What exactly is a shadowban, and how does it relate to TikTok?
Let’s face it — the internet can be a dramatic place. It makes sense that there’s a buzzword as intense as “shadowban” floating around. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that no one really knows if shadowbans are real, but better safe than sorry, right?
We may not know if shadowbans are real, but we know something’s going on. Let’s put our tinfoil hats on and figure it out together. Here’s a handy guide to shadowbans and how they apply to TikTok.
What is a shadowban on TikTok?
In general, a shadowban is when a user is muted or blocked on a social media platform (or forum) without notification.
A shadowban on TikTok is the unofficial name for what happens when TikTok temporarily restricts the visibility of an account. When this happens, a user’s videos will stop appearing on TikTok’s “For You” page (also known as the #FYP). Their content will also no longer appear in the hashtags section of the app, either.
Some people report that their posts are generally harder to find when they’re experiencing a shadowban. They also claim that they stop receiving likes and comments on posts that would have done well in the past. While there are some wacky conspiracy theories out there, there’s no denying that, well, something’s happening.
Like their fellow social media contemporaries, TikTok doesn’t actually use the term “shadowban” in any of their official documentation. They have also never fully admitted that they participate in the practice. But they’ve said enough to suggest that they do limit certain users during certain times.
The closest thing we’ll get to a statement on shadowbans comes from TikTok’s own site:
“We will temporarily or permanently ban accounts and/or users that are involved in severe or repeated on-platform violations [of our Community Guidelines].”
If you want to learn more, we’ve made a video answering all your frequently asked questions about TikTok shadowbans:
How do you get shadowbanned on TikTok?
Even though they won’t admit it in so many words, there’s no denying that TikTokwill block or partially block content from certain accounts. And there are a handful of reasons why someone might get shadowbanned. These are some of the most prominent:
You violate TikTok’s Community Guidelines
This is the most obvious reason for a shadowban, but it’s also the easiest to avoid. Brush up on TikTok’s Community Guidelines and make sure you’re not breaking any rules.
It’s a long list, to be sure, but there are some simple things to avoid posting. These include graphic violence, nudity, drugs, hate speech, copyrighted music or footage from outside of the app, or misinformation (a.k.a. fake news).
Some of these topics are more grey than others, of course. (Try bringing up “fake news” at Thanksgiving dinner, for example, and you’ll likely hear plenty of takes on the subject.) Still, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
You act like a spammer
Look, some of us may have better personalities than others, but if you post like a bot, you’ll be treated like one. Seriously, though — spamming is a surefire way to have your posts limited on TikTok.
We get it: You might be excited about your new account or eager to start making connections. But if you bulk-follow other accounts or flood the feed with new videos, there’s a good chance you’ll end up on some kind of list.
Besides, there are far better ways to grow your TikTok account.
You’re shadowbanned by accident
Here’s where it gets complicated — and political. TikTok’s guidelines are enforced by an algorithm, and sometimes certain topics or pieces of content can be mistakenly flagged by censors.
Some critics have even claimed that TikTok has taken sides or intentionally stifled the voices of activists and protestors. For example, at the height of the George Floyd protests in 2020, many Black Lives Matter activists claimed their posts were receiving 0 views if they contained the #BlackLivesMatter or #GeorgeFloyd hashtags.
TikTok responded to these protests with a lengthy statement. They blamed a glitch for the mixup and vowed to do more to foster diversity on the platform.
Black Lives Matter is not the only movement that has accused TikTok of shadowbanning them. Still, a TikTok spokesperson told Refinery29 that they are swift to act when their algorithms flag content that hasn’t violated any guidelines.
“Our community of creators is vibrant and diverse, and everything we do at TikTok is about providing a safe space for people to express their ideas and creativity, no matter who they are,” a spokesperson said. “We are open about the fact that we don’t always get every decision right, which is why we continue to invest at scale in our safety operations.”
How to tell if you’ve been shadowbanned
There’s a reason it’s called a shadowban — you’ll be kept in the dark about what’s going on. You won’t get a message from the secret council of TikTok mods to inform you that you’ve been restricted.
Sure, there’s a chance your content has been getting worse (and, joking aside, that’s genuinely something to consider). But there are also a handful of things to watch out for if you suspect you’ve been hit with a shadowban:
• Numbers nosedive. If you’ve been enjoying an upward trend in likes, views and shares on your posted content and it suddenly stops, you might have been hit with the dreaded shadowban.
• Uploads down low. It might not be your wifi. If your videos say “under review” or “processing” for an abnormal amount of time, you could be afflicted.
• No longer For You. The For You page is the beating heart of TikTok. It’s also where your content should appear if things are going well. Have a friend who would typically see your posts on their FYP cross-reference to see if they’ve disappeared.
How long will a TikTok shadowban last?
How can you measure the length of something that might not exist? And really, how do you measure the unknowable?
This is getting extremely philosophical, but the answer is probably 14 days.
If you don’t do anything, your shadowban will probably last around two weeks. Some users have reported shadowbans lasting only 24 hours, while others have suggested up to a month. The general consensus, though, is 14 days.
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How to get out of a shadowban on TikTok: 5 tips
No, you don’t need to learn a secret handshake or sacrifice an animal to the algorithm overlords.
In fact, a few simple steps could help keep your TikTok account on the straight and narrow.
1. Remove flagged content
When you suspect a ban, comb through your posts to determine which was the offending party. Then, if you’ve identified the likely culprit, remove it and wait for the algorithm to forgive you.
2. Reinstall the app
If you think you’ve successfully removed the offending post and want to test it out, try deleting and reinstalling the app on your device. There’s a chance you just needed to clear the cache or update the app in order to get it working again.
3. Be normal
That’s just good life advice, but it also applies to TikTok. If you act like a bot, TikTok’s moderation bots will find you. So once your temporary time-out is over, you should calm down with the following sprees and 100-a-day posting dumps.
Don’t be spammy. Just be chill.
4. Follow community guidelines
Again, it’s worth reiterating — the community guidelines are there for a reason. And it’s not only posting inappropriate content that trips up the censors.
Tempted to hard-code songs into your TikTok posts because you can’t find them within the app? That’s a great reason to get flagged for copyright violation. Read the rulebook so that you know how to follow along.
5. Check your analytics
Following your analytics is a great way to protect your posts from the watchful eye of the TikTok shadow Illuminati (okay, maybe I’m being too dramatic). You’ll be able to act quickly if you notice you’ve stopped getting hits from the For You page.
If you really want to keep an eye on your TikTok account’s performance, though, we’d recommend going beyond the built-in analytics with a third-party social media management tool. Something like, say, Hootsuite? (*ahem*)
From one intuitive dashboard, you can easily schedule TikToks, review and answer comments, and measure your success on the platform. Our TikTok scheduler will even recommend the best times to post your content for maximum engagement (unique to your account).
Learn more about how to manage your TikTok presence with Hootsuite:
Grow your TikTok presence alongside your other social channels using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts for the best times, engage your audience, and measure performance. Try it free today.