The Season of the Shadowban
A new, sneaky tool for making sure some voices are heard more than others.
Social Media is cornered by a few corporations that now set the rules for who is seen and heard and who is less so. Not silenced, per se, merely difficult to find. In a word – shadowbanned.
1) Their size and popularity
2) The following that often lays behind a controversial content creator.
A country is in many ways a platform for its citizens, and its citizens are always critical of that platform. Given the tens, if not hundreds of millions of users, social media platforms are subject to the same dynamic. Even the slightest change in the interface yields a response, the politest of which will question the attempt to fix something that does not need to be fixed. And much like in a country, the users feel entitled to their corner of the ocean; they have a sense of ownership of the page or channel that they run. Deleting it, in the minds of the users, is equivalent to the government burning your passport and saying that it is no longer legal for you to be here.
The cult of personality is a well-documented phenomenon that spans thousands of years. One would think we’ve cured ourselves of this tendency through years of bad experience with it. On the contrary, this aspect of human psychology has been turbocharged by selfies, vlogs, reviews, challenges, unboxings, lets-plays, and memes. Also by endless, majestically dank memes. Anyone who has an Instagram account, who hasn’t amassed (or isn’t looking to amass) a following, has a number of people they follow, aspire to, agree with, would like to meet, and, in some cases, will die for. YouTube hosts enough “a guy kicks hornets’ nest instant regret” videos to know what will happen if a beloved content creator is removed from their platform. The backlash can be so fierce, you’d have to send an executive to do a Joe Rogan podcast for some desperate damage control.
The shadowban addresses the problem rather simply – we put a fence around the creator and his following. No one gets in, nothing gets out. The undesirable creator can post as much as they want, and the faithful following will have that content come up in their feed. But the content and the channel are unsearchable. The undesirable is no longer found through a leisurely stroll through a hashtag, or a search feed or a trending section. Their stuff is like a product that is still being produced but is never in stock. Genius, isn’t it? Let’s see if it lasts.