The Brief: Shadow banning refers to when someone's activity on a social network platform is made invisible to others.
Shadow bans are when someone’s social media posts and comments are made invisible, and they are not notified about it. It is sometimes called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting. A shadowban can be a full or partial blockage of someone’s comments. The purpose of a shadow ban is usually to deter someone from making problematic posts after they do not receive attention. Another reason for an account to be shadowbanned is that its activity is flagged as suspicious for bot-like behavior. On Instagram, some hashtags may be flagged because they were largely used for inappropriate content. Frequent usage of such hashtags can lead to a shadowban.
Shadow bans have occurred on sites including Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, Craigslist, and WeChat in different capacities and for various reasons. They are largely considered to be an unfair practice and a potential way for platforms to silence people and opinions they don’t agree with. At the crux of the shadowban issue is the difficulty of maintaining platforms for free speech while also appeasing advertisers and keeping content relatively appropriate. Another difficulty is deciding what content is “appropriate” or not – an issue exemplified by the controversy surrounding Tumblr’s decision to ban “adult content.”