Book banning and shadow banning.

Instagrams banned hashtags and their unfortunate banning of books

Written and Edited by: thepagegypsy and wizardylibrary

Censorship and books are, unfortunately, a very common duo. For years, the ALA has been working toward raising awareness on and fighting against the ever growing plea from individuals to have books removed from schools, libraries, and even edited to suit their needs should they find offense within the pages.

Many educators and advocates for education deem this a direct opposition to intellectual freedom. Books like, Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling, Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, and more recently, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by  Stephen Chbosky and Dead Poet’s Society, by N. H. Kleinbaum, have all found their place on those very lists opposing they be available to the public at all.

Outrage and determination fuel the literary community in what becomes a barrier to stop these books from becoming unavailable to the public.

The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as follows:


Literature, that is one thing. The actual book, or even the digital version on your tablet, is something we want to the choice to read, regardless of its genre or subject mater. But what if farther still, books were being banned in a digital way? What if, Instagram decided, that should you choose to use the hashtag for book or books in your photos of books, that your picture was as good as banned from any searches, including those of other hashtags?

Unfortunate, that is precisely the reason we are here. Instagram has hit its community of book obsessed individuals hard. Two of the most commonly used hashtags in the bookstagram community, have found themselves banned. For example, if your picture of Shakespeare’s, Macbeth, has only two hashtags, #books and #macbeth, a search of the term “macbeth” would come up empty on Instagram’s feed for that tag, all because of your use of the hashtag “books”.

Now, for the question on everyone’s minds. Why?

First, its called shadow banning.


But what is shadow banning?

Shadow banning is Instagram’s attempt to prevent content  which is against their terms of service. They do this by hiding your post from the people who aren’t following you.

What are the signs you are being shadow banned?

If you’ve noticed a decline in likes, followers, and comments; chances are you are being shadow banned. The best way to check if you are being shadow banned is by clicking a hashtag on your post, if you don’t see your picture on the hashtag feed, you are being shadow banned.

What are the reason you can be shadow banned?

If you use what Instagram considers to be a “broken hashtag”, you will be shadow banned. Broken hashtags are hashtags that Instagram blocks due to inappropriate content posted to them. 


Broken hashtags are an easy fix, you just simply have to remove the broken hashtag from your caption. After doing this your post should show up in all other hashtags.

Here is a list of other reasons you can be shadow banned;

  1. Using bots to like, comment, and boost engagement.
  2. Using software that’s against Instagram’s terms of service. Such as scheduling apps that post for you.
  3. Overusing hashtags.
  4. You’ve been reported.

How do you remove the shadow ban?

  1. Don’t use bots to grow your follower or to automate engagement. Engage with your community by putting in time and effort to leave meaningful comments.
  2. Avoid third party apps that don’t abide by Instagram’s terms of service.
  3. Mix up the hashtags you’re using make sure they are relevant to your content.
  4. Post less often or take a break from Instagram for a while.

For more information on shadow banning, and reference to the list above, click here. Continue reading for an interesting excerpt about the New York Public Library’s take on restricting the reading materials and access to them from the public at the bottom of the page.

For an extensive and R rated list of banned/broken Instagram hashtags click here.

Thank you for reading with us!

-thepagegyspy & wizardrylibrary


Editors Extra:

Here is an excerpt from and article from the New York Public Library (click here for the article) which elaborates further, and gives a bit more depth, on the differences between challenging a book and banning them:

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.”


It may hard to differentiate between banning a means to search literature, and literature itself when it comes to books and Instagram, but the differences are there. Unfortunately, our right to post photos of books, and the right to utilize those search options through hashtags, in a means to boost our profiles through algorithms, means that others may do the same, even if their content may bring ours down by an unrelated association.

(click here for a list of all frequently challenged books as accumulated by the American Library Association)

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