What Is Instagram ‘Shadow Banning’ And Why Is It Happening To Plus Size Women?

Has Instagram found yet another way of censoring women's bodies?


As much as we love scrolling through snaps of avocado breakfasts and Harry Styles with a chicken, we know our beloved Instagram has a history with policing women’s bodies.

There’s the well-documented ‘free the nipple’ movement which came after Instagram deleted photos of female breasts, and the temporary 2015 embargo on photos tagged with ‘#curvy’ despite ‘skinny’, ‘thin’ and even ‘anorexia’ being allowed. Now the app faces a new controversy – the shadow banning of plus-size users.

First of all, let’s back up a few steps and answer one burning question: what the hell is a shadow ban?

As the name suggests, a shadow ban blocks people from using Instagram… but not completely. If you find yourself in Insta jail, you can still scroll through the app, but you’ll be limited as to how you can engage with the community. Your account will become virtually invisible to even those who follow you, and new users will have a hard time finding your latest upload from your girls trip to Barcelona because your tagged photos won’t appear in the hashtag search. Some users have even reported that they’ve been blocked from posting at all. Scandalous!

But a shadow ban sentence doesn’t come out of the blue. Basically, if you’re not complying with the terms and rules, Instagram will pop you in the naughty corner in a bid to make the community safe and authentic. In short, if they think you’re acting like a robot – you’re donezo. For example, using apps to act on your behalf is a big no-no; no one likes getting nonsensical comments from strangers on their photos that clearly come from a bot. Same goes for being too active (i.e. liking Every. Single. Post. on your timeline) or consistently posting content that gets reported.

However, apparently, the dreaded shadow ban isn’t just affecting those desperate for the likes. A number of plus-size models have come forward claiming they’ve been affected by the shadow ban simply for posting pics of their bodies.

Georgina Horne, a model, influencer and body positive activist with 194,000 Instagram followers recently wrote on her account:

I’ve defo been shadow banned on instagram – I can tell because my posts never make ‘top posts’ on hashtags with few posts, and my likes have vastly depleted. If I were a slim woman posting similar content then this wouldn’t happen. Fat bodies are being muted, and I’m not ok with that. I post content that I know for a FACT empowers and emboldens others, and yet because my body isn’t ‘perfect’, I’m given a disadvantage.

“The size 10 women showing how at some angles they have chins and a stomach roll get 468010k likes – because that’s acceptable. That’s temporary. My big fat body isn’t. And it’s punished.”


A similar thing happened to Instagram model and Femme FATales founder Carina Shero, who claims she was suddenly unable to post on her account, which was then deleted completely.

“Instagram has been silently terminating and shadow banning accounts that feature plus size and fat people that are unapologetic in showcasing their bodies in lingerie and sensual poses and are breaking the stereotypes around larger bodies,” said Carina in the petition to Instagram she started on change.org.

There’s been no comment from Instagram as of yet, but we hope to see a space on the internet where all bodies are accepted and celebrated.