Is Instagram secretly banning users without telling them?

It's not news that Instagram has changed drastically in the last year. From algorithm reboots to new logos to a shiny new layout, Instagram is a whole world away from how people posted and engaged with each other in the app's early days.

But now some users are saying there's another thing that's changed on the 'gram: their posts aren't getting half as many likes as they used to, their engagement levels are way down, and when they search for their photos through someone else's profile, their images don't appear at all, even if they're tagged with hashtags.

PetaPixel claims that over the last couple of weeks, their tip line has been "flooded" by reports of Instagram selectively "shadow banning" people's accounts.

What exactly is 'shadow banning'?


The term "shadow ban"—also called "stealth" or "ghost" banning—refers to banning a person's account without them knowing it. From their perspective, everything seems normal, but nobody else can actually see the photos or comments or videos they're posting.

(Cella's sidenote: It also sounds like something Superman would do to you if you were a bad guy).

Whoa, so is everyone affected?!

More often than not, this bug is being reported for business accounts, but there have been personal accounts that have reported the issue, too.

The big issue, though, comes when photographers who use Instagram to advertise their work are suddenly unable to because of being shadow banned.

How can I tell if I've been shadow banned?

Some users have taken to creating a whole 'nother Instagram account to search their hashtags for their tagged photos to check if they actually appear.


Other photographers showed us similar examples. When viewed from their own account, the photos are right there where they should be, but when you're logged in from a personal account that doesn't follow that business profile, they're gone.

When did this start?

While the most recent reports of shadow banning have come within the last 2 months or so, some users have reported issues since the beginning of January.

PetaPixel reader:

I noticed about a week ago that my engagement just cratered. I was getting about 1/3rd of the normal likes, and they were almost entirely from people following me already… There are apparently a lot of us, none of whom seem to know anything about why this is affecting us, and having no luck getting any response on multiple reports to Instagram. [sic]

Well does Instagram know? What have they done about it?

Is there a way to fix the shadow ban?

While some people claim there isn't really a solution to the shadow ban, others say they've fixed the problem by converting their Instagram back to a personal account. Some have tried logging in from different devices with new IP addresses.

Others, however, claim that it's only a temporary fix, and once you've been shadow banned, there's no going back.

Have you been shadow banned?

Have you been affected by this strange Instagram plague or know someone who's been affected by it? Let us know in the comments below!

Cella Lao Rousseau

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau