Shadow banning sounds like a term a lighting company would use to promote their biggest, bad-est light bulb, right? Wrong!
So what is shadow banning then?
Shadowbanning is the act of blocking a user's content on social media sites, in such a way that the user doesn't know it's happening. If you're shadowbanned on Instagram, your content won't appear on anyone's feed unless they already follow you.
What does this mean?
It might seem like something small Instagram is doing to uphold their “community guidelines”, but the more that becomes uncovered, the more it appears that it’s adding more harm to the community than good. Any self employed person, even entire companies are having their content blocked from being seen by the millions they are trying to reach. This is happening in several ways – accounts being blocked from posting, deleted accounts, and certain hashtags are being banned.
Who is it impacting?
No one really knows the extent of this shadow ban. There are huge groups of people being effected – made up of almost entirely people who identify as women (LGBT and P.O.C. as well) – with the pole dance community being hit hard. Many companies and teachers that are centered on pole dance are seeing significant drop off in their accounts’ activity and engagement. This is a big blow for people who self promote and whose business is maintained largely through social media. Some people are even witnessing Instagram unfollowing accounts on the person’s behalf.
How is this happening?
A major key to growing engagement with a social media account is gaining new followers through hashtags - key words to tag their post. Pole influencer Michelle Shimmy (@michelleshimmy) created a fantastic way for online polers to connect and learn new tricks that was widely used across the community before they were all shadowbanned. Examples such as #pdbrassmonkey and #pdmachinegun are hashtags that are hidden because some content does not fit “community guidelines”. Just as a reference point, #machinegun is not shadowbanned and has lots of content. – It’s not just the polers that are being impacted either! #femalefitness was banned for several weeks and has recently been reopened for use again.
Why is this happening?
A bill named FOSTA/SESTA was recently put into place by the American government that was supposed to crack down on trafficking within the sex industry. While there are no signs of trafficking decreasing, there are tons of reports from social media users that they are being censored for feared sex work. Artists, athletes, and dancers alike are all being denied the right to express themselves and unfortunately within this law there leaves an enormous amount of interpretation up to the social media sites – so just “following the rules” won’t work.
What can I do about it?
Speak up! Silence won’t help anyone but the social media sites. Share your favorite accounts to spread the word and the love of uncensored art within Instagram. Even third party ecommerce sites such as Shopify are advocating for their clients to be able to sell their products online! Sign the petition some of the major pole influencer accounts are promoting HERE, it has acquired over 16,500 signatures within a week!