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Why You Might Be Shadow-banned on Instagram

  • September 13, 2020
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Why You Might Be Shadow-banned on Instagram

Years ago I wrote that Shadow Banning Was Not Real. I could not prove it to be a fact but since then Instagram has made several new announcements.

So if you’re wondering if shadow-banning is real, the answer is yes when you have engaged in inauthentic behavior that goes against Instagram’s community guidelines.

Introducing New Authentic Measures on Instagram

On August 13, 2020 Instagram announced on their blog that:

– They want content you see on Instagram to be authentic and to come from real people, not bots or others trying to mislead you.

Read the full blog entry HERE.

At the end of the month, Instagram added a page to the terms and conditions to explain how the recommendations work.

Why You Might Be Shadow-banned on Instagram

What are recommendations on Instagram?

Instagram makes recommendations as follows for the Explore, Accounts You May Like, and IGTV Discover sections.

The goal is to deliver content that Instagram thinks you may like.

They state:

At Instagram, we have guidelines that govern what content we recommend to people. Through those guidelines, we work to avoid making recommendations that could be low-quality, objectionable, or sensitive, and we also avoid making recommendations that may be inappropriate for younger viewers. Our Recommendations Guidelines are designed to maintain a higher standard than our Community Guidelines, because recommended content and connections are from accounts you haven’t chosen to follow.

Translation: This is when your content gets served to those that are following you. And if your content isn’t up to par with what they think is reasonable then they won’t be recommending you to non followers on the Explore, Accounts You May Like, and IGTV Discover sections.

The following section is directly from Instagram as follows:

Content that is allowed but will NOT be recommended:

1. Content that discusses self-harm, suicide, or eating disorders. (We remove content that [encourages suicide or self-injury, or any graphic imagery.

2. Content that may depict violence, such as people fighting.

3. Content that may be sexually explicit or suggestive, such as pictures of people in see-through clothing.  We remove content that contains adult nudity or sexual activity.

4. Content that promotes the use of certain regulated products, such as tobacco or vaping products, adult products and services, or pharmaceutical drugs. We remove content that attempts to [sell or trade most regulated goods.

5. Content shared by any non-recommendable account.

Sensitive or low-quality content about Health or Finance, such as:

1. Content that promotes or depicts cosmetic procedures.

2. Content containing exaggerated health claims, such as “miracle cures.”

3. Content attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims, such as promoting a supplement to help a person lose weight.

4. Content that promotes misleading or deceptive business models, such as payday loans or “risk-free” investments.

Content that users broadly tell us they dislike, such as:

1. Content that includes clickbait.

2. Content that includes engagement bait.

3. Content that promotes a contest or giveaway.

Content that is associated with low-quality publishing, such as:

1. Unoriginal content that is largely repurposed from another source [without adding material value]

2. Content from web sites that get a disproportionate number of clicks from Instagram versus other places on the web.

3. News content that does not include transparent information about authorship or the publisher’s editorial staff.

False or misleading content, such as:

1. Content including claims that have been found false by independent fact-checkers or certain expert organizations.

2. Vaccine-related misinformation that has been widely debunked by leading global health organizations.

3. Content that promotes the use of fraudulent documents, such as someone sharing a post about using a fake ID.

Account Recommendations

We also try to not recommend accounts that:
1. Recently violated Instagram’s Community Guidelines.

2. Repeatedly and/or recently shared content we try not to recommend.

3. Repeatedly posted vaccine-related misinformation

4. Repeatedly engaged in misleading practices to build followings, such as purchasing ‘likes’.

5. Have been banned from running ads on our platforms.

6. Recently and repeatedly posted false information as determined by independent third party fact-checkers or certain expert organizations.

7. Are associated with offline movements or organizations that are tied to violence.

Can I Make Money From Being A Dog Influencer on Instagram

What to Make Of This Announcement?

Play by Instagram’s rules. If you have done any of the actions they stated above …. then stop doing it.

This isn’t our platform, it’s Instagram’s and they get to dictate the rules.

Should You Start A New Account?

It depends on how many rules you have broken.

For example, if you have done a contest before in the past … and it’s the occasional contest (celebrating a birthday or milestone) I wouldn’t sweat it.

However if you are running contests where you require participants to donate $2,000 to enter and then host a giveaway with 50+ participants giving away a prize that is say $50,000 worth and you do this repeatedly then you probably will be shadow banned if you have not already.

If you have participated in these type of giveaways repeatedly and your reach has been impacted then you have been shadow banned.

If you have bought likes and use bots and your reach has been impacted then you have been shadow banned.

If you constantly share content from questionable accounts regarding controversial subjects and your reach is impacted then you have probably been shadow banned.

The point being is if you have mis-behaved and your reach has been impacted, then you probably might want to consider starting a new account.

What If You Haven’t Abused Instagram But Are Still Shadow Banned?


Prior to 2020 you could see if a hashtag was abused. It would show photos grayed out because it was hijacked. For example once upon a time, adult content had hijacked the #dogofinstagram hashtag and so I stopped using it until I saw that there were no longer adult photos showing up on it.

Now, you can’t tell if a hashtag has been banned.

So my word of advice is if you have noticed that you get ZERO impressions from non followers, then stop using hashtags altogether for a week.

And then start to use them again, one by one and test each hashtag out.


From a desktop or laptop, log into your Instagram account and investigate what third parties are connected to your Instagram.

Be mindful that these third party companies that have access might be associated with inappropriate behavior. Disconnect any third parties that are questionable.


Don’t mass like, mass follow, mass comment, mass anything on Instagram. A real person doesn’t use Instagram that way.

If how you use it can be mistaken for a bot, then you will be shadow banned.

Their supercomputers are so advanced they can detect interactions between thousands or even millions of bots.



Submit a ticket to Instagram’s help desk from inside your app. Explain what is happening and why you think it is in error.


It all depends on the severity of your actions or what Instagram may have mistakenly deemed to be inappropriate behavior.

It could take a month or months.

Or you may never be able to recover from it.

If you’re lucky enough to actually talk to someone who works at Instagram they could review your request and let you know where your account stands.


For those that are NOT shadow banned and are curious as to how the Explore page works. We’re in luck because the developers have a blog article about it:  Powered by AI: Instagram’s Explore recommender system

Did you know that over half of the users visit the Explore page?

Their AI system makes predictions on what they think what you want to follow based on a highly efficient 3-part ranking funnel that extracts 65 billion features and makes 90 million model predictions every second.

Keep in mind, at Facebook (who owns Instagram) has a metric that they report during their share holder meetings.

That is “Time on Platform”

Guess who the product is on Instagram and Facebook.

Big hint, it’s not our content.

It’s YOU and ME because when WE are on the platform then Facebook and Instagram can serve us ADs and that is how they make money and that is how we get to be on the platform for free.

We feed the machine. (Our content).

We sit on our phones and put our eyeballs on the app.

And ads are served to us.

That’s why their machines are well skilled in guessing what they think we will like because the more time we spend in the platform the more minutes we spend inside it.

If you ever get curious about their metrics listen to their quarterly stock reports and you’ll quickly understand that we are the product.

So going back to the Explore page …. Instagram has created a retrieval pipeline that focuses on account-level information rather than media-level.

They can tell on an individual level based on activity what you might like.

In their words:
Retrieving accounts that are similar to those that a particular person previously expressed interest in helps us narrow down to a smaller, personalized ranking inventory for each person in a simple yet effective way. As a result, we are able to utilize state-of-the-art and computationally intensive ML models to serve every Instagram community member.

Ranking Candidates

The following section is from their blog:


With 500 candidates available for ranking, we use a three-stage ranking infrastructure to help balance the trade-offs between ranking relevance and computation efficiency. The three ranking stages we have are as follows:

1. First pass: the distillation model mimics the combination of the other two stages, with minimal features; picks the 150 highest-quality and most relevant candidates out of 500.

2. Second pass: a lightweight neural network model with full set of dense features; picks the 50 highest-quality and most relevant candidates.

3. Final pass: a deep neural network model with full set of dense and sparse features. Picks the 25 highest-quality and most relevant candidates (for the first page of Explore grid).

We combine predictions of different events using an arithmetic formula, called value model, to capture the prominence of different signals in terms of deciding whether the content is relevant. We use a weighted sum of predictions such as [w_like * P(Like) + w_save * P(Save) – w_negative_action * P(Negative Action)]. If, for instance, we think the importance of a person saving a post on Explore is higher than their liking a post, then the weight for the save action should be higher.

We also want Explore to be a place where people can discover a rich balance of both new interests alongside existing interests. We add a simple heuristic rule into value model to boost the diversity of content. We downrank posts from the same author or same seed account by adding a penalty factor, so you don’t see multiple posts from the same person or the same seed account in Explore. This penalty increases as you go down the ranked batch and encounter more posts from the same author.

Bottom Line

You cannot out smart Instagram.

They have machines that have the ability to crunch and analyze data sets with billions of images.

They have machines that can read photos at the pixel level.

When you use hashtags, think of how keywords are used SEO. Also keep I mind their image recognition has trained on as many as 50 million images already (as of 2 years ago): Advancing state-of-the-art image recognition with deep learning on hashtags.

They have the ability to read spatial arrangement for images.

They can read text on photos. 

Recently they can now generate recipes from images.

What’s the point in telling you all this?’

Instagram can read your images and understand what is in them and based on how other people are interacting on the platform … they will surface your content to others in Explore, Accounts You May Like, and IGTV Discover sections if they think that your content will be liked by others.

So don’t waste your time gaming the system and trying to trick the machine because their super computer is smarter than any hacks you try to do.

And if you are shadow banned, try to get unbanned and when you do – focus on creating the best content possible.


Hannah Zulueta and her two dogs Maggie and Orbit

Hello my name is Hannah and I dance with my dogs.  A self proclaimed Boston Terrier addict, (aka breed advocate) I started this blog because there isn’t enough space to write on our Instagram.

I spent twenty years in the resort hospitality business.  At the peak of my sales & marketing career I had twenty six resorts under me.  I got tired of traveling and decided to work for myself.

I now run a social media agency handling social media for succesful pet brands.

I have two dogs.  Maggie is my socially awkward one; which I find highly relatable because I am completely out of place in large groups myself.  And Orbit is my sensitive flower.  Blow on her skin wrong (ok I might be exaggerating) and she breaks out in a rash.

You won’t read about cats here… but you will get a fairly large dosage of articles dedicated to the Boston Terrier.    Read more about us. 

By, September 13, 2020
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