is different from Facebook’s shadow profiles, which have also been in the news lately.
The practice dates back to the 1980s when the bulletin board services started employing toggles to grant different users different privileges. One of these toggles was called the “twit bit,” which restricted a user’s privileges for not following the rules. This was to ensure that the troublemakers either left or started following the rules.
This is pretty much the concept behind the modern day phenomenon of shadowbanning. However, the mystery is whether the practice actually really exists in a tangible form.
Are People Really Getting Shadowbanned?
In the last few years, there have been numerous claims of shadowbanning across different social media platforms. With the politically charged environment making it harder than ever to distinguish genuine news from fake news, social media platforms have been accused of having a bias. And using shadowbanning to silent the opinions they dislike.
Shadowbanning on Twitter
A large number of users have claimed that Twitter has shadowbanned them. The claims began in 2016, with accusations that Twitter was shadowbanning people that supported the Republican Party in the U.S.
However, the situation escalated in 2018, after Vice News claimed that Twitter was shadowbanning prominent Republican politicians, which was soon followed by a tweet from the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
Twitter was quick to respond, and while Vice News said that Twitter had “fixed” the shadowbans, Twitter claimed in a blog post that they have never actually used the practice. The blog post said that Twitter instead used ranking, which ranked tweets from “bad-faith actors”.
Apparently, Twitter determines these according to several factors which have to do with the authenticity of the account, and how the one uses the account.
Twitter also claimed that political affiliation wasn’t one of these factors and that there was no shadowbanning happening, but rather just a bug which affected hundreds of thousands of accounts, not letting them appear in search auto-suggestions. Twitter resolved this issue, but the accusations continue.