Between the latest article on Zero Hedge that showed several conservative journalists who were being shadowbanned and the undercover video from Project Veritas that caught Twitter employees explaining how and why they shadowban accounts on their social media platform, it’s time to really examine what shadowbanning actually is, how you can find out if it’s happening to your Twitter account, and what you need to do to fix it for good.
Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is a shadowban? While sometimes referred to as comment ghosting, ghost banning, or stealth banning, shadowbanning is the act of blocking a user or their content from an online community so that it will not be obvious to the user themselves. It’s possible that you’re shadowbanned now, but may not be able to tell without doing a shadowban test on your Twitter account. Maybe your engagements seem to be going down, or you’re not getting as many retweets on the content that you put out. It’s also possible that if you’re shadowbanned already, that you’re no longer coming up in users’ feeds and without them manually typing your handle into the search bar, they may not see any of your content at all.
When it comes to Twitter, the social media giant recently vamped up their terms of service agreement that’s been active since August 2016 with the promise to “improve the health of the public conversation on Twitter”–whatever that means. Twitter’s vice president of Trust and Safety spoke about this change being boosted in a May 15, 2018 blog on the blog.twitter page which can be read here. This particular social media platform bases its bans on user reports. Different algorithms are implemented that learn from the different situations that might get a user put on mute or blocked by another user account.
For example, if one account gets reported several times, even if the reports find nothing, and nothing essentially happens to that user’s account that was reported, the algorithms still pick up that this account was reported. Think of it as a tally mark against you. Strike 1, Strike 2 etc.. Multiple reports to the same account will trigger the algorithm to automatically begin censoring your content. Another way to think about it is in the terms of SPAM. If the AI picks up too many “flags” on your account, it will consider your account and your content as SPAM.
There are a few other things that can trigger the algorithm to shadowban your account:
- Being blocked by too many people
- Frequent interaction (comment, like) with other accounts that have had QFD (Quality Filter Discrimination) applied to their account
- Being reported by too many people, (even reports where Twitter doesn’t find you in violation)
- Following accounts that have been blocked by too many people
- Constantly mention in your tweets accounts that don’t follow you back. Example: @realDonaldTrump. We all know he only follows a few, and it’s not us, so if you’re constantly “tagging” him by mentioning his handle in tweets, that too, can get you shadowbanned.
So how do you know for sure if you’ve been shadowbanned? Most people start to notice a decrease in the engagements that they have on Twitter. This could be retweets, comments, likes or profile visits. Twitter does offer an informative analytics section under your account settings that can help you keep track of things like your followers, mentions, profile visits, tweet impressions and will even show you what your top tweet for engagements was for any 28 day period. This alone will not tell you for sure if you’ve been shadowbanned, so unless you’re noticing a change in engagement, or you’re diligent about staying on top of your analytics you may not even know you’re being shadowbanned at all.
Other signs that you might be shadowbanned include:
- Your replies will not appear in threads and conversations to others
- Your tweets will sometimes show up with the “unavailable at this time” label
- Your account will not show up in the search feature
- Any mention you make will not trigger notifications to that account being mentioned
- Your tweets might be hidden from some of your followers to limit your influence
There were several sites at one point that would let you search any handle on Twitter, (your @name) and it would come back with the results on whether or not you’re shadowbanned. For one reason or another, the majority have shut down and the only one that I was able to find that was still available for use was shadowban.eu powered by Github. The results from searching any given handle will look like this:
So now that you know how to check if you’re being shadowbanned, how do you fix it if you realize you have been?
Since all “support” on Twitter is now automated, good luck getting anyone to reply to your specific complaints. Tweeting about being shadowbanned, or using the hashtag #shadowbanned in your tweets also won’t get you any help, and if anything, using that hashtag too many times could trigger the algorithm you’re trying to avoid. There’s no searchable information on shadowbanning of accounts anywhere on Twitter support, so that’s also a dead end.
The only solution that has seemed to work for those who believe their account to be shadowbanned is by un-checking your “quality filter” on Twitter. In order to cut off your quality filter on your Twitter account, you’ll need to follow these directions:
- Go to your Notifications timeline
- Tap the gear icon
- Check the box next to quality filter to turn on or off
- Go to your Notifications timeline
- To filter your notifications click on Settings
- Click the box next to quality filter to turn on or off
- Click the Save changes button
Back in January, James O’Keefe with Project Veritas caught several Twitter employees on hidden camera explaining how the shadowbanning works, and how they are purposefully targeting conservative accounts. Watch content review agents, policy managers for their “Trust & Safety” department and even direct messaging engineers describe the shadowban strategy and what type of content they’re wanting to suppress:
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