TikTok ‘shadowban’: What it means and what to do about it
TikTok’s main appeal is the idea that anybody can hit the big time. If the algorithm so chooses, your content could be put at the top of the ‘For You’ scroll and turn you into a star overnight.
You could say TikTok fame represents a modern-day American dream – a tool that is as effective or ineffective as you make it. In a way, it’s like Schrödinger’s Cat: until you post a dance video, you are both unknown and famous.
TikTok offers consumers the world. Unlimited praise and riches. But there are two sides to every coin, and TikTok can be as brutal as it is generous. The app is not shy about banning users from the service should they fail to follow its community guidelines and rules. A form of this is what they call the ‘shadowban.’ Also known as ghost banning or stealth banning, shadowbanning has a negative effect on your account’s reach and growth. Ten years ago, this may not have been an issue. But in 2022, when lots of people and businesses rely on social media, it can be savage.
Want to know more about shadowbanning, what it entails and how to work out whether you’ve been a victim of it? Better yet, how to get un-shadowbanned? Read on, dear creator.
What is a shadowban?
So what is a shadowban? What’s with the shadow bit? Why does it sound like a game? It’s rather simple. A shadowban is a ban first and foremost. The “shadow” bit, however, means that you won’t know about it. Very sneaky, isn’t it? This is why TikTokers lose their wigs when they suddenly drop in likes or views.
A shadowban prevents your videos from appearing on the ‘For You’ page or on hashtag results. The process is automatically executed by TikTok’s algorithm to protect other users from spam content, copyright issues and mature content, whatever that may be. Shadowbanning is so subtle that they often go unnoticed until another user points it out to the restricted creator.
How do you know if you’re being shadowbanned?
So I can only be told by some randomer? On the off-chance they notice? It seems that way. There are no email confirmations or push notifications telling you of a ban.
The only thing you can do is check your recent stats. Are they significantly lower than what they’ve previously been? Do they not appear on ‘For You’ or via search? If so, it’s highly likely you’ve been shadowbanned.
Over the course of a shadowban, your videos and content will be visible in search results or on the feed. You will not receive new followers, new likes, or comments from others.
If you’re truly concerned about a potential ban, you could switch to a TikTok Pro account and monitor your engagement using the provided analytics. The data section will be able to show you whether your engagement has increased or decreased. On top of that, it can give you a better understanding of what content performs best and what time of day you should post it.
How long is a TikTok shadowban?
You might be tough as nails. A shadowban? Pff. Whatever. I can take a hit if I have to. You may even enjoy the freedom of not being hooked to your account and online brand for a while. Kicking back and watching a movie or two. Possibly reading a book. OK, if you’re a TikTok obsessive, probably not reading a book.
In the early days of TikTok, a shadowban could last 24 hours. Today, with the latest update in the TikTok algorithm, the length of a shadowban is speculated to have increased to at least two weeks, with some users reporting permanently disrupted viewing figures.
What’s unique about a TikTok shadowban is that it’s not like a Twitter ban, which restricts you from logging in altogether. TikTok tempts you by allowing you on the app, to browse and indulge in other content – it just prevents you from posting your own, an approach that seems harsher than a flat-out ban. Yeah, go ahead, have a look around! Oh, you want to post? A video? Haha, oh no, we don’t think so.
The best thing to do in the event of a shadowban is to remove the video you may believe to be breaching TikTok’s guidelines and take the L. Don’t try to fight it or contest the decision. Take it like a champ and have a breather for a week or two; after all, life isn’t just about posting. Take up walking, painting, or cooking! These are very wholesome, healthy alternatives.
Why are you getting shadowbanned on TikTok?
There is no guidebook on shadowbans. No terms and conditions for you to look through. This adds to the conspiracy aspect. Some users would have you believe TikTok is purposely restricting content they don’t agree with by claiming you broke copyright law or some such. In reality, there are very straightforward guidelines to break.
The main reason why a user’s TikTok account can get shadowbanned is down to spamming. As is customary on most social media platforms, new users will go on a spree of liking and following people in the hopes they will like and follow back. TikTok, though, might understand this type of behaviour as spam and deem you a robot.
If you’re out there liking more than 100 posts a day, we’d advise you to step back and have a break. Likewise, if you’re following over 50 TikTok accounts a day, you’re pretty much asking to be banned.
While these TikTok crimes come with shadowbans only, there are some that will land you a permanent ban. Videos featuring hate speech, fake news, violence, nudity, drugs or copyrighted music will get you into big trouble. It does seem a bit strange to see violence and copyrighted music alongside each other but those are the rules.
How do you become un-shadowbanned?
Like we’ve side, a shadowban isn’t the same as a permanent ban. It’s more of a slap on the wrist – TikTok’s way of giving you a heads up and showing that it takes breaches of community guidelines seriously. But there are ways around it… ways of coming back from shadowban purgatory. Here are a few options.
1. Uninstall and reinstall TikTok
Ah, the good old-fashioned “Have you tried switching it on and off?” This cliche prevails because sometimes, it does still work. Sometimes social media blips are that simple.
First off, delete your recent video. If that fails, uninstall and reinstall the app. All it might take is an update for your feed and posting privileges to become functional once again. Don’t count on this one, though. It’s a quick way of confirming your shadowbanned status and not a failproof way out of one.
2. Delete offensive content
Following on from the point above, you should delete any content that goes against the rules and community guidelines. Even if you don’t think your video is that bad, you’re best off deleting it just be on the safe side.
After freeing your feed of inappropriate material, you’ll still have to wait at least two weeks for the shadowban to be lifted. Try refrehsing the device now and then to check in on your ban. There’s a slim chance you may have been given a shorter sentence for acting accordingly. Again, don’t rely on this belief too heavily.
3. Step away from TikTok for a while
This one is highly advised and realistic. After deleting your offensive, rule-breaking content, clear the cache, close the app, make sure it’s updated and then put the phone away for a couple of days.
There’s every chance TikTok may respect your compliance and get you un-shadowbanned. That might sound blindly optimistic but compare it to someone begging, pleading and harassing TikTok to get their account back to normal. Taking the high road and having a break is a much better look.
4. Don’t post stolen, unoriginal, copyrighted content
This should be a given but social media is the Wild West. People employ cavalier practices in the world of content. You’re in a situation where you’ve been banned for something so you need to revaluate the stuff you’re posting and start thinking about more original and innovative videos.
Use your hiatus to brainstorm new ideas, new concepts. Take advantage of the break to dream up a new vision of TikTok, what video-form entertainment can be, where it can go. This is a golden opportunity to come back stronger and better than ever. Don’t mess things up for yourself by relapsing straight into trends and copyright-fraught content.
5. Understand your audience better
Yes, your audience is complimentary. They like your videos, tag their friends in the comments. They can even supply you with a month or two’s rent through monetisation royalties. They can also be fickle.
Don’t tick them off. Don’t produce content that is clearly inappropriate or that goes against basic guidelines. They’ll walk. They’ll report you and walk. TikTok creators are a dime a dozen. Don’t think they’ll stick by you whatever the weather. Take the time off to appreciate what it is they like to see. It’s probably not anything that includes violence or pornography. Remember, this is an app that has a teenage-heavy audience.