UNITED STATES—A shadow ban is an uninformed restriction applied to a social network account. As a rule, such restrictions manifest themselves in a decrease in the position of content in the results, when subscribers are no longer shown new publications and old instagram accounts. Complaints about the shadow ban in Instagram are heard from popular bloggers time and again. But does it really exist? In this the positions of users and the administration of the network are at odds.

What you can get banned from Instagram

We will not argue with the official version of Instagram management. But since the administration of the network does not exclude errors in the algorithms and does not deny that some restrictions may be applied without explaining the reasons, we will continue to call them the common term “shadow ban”. For those who have already encountered restrictions or want to secure their account, it is important to know what can cause sanctions.


Violation of community rules

The first rule is to follow the rules. It does not matter whether we are talking about the threat of getting into a shadow ban on Instagram or falling under restrictions with a warning. 

You can also find detailed explanations of certain points of the rules in the Instagram help center. Some of the grounds for restrictions may seem unexpected and unfair to some. For example, when adults post photos from a vacation at sea with children, Instagram may hide the post for depicting a naked child’s body. This is not indicative of account bias.

First and foremost, Instagram thinks about the people who are being exposed to the content, and secondly, the people who are sharing it. Restrictions imposed on a single post usually don’t affect the account as a whole. But if you violate the rules systematically and ignore warnings, the risks of getting caught in an Instagram shadow ban increase.

Using third-party services

Be careful about giving access to your Instagram account to other programs and applications. To a greater extent, this applies to the use of massfollowing and massliking services, rather than programs for collecting analytics and autoposting. The Help Center has information that restrictions may be applied to the account for using third-party applications to improve statistics. However, it is not specified what kind of restrictions it is referring to. Perhaps this is a hint of a shadow ban.

Forbidden hashtags

There is no official list of banned hashtags, but many smm experts claim that dangerous tags can be a direct cause of falling into an Instagram shadow ban. You should not use hashtags that may be associated with racial animosity, calls for aggression, erotic content. Care should be taken with high-frequency hashtags – publications with them may be considered spam.

You should not try to catch a wave of hype at the expense of high-profile topics and hashtags. For example, the hashtag popular with opponents of COVID-19 vaccination does not show up in any publications, although there is no information in the clearinghouse that it is banned.

Suspicious activity

Mass direct mail messages, a multitude of one-liner comments on posts, frequent activity in the same account from different devices and IP addresses… Anything that seems unlikely when using an application in normal user mode and resembles automated actions can be viewed by the algorithm as suspicious activity.

This also includes a mass influx of subscribers in a short period of time. As a rule, such bursts occur in connection with participation in chat activity or the launch of a contest. You have to be careful with both. If the account does not belong to a famous person or brand, the algorithm can identify a sharp increase in audience interest as suspicious activity.

Mass unsubscribes

A sharp decrease in the number of subscribers can also be a reason to get into a shadow ban. Mass unsubscribes are usually associated with the end of a contest, when the majority of “prize winners” leave the account with nothing. The Instagram algorithm understands it this way: you ceased to be interesting, which means that the priority in the output should be given to someone else.

On the other hand, if you yourself decide in one day to weed out subscriptions from “bots” who are not active in either your or your account, this too can lead to a shadow ban. The algorithm will view these actions as an attempt to artificially increase engagement, and in response, it will lower the priority of your content in the display.

Content complaints

Keep in mind: any publication, whether it’s a post, storis, Reels video, or IGTV, can get complained about. Whether it’s jealous competitors, haters, or users who just didn’t like your content, you probably won’t know. All you can do about it is not give unnecessary reasons to send complaints. Publish unique content according to the rules of the network. Don’t act on the edge where it might seem outrageous or hurt someone’s feelings.

How do you know if you’ve been shadow-banned?

There is no conclusive evidence that Instagram algorithms are secretly reducing the visibility of some accounts. But there are common methods by which you can conclude that you have been caught in a shadow ban.

Keep track of statistics

Be proactive: regularly monitor and record your profile stats. This feature is available in business accounts. What’s worth keeping track of:

  • The number of likes, comments, reposts and saves;
  • reach from hashtags;
  • total reach.

If you notice a sharp negative trend while consistently filling your account with posts, there is reason to believe that you have fallen into Instagram’s shadow ban.

Check the publication through search

Post a new post with a low-frequency hashtag for which no more than 1,000 posts have been published. Ask a few friends to check if your post shows up on search for that hashtag, from their accounts and devices. The more friends who agree and the sooner they do, the better. If only a couple or three people out of dozens of participants see your post, you’ve probably been shadow-banned.

Share a post in a post

This method will work if you usually have a fairly active and responsive audience in posts and storis, but you’ve been noticing a decline in post counts lately. Share one of your recently published posts in a story and ask if your subscribers have seen it in your feed. You can draw conclusions from the number of negative responses.