Shadow banning (also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting) is the act of blocking a user or their content from an online community such that it will not be readily apparent to the user that they have been banned.
By making a user’s contributions invisible or less prominent to other members of the service, the hope may be that in the absence of reactions to their comments, the problematic or otherwise out-of-favor user will become bored or frustrated and leave the site.
Instead of kicking someone off, shadow bans make a person’s post visible only to the user who created it. The idea is to protect others from harmful content while eventually prompting the shadow-banned user to voluntarily leave the forum due to a lack of engagement.
If you outright ban a user, the thinking goes, the person is aware of it and will likely just set up another account and continue the offending behavior.
In a study that looked at tweets from 2014 to early 2015, over a quarter million tweets were found during the one year period in Turkey to have been censored via shadow banning. Twitter was also found, in 2015, to shadowban tweets containing leaked documents in the US. In January and July of 2018, in response to allegations of shadow banning Twitter’s legal and product leads stated that Twitter does not shadowban accounts