The Instagram Shadow Ban – What Is It and Is It Affecting You?

After 2 weeks struggling with my changing Instagram stats, I finally got some answers as to why. Yep, we can blame the Instagram ‘shadow ban’.


Asha The Label dress | Vintage head scarf | Bag from Cambodia | Zara slides
Photos: Vanessa Nguyen


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It sounds like doomsday, but I can promise you that it is a fraction as scary. After much conversation with fellow blogging buddies and a whole lot of googling, it has become apparent that there is some sort of shadow ban glitch with Instagram. It is affecting the reach, and therefore the interaction of many Instagrammers’ posts.

How do I know if I have been affected by a shadow ban?

Not sure why the heck your Instagram photos are getting way less likes than normal? The chances are you are under a shadow ban. If there is no reasonable explanation for why all of your stats have plummeted, this may be it!

You can check by getting someone who doesn’t follow you to search for your photo under a certain hashtag, but it is way easier just to plug your details into this website.

So, what exactly is a shadow ban?

In a nutshell, it is a sanction that Instagram places on your posts, causing them to be undiscoverable by hashtag. People who already follow you can see your posts in that hashtag gallery, but anyone who isn’t following you can’t. That means less reach for your posts while they aren’t hitting potential new followers’ eyes.

Yep, it is pretty sucky.

Why did I get hit with a shadow ban?

There are a few potential reasons for why your posts are being blocked, all of them to do with ‘suspected bot activity’. The shadow ban is a tool that Instagram applies to an account when you are behaving suspiciously on Instagram. If your activity spikes for some reason, or you appear to be interacting too much, Instagram will lock you out in an attempt to wipe out spam bots. It has happened to me before for commenting too much (can you blame a girl for interacting?!), but this time I have literally done nothing wrong. It seems most people who are affected at the moment really haven’t done anything wrong, the algorithm just got super touchy!
This Instagram shadow block seems to be causing a little bit of mayhem amongst users at the moment, especially those who have never intentionally used bots, or acted in a spam-like fashion. Basically, genuine users are suffering as a result of spam activity. As well as this ban, a number of automating websites have been taken down recently too. This means that anyone who was buying likes or followers, or anyone who was getting a lot of traffic and likes from bots (i.e. from bots set up to like anything under a particular hashtag that you use frequently), will notice quite a change in their stats. This combined with the lack of interaction from the shadow block can be quite the shock to the system.

Don’t stress though, this doesn’t mean you are a spam bot or are using spam bots, there are just some things about your activity that this Instagram glitch has currently flagged as suspicious…

You are using the same hashtags all the time, or you are using broken hashtags.

If you use the same hashtags for all of your posts, you are effectively ‘spamming’ this hashtag and Instagram will mark it as suspicious (aka block your posts from showing in these hashtags). A broken hashtag is one that has been marked as spammy and is instantly blocked.

There is a spike in your Instagram activity.

If you are commenting a lot, liking photos left right and centre, or getting a lot of attention on posts all of a sudden (i.e. jumping from an average of 500 likes on an image to 1000 likes on image), it is going to look suspicious to Instagram’s computers.

Don’t stress, it won’t last forever. Take these measures and you should be back up and running in no time!

  1. If you do use automated systems of any sort (tsk tsk!), STOP. For the love of God, just be genuine. It is easy to tell when someone has employed a bot to engage for them. I am fairly certain you would never like that pornographic and spammy photo if you were doing all of your own interaction. Yes, we can see everything you like. Clearly Instagram can tell too. Bots employ different IP addresses to do your work for you, so all of your activity is coming from a million different places. Yes, it looks suspicious because it is. NOTE: This does not apply to apps that you use to remind you to post at a certain time.
  2. Just cool it on the activity for a bit. We could all use with a bit of a social media detox every now and then, so 24-48 hours away from posting and interacting is probably a good thing! When you do start using the ‘gram again, go easy. Don’t flood it with posts right away, and try to stick to commenting on those accounts that you already follow. Too much posting on accounts you don’t yet follow may raise a yellow flag again.
  3.  Change up your hashtags. This is annoying because most of us use specific hashtags to hit a specific audience. The hashtag #ootd is used for a reason – because we are posting an #ootd! If you want to give yourself the best chance at pulling out of the shadow ban, I suggest using a bunch of completely different hashtags to what you normally do. Like I said, it is a pain, but if it keeps you out of this ban then it is worth it! Be sure to keep them changing up frequently too, or you may just find yourself back here.
  4. Attempt to report the issue to Instagram. They have said they are aware of the issue and are working on it, but alerting them to your issue only increases the urgency of the matter. Instagram are notoriously hard to contact, but you can try!

This is currently all I know about the shadow ban, so if anyone else has any more information or ideas on how to combat it, please leave comments below! 

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