What we learnt in Instagram Jail

I’ll tell you – absolutely nothing, Instagram, and in turn Facebook, hold all the cards and play by their rules, rules that we don’t know about, yet must follow.  – while Facebook shrugs at it when questioned.

Here we are again, running our profile, picking up followers, we were on our way to closing in at 7000 followers and then we tripped right over and fell into Instagram jail, not for a week or two as others seem to suggest be the norm, we were in for 18 days of Instagram jail.

Back in April, all of the sudden found ourselves in the Instagram penalty box as our hashtags were shadow banned for two weeks. What we did: we spent our time, keeping on. Which is again is how we found ourselves for 18 days with only receiving a follower or two a day and our profile visits dropped sixty percent.


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It was June 4th, I remember the day well as I picked up my device for an afternoon Instagram session to check things out, I found that I was Action Blocked when attempting to add followers. I could like and comment, post images and add my story, yet one thing was sure, there was no way to add followers.



After eliminating a few possibilities, we did some research to find out that its a short term issue – maybe an hour or two and which initially thought was a 24 hour ban. Finally after 48 hours, we were messaging support to find out what’s happening to our account. It least we were not deleted.

Everyday a support ticket went out asking for assistance in why we were Action Blocked and when will it be lifted, which I’m still waiting on replies.

Instagram support is just an automated illusion, I’m not sure there really is anyone at the other end and I’ll tell you why I think that later on.


I still wanted to know why we were in jail and what could we do to get the ban lifted. As fate would have it, Facebook came to Toronto. 


We understand that our cannabis profile is the bottom of the priority list as we’re not paying clients with no future insight that we ever will be. I’m not surprised that there’s no contact on their part, yet we remained loyal and active to them because when its all said and done, Instagram works for us.

I went to Instagram groups, spoke to some other like-minded folks about the situation and suggestions took the form of – it should be lifted any day now, that 18 days was a long long time I should have a backup account and maybe stumbled onto a algorithm and was penalized for it. These nice non-helpful discussions made me realize that even industry experts – didn’t know any more than I did. In fact, about two weeks in jail, did I find out that Instagram did an update over the 4th and 5th and many accounts were affected and were sharing the same issues.

There are instances in the Instagram cannabis space that competitors or simply people not enjoying profiles will report them. Its more common than we think and doesn’t get talked about openly.


I walked away scratching my head, our ban did not stop us from creating fresh content to keep our current community satisfied. 


I still wanted to know why we were in jail and what could we do to get the ban lifted. Now at the end of June, as fate would have it, Facebook came to Toronto for their Boost with Facebook workshops. Which is basic training to have posts or ads seen to more users using various Facebook tactics.

The Boost with Facebook event itself was a well branded one and knew how to keep people at the event and not leaving it. After the workshops I took myself to their Brand Awareness booth which showcased, Instagram.

After speaking to the resident Instagram expert, asking some nitty gritty questions about their platform, I finally went into how we were Action Blocked. This expert did not even know what it was, good thing that screenshot, seen above, came in handy and went onto explain my predicament and how I’m getting zero support responses from Instagram. The two likely scenarios is that either they thought the account was a bot or more likely the account was reported. If they responded to my support tickets, they would know were not a bot. Then realizing I was monopolizing their time, they asked me to go the Solutions booth for clarity, which I did.

The Solutions booth, is a help desk with laptops in hand they were able to chat with someone at the Instagram offices. I was thrilled, finally I would get answers. Well, I did get one answer, one general answer – the action block was “user-initiated.”

After asking what user-initiated meant, their Facebook -lingo are to be that the action was from a user, not from the Instagram software itself, so without them actually stating what or why, I’m walking away still scratching my head.


There are still some questions that needed answers that I was not going to get without flying myself down to California and walk onto Facebook campus. Come to think of it, I will be in the area in a couple of weeks, maybe I should just show up  – would that be user-initiated or not?