Instagram Restrict: How to "Shadowban" Haters With Instagram's New Features

Tools for teens could prove useful for many on the platform.

Unsplash / Kendra Kamp

The hater from high school that’s always posting passive aggressive (or outright mean) comments on your ‘gram is about to get a lot less annoying, no awkward confrontation required.

That’s because Instagram is launching new features aimed at making the platform nicer, including the ability to shadowban accounts you don’t want to engage with. The functions are to curb bullying on the platform, but will undoubtedly serve general audiences as well.

The developments were announced Monday in a blog post, but were first floated publicly by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri in a June 26 interview. Feedback must have been positive, according to Instagram’s blog post the new features are set to roll out in the near future.

Teens, Instagram notes, are less likely to report online bullying even as they are the ones who experience it the most on the platform. But while these new tools may be aimed at teens, they will hopefully help everyone in the Instagram community, specifically by making it easier to silence people that, well, just suck.

Instagram Shadowbans: A Step-by-Step Guide

Shadowbanning is a term that gets thrown around a lot, frequently by dubious ideologues who think their posts are being censored on social media. To be fair, it can be a bit confusing, as shadowbanned users have no way of knowing they’ve been shadowbanned beyond the suspicion that a given post “should” be getting more engagement.

"Essentially, you’ll be operating in the shadows, but only when it comes to this specific jerk.

But with Instagram, the feature solves a notable problem, which is that people in the Instagram community are reluctant to block, unfollow, or report bad actors or bullies because it could “escalate the situation, especially if they interact with their bully in real life,” according to Instagram. The reluctance to report is even more prevalent among teens, who are also the demographic that experiences the most bullying, according to Instagram’s blog post.

Screenshots of Instagram's "Restrict" feature being enacted. 


Restrict: How It Works

Instagram’s version of shadow banning is a new feature called Restrict. If you Restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You won’t be able to see them, nor will anyone else.

There will be some other moderation abilities as well. Users will have the ability to make a Restricted person’s comments visible to other people, but only by approving them. Once you Restrict someone, they also won’t be able to see when you’re active on Instagram, or if you’ve read their direct messages. Essentially, you’ll be operating in the shadows, but only when it comes to this jerk.

The process to Restrict someone is fairly straightforward. When you go to report a comment, in that same popup, you’ll have the ability to click “Restrict”. After that, the aforementioned limitations should go into effect.

Instagram Shadowbans: Tips and Tricks

Not only can teens use this on bullies, but it’s another way for users to stop trolls or others who may spam their accounts with negative comments. Additionally, it could help keep fraudulent accounts from being able to target you, if you get to set limits on how they interact with you.

But there are still flaws and ways around these measures, as with any system.

In this instance, teens who want to bully others create fake accounts solely for the purpose of bullying their victim, notes a previous report from the The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz.

Instagram app on a smartphone. 

Unsplash / Luke van Zyl

Because of this, even with the Restrict feature, it may be hard for teens, not to mention others, to tamp down the bullying or other bad behavior in their feed. It could end up as a game of digital whack-a-mole, with new accounts replacing restricted ones.

It’s a good tool, but one that will be challenged by the imagination of the people it’s meant to address. Such is the internet.

Instagram Anti-Bullying Features Aimed at Bullies

Instagram is also introducing features aimed at bullies, not just the bullied. Specifically, Instagram says that it has already begun to roll out an A.I. that tells people when their comment may be considered offensive, before it is even posted.

This gives people a chance to pause and decide whether they really want to post this. Think of it as a very condensed, automated version of the rule for sending an angry email, which is wait at least a few hours or days before doing so.

Instagram's new AI notification feature asks if you really want to post a comment. 


“From early tests of this feature, we have found that it encourages some people to undo their comment and share something less hurtful once they have had a chance to reflect,” states Adam Mosseri in the blog post.

If the roll out goes well, these features will hopefully find future homes in Facebook, which owns Instagram, and which has content moderation issues of its own. In the meantime, they’ll help Instagram be more reactive, and give users much-needed additional control when it comes to locking down their accounts.