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Aya El Tilbani

Automated Censorship

What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Shadowbanned on Instagram

How to appeal, check violations, and more

Aya El Tilbani

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As The Markup was investigating whether Instagram practiced shadowbanning—covertly hiding what people post without telling them—we heard from so many Instagram users that they felt helpless after the platform removed their content or kept them from commenting and posting.

We also heard that the appeals process left people frustrated. There’s not much documentation on when exactly users can appeal Instagram’s decisions; as The Markup found, identical content posted by different users can be treated completely differently.

If you think you’ve been shadowbanned on Instagram—or if the app has notified you that it has removed your content or limited your account in some way—here’s what you can do.

One note: Instagram often changes app settings without notice, so these steps work as of the time this story was published—but if they don’t, you may want to hunt around in a “Help” section.

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Check Your Account Status

Under “Account Status,” users can see the content Instagram removed, what features they’re currently banned from using, or if they’re at risk of having their account deleted by Instagram and why.

Business and creative accounts can check if they can be recommended to people who aren’t following them and which, if any, of their posts went against Instagram’s recommendation guidelines. These accounts can also see how violations may be affecting their ability to use Instagram’s monetization tools.

Instagram claims that if a user’s post is removed, the user is able to request a review “for the vast majority of violation types” except when there are “extreme safety concerns, such as child exploitation imagery.” If Instagram allows a user to request a review, Account Status is where they can submit it. 

But what shows up under Account Status isn’t the complete picture. The Markup found that users can’t always see what actions Instagram has taken when it believes someone’s account or content doesn’t follow guidelines, despite its claims otherwise. Certain restrictions, such as banning a user from being able to comment, did not show up under “Features you can’t use.” 

We repeatedly found that content removed for going against guidelines on “spam” or “dangerous organizations and individuals” didn’t show up in the “Removed content” section under Account Status, though it shows up on another part of the platform (check out our next section). 

Still, it’s worth checking Account Status to see if there’s any information on whether your account has been banned or restricted.

On a desktop or mobile browser, you can go to Account Status directly.

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Check Violations

If you can’t find your removed content under Account Status, sometimes it will show up under “Violations.”

On a desktop or mobile browser, go to the Help page, select “Support Requests,” then “Violations.”

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How to access Violations on the mobile app:

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Appeal Instagram’s Decision

If Instagram took down your post and you don’t agree that you were in violation of the guidelines, you can request a review by following these instructions.

If you were never given the option to request a review or you’ve appealed Instagram’s decision twice and your content still hasn’t been restored, you can try escalating the issue to the Oversight Board, an organization formed to act as an independent arbiter of precedent-setting moderation decisions. The Board doesn’t take up every case that’s submitted to it, and it can move slowly, but its decisions do make a difference: In December 2023, the Board reversed two moderation decisions dealing with videos of hostages kidnapped from Israel and the aftermath of an Israeli strike on Al-Shifa Hospital.

If you did not get the option to request a review on deleted posts, you can submit an appeal directly on the board’s website.

During our investigation, The Markup found that people were not given the option to appeal the decision when their activity was categorized as “spam.” Several people who posted comments criticizing the Israel–Hamas war had their comments deleted for being spam. Meta spokesperson Dani Lever denied that Instagram purposefully categorizes some user content as spam.

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