Shadow Banned (TikTok) – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Is your TikTok account not performing well? Someone might tell you that you could have been "shadow banned". Read on to discover what shadow banning means and where the term comes from, as well as how to use it in a sentence.


"Shadow banned" (also spelled as "shadowbanned", without a space) is the past tense of the internet term "shadow banning". Shadow banning refers to a concept in which social media users' access to views and visibility are limited by the platform in question, without the account being banned or suspended.

It combines the word "ban", in which an account has been disabled entirely, with the word "shadow", implying a quasi-ban.

The term shadow banning is currently most often used in the context of the social media platform TikTok, with many users who experience a sudden dip in views and likes wondering if they could have been shadow banned.

​Example Usage

Should you not be quite sure how to incorporate the concept of shadow banning into a sentence, these examples can help:

  • "I swear my TikTok has taken a real dive recently. I'm getting worried that I was shadow banned."
  • "Contrary to popular belief, shadow banning did not originate on TikTok and issuing shadow bans actually dates back to the 1980s."
  • "Many content creators claim to offer tips on how to deal with being shadow banned, but in most cases, there is no evidence that a platform actually even engages in shadow banning."


Shadow banning is the concept of limiting the activity on social media accounts in a way that is not immediately apparent to the account holder.

A shadow banned account is not banned, and the user can access it and post content. However, features may be in place to limit other viewers' exposure to the posted content. Comments may not be visible, for example, or videos may not show up on recommended feeds.

Shadow banning is currently most often discussed in the context of the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, which was launched for the international market in 2017. The origins of the term are, however, much older.

Shadow banning can be said to date back to the 1980s, when BBS forums had a similar feature called a "twit bit" in place. This would enable shadow banned users to keep posting messages, which they could also read, but which would not be visible to other users.

These practices are largely designed to deal with spam, trolling, or other problematic content.

Certain social media platforms are open about having shadow ban systems in place, either now or in the past. These include Reddit, WeChat, Twitch, and Twitter. It is important to note that TikTok does not admit to having such a system in place, and user speculation to the contrary is just that — speculation.

In many cases, people who believe they could have been shadow banned are simply performing poorly on social media because their content does not appeal to others, or because they lack successful marketing strategies.

​Words Similar to Shadow Banned

Several alternative terms exist for the concept of shadow banning. These include:

  • Stealth banning
  • Ghost banning
  • Comment ghosting

​Other Words Related to Shadow Banned

Other related terms include:

  • Temp ban — meaning a temporary ban.
  • Suspension — meaning that the account has temporarily been suspended while allegations of abuse, copyright infringements, or other problematic behaviors are investigated. Temporary suspensions may also be issued as punishments for actions that violate the platform's terms of service.
  • Blacklisted — similar to shadow banning, bloggers sometimes speculate that Google has "blacklisted" them if their content is not performing well in the search engine results pages.

​What Is the Correct Word?

The correct term for the practice is "shadow banning" or "shadowbanning". "Shadow banned" is the past tense, while you can use a noun form to indicate that you have "received a shadow ban".

​Ways People May Say Shadow Banned Incorrectly

The most frequent incorrect use of the term "shadow banning" is related to concluding that a user has been shadow banned when they are, in fact, simply not making appealing content.

​Acceptable Ways to Phrase Shadow Banned

If your content on TikTok or another social media platform is suddenly performing badly, you could speculate that you have been "shadow banned". You could also investigate other possibilities, and look for ways to make your content more exciting.

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