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shadow banning (shadowban)

Shadow banning, in social media and discussion forums, is the administrative practice of making a particular user's posts visible only to that user. Instead of notifying a user that his or her user generated content (UGC) has been blocked, the administrator simply prevents anyone else from viewing the user's content.   

The goal of shadow banning is to encourage an undesirable contributor, such as a spammer or cryptojacker, to leave a group voluntarily because no one is interacting with their posts. The usual practice is for a moderator to notify a user that their contributions will no longer be accepted, but because the offender can still re-register under another user name, some administrators prefer to shadow ban offending contributors instead of outright banning them. To the offender, who is able to see his or her own posts, everything seems to be working as it should be. To everyone else in the online community, the offender becomes invisible. 

Shadow banning is controversial because it allows an administrator or moderator to effectively become a censor and prevent specific users from interacting with other members of an online community on an equal basis. In January 2018, Project Veritas (PV) accused Twitter of systematically censoring certain individual's tweets by making their posts visible to the user's followers, but no one else. Instagram has also been accused of shadow banning members by using biased algorithms and not including certain hashtags in search. 

See also: shadow app, shadow IT, data shadow

This was last updated in July 2018

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