In this article we’re going to take a look at Twitter’s Shadowban Penalty, what it is, what makes it work and what you can do to avoid getting caught in it. This article has 4 sections and its most useful if it’s read in its entirety, but if you have a short attention span feel free to jump ahead to the section that you’re most interested in.
Why The Shadowban Penalty Was Created
After the 2016 Presidential Election, Twitter started getting negative press for allowing a Toxic Environment to grow and fester . To address the complaints and try to fix the problem, Twitter began to promote the concept of Healthy Conversations they hired Sentiment Analysis Scientists to identify problematic conversations and prevent people from seeing them entirely, and the Shadowban Penalty was born.
How Do Twitter Accounts Get Shadowbanned
The most significant part of how the Shadowban Penalty gets activated, is your interaction with other accounts. Some of the most common ways people get caught in the Shadowban Penalty, are as follows:
- Language Use: Using language that is aggressive, combative, confrontational, or demeaning to tweet or to reply to other users, especially BlueCheckMark accounts.
- Identical Text: Using identical, or nearly identical language to reply to multiple other accounts in a short period of time.
- Identical Images: Using an identical or nearly identical image to reply to other accounts in a short period of time.
- Automation and Copy & Paste: Copy and pasting an identical or nearly identical reply to multiple other accounts in a short period of time.
- Rapid Tweeting: Tweeting, replying, or creating a chain of connected tweets in a short period of time.
- Following/Follower Ratio: Accounts with more followers will get away with a higher number aggressive tweets before getting Shadowbanned, accounts with less followers can trip up the Shadowban Penalty with far fewer aggressive tweets.
- Low Trust Accounts: Accounts with fewer than 500 followers are the most likely to be affected by the Shadowban Penalty, 2-3 aggressive tweets are all it takes for those accounts to get Shadowbanned for 48 hours.
- Engagements With Non-Followers: Having too many engagements with people that don’t follow you.
- New Accounts: Accounts less than one year old are much more likely to trip up the Shadowban Penalty with any of the above offenses.
How short is a short period of time? If you have less than 500 followers, and you use the same reply three times in a thirty-minute period, you will probably activate the Shadowban Penalty. If you come on Twitter with the goal of trolling BlueCheckMark accounts, you’re only going to get a handful of tweets out, and then the Shadowban Penalty will kick in, dramatically reducing your visibility. The best way to check to see if you’ve been Shadowbanned, is to use the Shadowban Tool .
If your account has a red warning for [Thread Ban!] no one will see any of your replies. If your account has a red warning for [Search Suggestion Ban!] your profile wont be suggested if someone is searching for you. If your account has a red warning for [Search Ban!] your profile won’t show for Twitter Search Results even if it’s an exact match for your tweet or Hashtag. If your account has a red warning message for all four checks, CONGRATULATIONS you have been completely Shadowbanned and you are the only person who is seeing your tweets.
Once your account has been Shadowbanned, the best thing you can do is to stop tweeting completely, and let it “cool down”. If you completely stop tweeting, the Shadowban Penalty will usually
)disappear in 48 hours (this changed around January 15 2019), but I have seen it take up to 5 days. If you keep tweeting aggressively, you will extend the length of time the Shadowban Penalty restricts the visibility of your tweets. It’s entirely possible for you to trip up the Shadowban Penalty every day, so that it’s never lifted, and no one will ever see a single one of your tweets. If you come on Twitter with the goal of adversarially engaging BlueCheckMark accounts, it’s extremely important that you use the Shadowban Tool
to regularly check if you’ve been Shadowbanned. It’s also very important that once you are Shadowbanned, you need to completely stop Tweeting, as it’s the only way to stop extending the time period of the penalty. Having an alternate Twitter account you can switch to while your first account “cools down” is an effective strategy, see our How to Run Multiple Twitter Profiles article for tips on how to do this
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How Twitter Does and Doesn’t Target Right Wing Accounts
Shadowbanning doesn’t unfairly target Conservatives or Right Wing views points, but their policy of selectively enforcing the account ban rules on Right Wing Accounts completely weaponizes the Shadowban Penalty. First we need to take a look at Shadowbanning, and then we’ll look at how its effects are amplified against Right Wing Accounts.
Shadowbanning targets the behavior of adversarial engagement, more commonly known as Trolling, that many Right Wing users tend to favor. Twitter considers its verified BlueCheckMark accounts, especially celebrities and journalists, its most valuable assets, and the Shadowban Penalty exists to make Twitter a more pleasant and less adversarial place for those people. Twitter isn’t interested in elevating your visibility and giving you a platform to “own the libs” or to expose Main Stream Media’s fake news lies. Those may be your goals, but remember they aren’t Twitters goals.
Twitter has an internal score for how “toxic” or adversarial an accounts tweets are based on the language they use and how frequently they use it (this is known as Sentiment Analysis ). They have a separate score for how “trusted” a users account is, this score determines how much “trusted” your profile can get away with before getting Shadowbanned. After testing multiple profiles over a two-month time period here’s what we observed:
- Old Accounts: Accounts that are older can get away with more than newer profiles.
- New Accounts: Accounts less than a year old are much more likely to get affected by the Shadowban Penalty.
- High Follower Count: Accounts with more followers get away with more than those with fewer followers.
- Low Follower Count: Accounts with less than 500 followers are much more likely to get affected by the Shadowban Penalty.
- Follower/Following Ratio: Accounts with a higher Followers/Following ratio get away with more.
- Inverted Follower/Following Ratio:Accounts that are Following more than it’s Followers are much more likely to get affected by the Shadowban Penalty.
- BlueCheckMark Immunity: I have never seen a BlueCheckMark account get Shadowbanned, it’s very likely they are immune to the Shadowban Penalty.
Why do things like account age, number of followers, and follower/following ratio matter, because it’s how Twitter's arbitrary enforcement and Suspension/Banning of Right Wing Accounts gets amplified in a very clever way. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you had a 5 year old account, with 15K Followers, and were only Following 500 other accounts. You could get away with a lot of adversarial engagement before you would ever get caught by the Shadowban Penalty. As time goes on let’s say this purely hypothetical account gets Permanently Banned for tweeting a 100% accurate per capita racial crime statistic with a citation link to the FBI website. This person says screw you Twitter, and then sets up a brand new Twitter account, and goes back to adversarially engaging BlueCheckMark Journalists the exact same way they were before getting banned. However, now because it’s brand a new account, with less followers and an Inverted Follower/Following Ratio, it’s going to trip up the Shadowban Penalty almost immediately, limiting the visibility of their spicy memes, and depriving them of that hit of dopamine that comes from “Owning the Libs”. Twitter’s selective and arbitrary enforcement of the rules and account suspensions, forces problematic users to respawn into new accounts, which are much more likely to get Shadowbanned, depriving those users of the pleasure they get from using Twitter, making it much more likely they voluntarily stop coming back. Once you understand how and why the Shadowban Penalty is used you can start to think about ways to avoid it.(Return to Top)
How To Avoid Getting Shadowbanned
As we stated above Twitter uses Sentiment Analysis to look at the words in any given tweet and determine how “toxic” they are. Tweets and replies that are terse, confrontational, combative or are a direct challenge to another account are going to get a much higher “toxic” score, than tweets that are slightly vague and more sophisticated in their insults. For example this tweet is would be scored as “toxic”, and would definitely move your account one step closer to the Shadowban Penalty:
Hey moron that’s not what he said at all, why don’t you stop being a dumbass and read the article for a change.
Instead, you need to think of a less aggressive and less confrontational way to convey the same message, your vocabulary and tone really matter here.
You can experiment with this Online Sentiment Analysis Tool , if your score comes back as “positive” your language isn’t toxic, if your score comes back as “negative” it is toxic and is more like to activate the Shadowban Penalty.
I agree it’s a lot less fun tip-toeing around what you really want to say, but if you’re Shadowbanned no one else is seeing your spicy replies, what’s the point. My suggestion is to try to dial back the intensity of your tweets and use the Sentiment Analysis Tool before making a snappy reply, then use the Shadowban Tool after every tweet paying attention to what gets you Shadowbanned and what doesn’t. You’re going to have to do some experimenting and testing to find out what words work for your style of tweeting, but don’t get you Shadowbanned.
The next thing you need to do to avoid the Shadowban Penalty is realize when you are being engaged by Paid Shills and Attack Agents . Do not get into a back-and-forth argument with Paid Shills. Their goal is to intentionally say complete nonsense and try and piss you off. If you let them get under your skin, you’ll make an angry reply and they will have tricked you into Shadowbanning yourself. Your best strategy is to block them as soon as you see them. If you want to help out your friends, you can get their Twitter User ID and quote tweet their User ID with the hashtag below and I’ll add them to my Twitter Paid Shill Block List .
This article has more information about Paid Twitter Shills and Attack Agents .
The number of people following you has a direct effect on how much you can get away with before you get Shadowbanned. If you have multiple accounts, you should follow most of the same people in both accounts, this way when one of your accounts gets banned for pointing out that, No a woman really can’t have a penis, you can quickly build your followers back up by letting people know about your new account. Be sure to read my guide on for maintaining good operational security and not crossing the streams.
Getting above the 1000 Follower threshold is a milestone you really need to focus on if you’re going to do any hard core adversarial engagement. If your back-channel network can’t get you to that level, you’re going to need to be open to different options. I would never suggest that anyone violate Twitter’s Terms of Service and use a paid service where you can buy social media followers, but I have a close personal friend who does, and he thinks getting above 1000 followers is REALLY THAT IMPORTANT. He suggests using Google for a search term like buy twitter followers . He also suggests buying 1000 followers from two different services, choosing US followers if you can, and expecting to pay about $20-$30 per 1000 . You should be aware that Twitter will probably kill most of them every 6-8 months, to force you back into the high-risk part of the Shadowban Penalty, so you have to decide if you’re OK with that recurring expense or not.(Return to Top)
To wrap things up, understanding what Twitter’s goals are, and what activates the Shadowban Penalty really can help you learn to evade it. Twitter realizes they really can’t stop you from coming back on their platform if you want to come back. What Twitter wants to do is make it harder for you gain pleasure from what they consider “toxic conversations”. It’s up to you if you’re willing to adapt to their new rules and find a way to improvise, adapt, and overcome…(Return to Top)
The conclusions reached in this article were reached through empirical testing of multiple accounts over a sixty day timespan. Multiple experts with decades of experience in Adversarial Information Retrieval participated in performing the research. Reverse engineering an algorithm yields fuzzy results, so you should use them more as guidelines than hard rules.(Return to Top)