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Guide to Instagram Shadow Bans: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

March 25, 2024

instagram shadow ban

Even with the rise of new social media platforms, Instagram remains one of the most popular networks in the world. With an estimated 2 billion users every month, building a loyal following for business is something every marketer should work on.

But what happens when you start seeing sudden drops in engagement, but you’re not losing any followers? Putting in hours of time and effort to create good content that never gets seen can feel disheartening, but there may be a reason behind it that has nothing to do with your content itself: the shadow ban.

For companies using social media management software to track analytics, a sudden decline in user reach or engagement may be an indication that a shadow ban is in place. 

The aim of shadow banning is to hide content that has violated the community guidelines of the platform. However, the enforcement is not always so straightforward.


of Instagram users in the United States are under 35.

Source: Statista

History of the Instagram shadow ban

Since the introduction of the phrase “shadow ban” on X (formerly known as Twitter) in 2017, Instagram has continually stated that they don’t have this practice on their platform. 

However, in 2019, they publicly admitted to monitoring content that used excessive, irrelevant hashtags, and accounts that appeared to be buying followers. Even something as simple as commenting on or following too many accounts in a single hour could be considered suspicious activity. Anything deemed “spammy” was immediately flagged for consideration.

Despite Insta’s denial that shadow bans were a real occurrence, users continued to report that their posts were banned or being hidden from appearing to new users who weren’t already following them.

More recent updates

In 2020, responding to concerns that Instagram was shadow banning Black creators, the platform released general information about how they rank and the steps they’re taking to create an appeals process.

Although they’ve never fully admitted to implementing shadow banning techniques, Instagram is trying to set up more transparent features so creators can determine whether or not their content has been restricted and how they can request support in these situations.

How to avoid shadow bans as much as you can

Here are the most common reasons people find themselves with a shadow ban.

  • Violation of Instagram community guidelines. Content that contains nudity, violence, or sexually suggestive material is immediately flagged. However, Instagram has come under criticism for some of its decisions, with creators noting clear bias based on gender, race, and sexuality.
  • Usage of bots to increase followers or engagement. Insta accounts can get a shadow ban if their following isn’t growing organically and they decide to pay for fake users to inflate their numbers.
  • Spammy activity. Following a large number of people within a small time period can come off as suspicious to Instagram, and they assume that it’s a bot, rather than a human, taking these actions. The same is true for commenting and liking posts. Try to spread out your engagement over the day or week to make your behavior less bot-like.
  • Banned or overly-popular hashtags. If a hashtag is being used for inappropriate content, Instagram may flag it as broken or banned to limit use. Accounts that continue to add this hashtag to their content can then be shadow banned. The same is true for hashtags that go viral. In 2020, #BlackLivesMatter became so overrun with content worldwide that a number of users found their accounts shadow banned as a result.

Users should remember to use Instagram in a genuine and authentic way, commenting and liking posts that you want to engage with and replying to comments on your own posts with unique responses. These actions all indicate to Instagram that there’s a real person behind the account, not a bot.

How to tell if you've been shadow banned

An Account Status feature was added in 2023 for Creator and Business accounts on Instagram to help professional accounts submit content for review on posts that were taken down or flagged.

From your profile, you can access this setting under Account > Account Status to see if any of your content has violated Instagram’s guidelines and find recommended solutions for how to fix it. 

instagram settings and privacy

You can also “Report a Problem” to have the content reviewed for reconsideration and reposting if you feel that it has been unfairly removed or restricted.


of Instagram users follow or research brands or products before purchasing.

Source: GWI

Testing for personal accounts

If you’re still using a personal account, even as a business, there are alternative methods for testing whether or not you’ve been shadow banned. Nothing is exact, though, and many of the tools that advertise themselves as shadow ban testers are unreliable. 

One of the easiest checks is posting a new story or photo using a hashtag that isn’t commonly used. Once it’s been posted, ask 5-10 people who don’t follow your account to search for the hashtag and see if your post or story appears there.

If none of these people can see the content, there’s a good chance you’ve been shadow banned. If at least two or three see the post, your lack of engagement and reach is likely due to other factors, not a shadow ban.

Even without conducting a test like this, you can get an indication of a shadow ban directly from your own analytics. When looking at Instagram Insights, compare your Discovery details prior to the suspected ban. Look at the percentage of accounts who weren’t following you that saw your content. A substantial drop here in a short amount of time could be an indication of shadow banning.

How to fix an Instagram shadow ban

There’s no definitive time period that a shadow ban lasts, but most users who think they’ve experienced one have reported an average of two to three weeks. In some cases, it has been a month or longer.

If you think a shadow ban has affected you, you can either attempt to wait it out or take steps to encourage Instagram to resolve the issues more quickly.

Report the problem

For business and creator accounts, using the Account Status feature is the best route. If a particular post has been taken down from your account, you can use this setting to request a manual review of the content and try to get it reposted.

In addition, all account types can use the standard Report a Problem feature. Here, you can describe what your issue is, but it’s very important not to use the phrase “shadow ban” in your message. Instead, say that your posts aren’t showing up on feeds and it’s harming your business.

Remove any automated tools

Not all automated features result in a shadow ban. In fact, most tools for scheduling or previewing your content are fine, but if you think you’ve been shadow banned, removing these automated apps temporarily can help reset your account. 

Log in to your account settings. Under Security > Apps and Websites, remove the apps that are expired and the ones you don’t use.

Reset your Instagram habits

For many users, taking a break from Instagram for several days has helped reset their account and remove their shadow ban. As many of the issues around shadow bans stem from Instagram flagging the account for bot activity, removing the app and not using it can help lift your ban faster.

If you’re using Instagram for business, any time away can feel like you’re wasting marketing opportunities. But remember, if you’ve been shadow banned, people are unlikely to be seeing your content anyway. Use this time to invest in other social platforms or different marketing channels, or start planning your content for Instagram when you make your comeback.

Don't let your content hide in the shadows

There’s no single answer for why an account is shadow banned and how to fix it. As with any content you post online, you should aim to follow the best practices of the platform as much as possible. 

Continue to post helpful, informative, and educational content that your followers want to engage with. By doing this, you’re less likely to be shadow banned and you’ll see your presence on Instagram grow over time.

Stay on top of your social media analytics and be aware of possible shadow bans as soon as they happen with social media analytics software for your business.

social media management software No more lurking in the shadows.

Find the right social media management software to help avoid falling victim to an Instagram shadow ban.

social media management software No more lurking in the shadows.

Find the right social media management software to help avoid falling victim to an Instagram shadow ban.

Guide to Instagram Shadow Bans: What They Are and How to Avoid Them Instagram shadow bans have never been officially confirmed but they still impact thousands of users. Learn about what they are and how you can avoid one.
Holly Landis Holly Landis is a freelance writer for G2. She also specializes in being a digital marketing consultant, focusing in on-page SEO, copy, and content writing. She works with SMEs and creative businesses that want to be more intentional with their digital strategies and grow organically on channels they own. As a Brit now living in the USA, you'll usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea in her cherished Anne Boleyn mug while watching endless reruns of Parks and Rec.

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