Hellbanning, shadowbanning or comment ghosting is a practice used by some online community managers for protecting a community against Internet trolls. The practice involves making a user invisible to all other users. From the hellbanned user's perspective, however, they seem to be participating normally in the community. The purpose of hellbanning is to make it impossible for other users to respond to a particular user by rendering their contributions invisible and thereby enforcing the community best practice of "not feeding trolls." It can be used to prevent trolls or malicious users from creating new accounts to continue trolling (often every type of ban is easy to avoid).
Software developer and Stack Overflow co-founder Jeff Atwood describes a theoretical use of hellbanning for Stack Overflow on his programming blog Coding Horror, explaining that when none of the hellbanned user's posts receives a response, he or she will be likely to become bored or frustrated and leave the site.
Hellbanning is similar to the practice known as selective invisibility, in which individual comments are rendered invisible to everyone except the poster in order to eliminate disruption they might otherwise cause. Hellbanning is sometimes also called "Coventry" or "ghost posting" or "shadowbanning."
Hell banning can be detected by opening a second browser window (such as Chromes incognito window) or by clearing cookies and navigating to the post to see if it is visible; if not, hellbanning may have occurred.
Craigslist has also been known to "Ghost" a user's individual ads, and reportedly their entire account. Although Craigslist is notoriously tight lipped about their methods of "Troll" and "Spam" prevention, there are a multitude of individual posts from users around the world that have reported and described this phenomenon in great detail. Reportedly an ad is placed, confirmation is sent that it has been posted. The ad may be viewed in the user's account, yet the ad if ghosted will fail to show up in the live listings.
The use of hellbanning has been interpreted by some lawyers as electronic communication tampering and for that reason many web administers have abandoned the practice.
- Leena Rao (May 18, 2013). "The Evolution of Hacker News". TechCrunch. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- Atwood, Jeff. "Suspension, Ban or Hellban?". Coding Horror blog. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- ohjessicamarie. "Hellbanning: The Banishment of Trolls and Other Subhumans (presentation deck)". Slideshare. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Thompson, Clive (29 March 2009). "Clive Thompson on the Taming of Comment Trolls". Wired magazine. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- "ENROLLED HOUSE BILL No. 5043".