Twitter Meets Orwell — an FAQ by Daddy Warpig
Twitter Shadowbans Briefing and FAQ by
What Is “Shadowbanning”?
Twitter has introduced a brave new way of screwing with users, which some have taken to calling shadowbanning.
Basically, this acts like a gag: you can send normal tweets normally, but people Following you won’t see them on their timeline. (However, people reading your profile will see them.)
The following restrictions also apply:
- Your tweets won’t show up in certain hashtags (which and why is unknown).
- Your tweets won’t show up in Search, either by keyword or by account name.
Tweets still show up normally in Lists.
Taken together, these restrictions have the effect of making you “invisible” to most others on Twitter, but you are never informed about them so you don’t know it. With shadowbans, Twitter censors you silently, for no stated reason, for an indeterminate period of time.
This is BOTH Kafkaesque and Orwellian.
[Indeed, the very existence of shadowbans is what makes people suspect that Twitter will use its new TL algorithm to silently censor “undesirable” users. It’s the next logical step.]
How Do I Tell if I’m Shadowbanned?
Because fewer people are seeing your tweets, your Twitter stats (under “Your Tweet activity”) will likely drop. Several people have first noticed a ban when their number of Impressions, for example, fell off sharply. (People with low Follower counts might not notice a significant difference, though.)
Sometimes people who Follow you will notice you haven’t shown up in Search or in their timeline, and will contact you. (This is more likely to happen if you’re a consistent, high volume tweeter, of course.)
The easiest way to tell, though, is to just test. DM someone who Follows you. Ask them to check their timeline (under the Home tab) for recent tweets of yours, or tweet out a test tweet without @ them. If they see it, you’re okay. If not, you might be shadowbanned.
The insidious thing about a shadowban is that, short of logging in under another account, there is no way for you to tell if you’ve been banned. You tweet as normal, assuming thing are working per usual, while behind the scenes Twitter has decided to unperson you.
[This is likely the reason the two obtrusive features (see Evolution of the Shadowban, below) were removed: Twitter doesn’t want users to know when they’re being censored.]
How Do I Break the Ban?
If you’ve been shadowbanned, there is no known way to either appeal or evade the restrictions. Since the ban usually lasts about 24 hours, all you can do is wait.
However, if you suspect someone else has caught a ban, add them to a List. Lists are not (as of this writing) subject to the restrictions of the ban: a shadowbanned person’s tweets still show up. Lists will allow you to read them normally, and are recommended in any case.
Also, some alternative Twitter clients, notably Tweetdeck (according to several reports), are not susceptible to being spoofed by a shadowban. The banned person’s tweets show up normally.
If you don’t want Twitter to censor other people’s tweets from your timeline, use Tweetdeck.
How Do I Avoid Catching a Ban?
No one knows exactly what causes a shadowban, but it’s likely some combination of spam or harassment reports trigger it, either automatically or by hand. During the summer Twitter stated it would begin “defusing” confrontations in hashtags by punishing people who spam a tag with unrelated or abusive tweets; it is likely shadowbanning is one such tool.
If shadowbanned, you will never know why it happened and you cannot ever know for sure that it really happened. Again, Orwellian and Kafkaesque.
In general, it’s good to avoid any behavior that can trigger a spam report. Check Twitter’s online Help system for details.
Twitter is notoriously opaque about enforcement mechanisms, and shadowbans are no exception. The information in here has been gathered from many reports from people who have been banned and people Following those banned. However, it likely contains errors or omissions. (Most especially omissions.)
Even so, the above information has been verified by repeated instances of shadowbannings going back almost a year, and it is largely correct. Any major errors will be corrected ASAP.
Use Twitter the same way you’ve always done, and gather information. I will update this document as needed.
Good luck, stay safe, and don’t worry too much. This too shall pass.
Additional Questions? Anything to Add?
Tweet to @Daddy_Warpig. I’ll be updating as new info comes in.