Twitter and the SPN Family: Fighting the Shadows

Apr 4 • Blog • 1091 Views • 6 Comments on Twitter and the SPN Family: Fighting the Shadows

There’s a problem in social media, and it’s nothing to do with Facebook, Russians or elections.

Supposedly in an attempt to catch bots and cyber scams, Twitter has been using something commonly referred to as a “shadow ban.” A shadow ban is when your account is still active, but suddenly your replies and likes don’t go anywhere: the person you’re trying to talk to never gets a notification, or perhaps only gets a mobile push notification that, if missed, disappears in an instant, never to be seen again.

They aren’t new: they’ve been around for several years. From the best information I could find, it’s not done by human hands, but accounts are caught in an algorithm that picks up the use of too many of the same hashtag, repeated tweets saying the exact same (or almost the same) thing, posting too many links, responding to only a few people, or “liking” or replying too quickly. All of those are supposed to be potential signs of a bot. The idea seems to be that a legitimate person will understand, and change their behavior, while a bot will not.

But here’s the problem with that theory: shadow bans aren’t supposed to exist. There is nothing in the Twitter help menu about it, they will not respond to questions regarding it. So it’s next to impossible for a legitimate human account to know how to change their ways to make Twitter’s automatons happy.

In the past year or so I’ve become actively involved with the fandom surrounding the television show Supernatural, known amongst themselves as the “SPN Family.” And despite some of the infighting that happens in any fandom group, overall I’ve found them to be extremely supportive and really deserving of the “family” name.

I can’t say for certain why it is, as there are a multitude of possible reasons, but it does seem like many in the SPN Family are dealing with various mental health issues, and are more willing than most to discuss it openly, and as such, social media such as Twitter have provided a life line for many.

However, in the past few weeks it seems like the SPN Family has been hit – and HARD – by shadow banning. No one knows why exactly, and no one knows why some get unbanned, and then almost immediately get hit again. Some are freed in a day or two, some are still banned weeks after they first discovered it.

And no one outside of our little family is talking about it.

The shadow banning has brought out the best in the SPN Family – they’ve drawn together, created Twitter lists to be able to still “see” each other a little more easily, started group DM chats for those shadow banned to still have contact with their support system. But it shouldn’t be happening. AT ALL. Twitter is supposed to be a “social” media, and while this banning is happening, they are afraid to even interact for fear of “infecting” someone else. They worry that they can’t support the show they love in its quest for social media ratings. They are talking about leaving Twitter entirely. Despite all best efforts to keep people’s spirits up, they are feeling isolated, and alone, and depressed. And Twitter won’t even acknowledge the problem.

I went online, looking for some kind of article – anything that would talk about what was happening. But there was nothing. So this is my attempt to shine a little bit of light into the shadows, so that maybe someone with enough influence will be able to get our SPN Family some help from above. Of course, that’s if we’re not all too scared to share the link in the first place.

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6 Responses to Twitter and the SPN Family: Fighting the Shadows

  1. I have been blocked for 3 weeks and now I have been depressed because the few people who have helped me have been cut off and I feel lost

    • Cynthia says:

      I’m so sorry, Roger. That’s why I wanted to write this, in hopes that someone who has some influence might end up seeing it. I really don’t know how many people realize just how much of a support network people have through social media 🙁

  2. Katie says:

    It’s been happening to fans of Timeless, too, and we’ve been talking about it for about 2 weeks. We’ve been using some of the same tools you name, such as lists and DMs. But there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how quickly some escape the shadow while others languish. Twitter’s response to it is all over the map. It’s depressing, confusing and maddening, especially when we’re trying like crazy to get Timeless renewed.

    • Cynthia says:

      I LOVE Timeless, too, and I’m sorry to hear it’s happening to the Clockblockers as well. I don’t think it’s a problem just affecting the SPN Family – I think it’s much more wide spread, but for some reason no media is picking it up. I’m just hoping that in some small way this post might help get some attention on the issue.

  3. Tara Martinsen says:

    I have been shadowbanned since Friday. And it’s killing me. I don’t have anybody now. I have an extremely small social group in ‘real life.’ Pretty much non-existent. I am always afraid that people don’t like me and don’t want me around. This ban is destroying any small security I had managed to build up after the worst (adult) year of my life. I was finally not thinking horrible thoughts about myself 24/7. And I don’t know what to do. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if we knew why and how long it will last, you know?
    Thank you for this article…as much as this all sucks…I am selfishly glad I’m not alone.

    • Cynthia says:

      Tara, I’m so sorry. I wish that I could do more. So far I’ve been lucky, but I’ve heard from so many people who haven’t been, and I just want to try and help in some small way. My email is always open – cynthia at cynthiahillbooks dot com. Stay strong! AKF: we will keep fighting to get this fixed!

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