Facebook Marketplace is shadowbanning me
December 30, 2021 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I sell a lot of random stuff on Facebook Marketplace. The algorithm has stopped showing my listings, I think to convince me to start paying to "boost" my listings. What can I do?

I mostly sell outgrown kids' stuff, clothing, housewares, and occasionally a tool or car part. I think I'm a model user:
I have about 10 active listings right now, across several categories.
My outside price range is $5-200; usually around $30.
I mark things as Sold promptly, and Renew posts when allowed. I also change my prices by a few dollars sometimes to re-boost a stale post.
I tag most posts with about 20 related brand names and items, in a little list marked "Tags" at the bottom of the ad.
I occasionally get a listing declined because the algorithm counts certain baby items, like kangaroo carriers, as medical devices, but beyond that, I don't sell anything problematic.
My "seller profile" has about 30 ratings, with an average score of 4.7 / 5.
I buy a lot of stuff as well, usually kid stuff, a couple items a week.
I usually have pleasant interactions with other sellers & buyers.
My prices are reasonable and my listings are accurate & detailed with great photos.
I'm a very experienced online seller, so usually when the system is working, each of my posts would get about 1-5 inquiries and I'd sell the item within a week.

Marketplace is hugely dependent on the algorithm- when it decides to play nice I'll get like 30 requests on a single item. When it shadowbans me, I'll get zero messages. Sometimes it shows items in waves so an item will be ignored for days and then flooded for a day, and then ignored again. I can see the number of views each post gets, and sometimes they show up as zero even after a well-SEO'd post has been up for weeks.

Lately ALL my posts are being hidden, so they don't get any views. And now I get a lot of prompts to "boost" my posts for a few dollars, but I don't want to do that. So I think FB is trying to stop my sales to force me to pay them to be able to sell!

Anyone know what I can do to change the way the algorithm sees me?
posted by nouvelle-personne to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This probably won’t help with the algorithm side, but you could post your listing to local buy/sell groups if you’re not already. Once you’ve joined the groups, Marketplace makes this very easy — it prompts you at the end of writing your listing and you can check the boxes next to the groups you want to post to.
posted by mekily at 3:39 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

New FB profile?
posted by danceswithlight at 4:36 PM on December 30, 2021

Complain to your Congressperson about Facebook's extortionate tactics and CC a bunch of copies to Facebook addresses as well as prominent critics of Facebook and see what happens.
posted by jamjam at 4:50 PM on December 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

That is just the fundamental grift of FB. It bills itself as a platform in which we should invest our time, and for which we should create content, because what we post will be shared with the world. In fact, it only wants us and our content to drive its advertising business. We are hamsters on Zuck's treadmill. It is what it is.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:10 PM on December 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are a lot of threads on Reddit (particularly on /r/flipping) from people who've been shadowbanned on FB Marketplace.

One theory is that it may be caused by using certain prohibited words in your listing. Of course, FB doesn't disclose what those words are—the user speculates that the price, plus the words "major league", may have tripped some algo designed to detect ticket scalping. But it's just a guess.

Another common theory is that posting an average of more than one item a day will get you shadowbanned. But a lot of the evidence for this comes from people who are doing semi-shady stuff anyway, so take with a grain of salt.

People selling animal care equipment have reported shadowbans as well, presumably because of some automated system believing that they're selling live animals (which FB prohibits).

There is essentially no recourse, because Facebook doesn't give a shit. They are accountable to no one, and I would absolutely not put it beyond them to have just modeled your behavior and decided that based on your pattern of Marketplace posts, you're dependent enough on them to be ripe for a little extortion upselling. (If you have 10 items up at a time for an average of $30, and the average listing stays up for 4 days until sold, you're moving something like... $2200/mo? That's enough juice to potentially be worth the squeeze, especially when the squeeze is fully automated.)

Unless you have pull inside FB, there is very likely nothing you can do. Some people describe the bans as magically going away after a few days, others seem to imply that they're permanent and even follow them from account to account. Fun times.

I'd try Craigslist instead, or see if you can make the numbers work to ship items and use eBay (who charge fairly steep fees, but at least they're upfront about it). See if there are any actual email-based mailinglists left in your area that are OK with buy/sell posts.

It is possible that by splitting your selling activity across multiple accounts, you could fly under the radar for longer. However, there are lots of ways to correlate users across accounts (this would fall pretty squarely into detecting "inauthentic" behavior, which FB has spent a lot of money and time on) so I'd venture that the other accounts would need to be real ones, not fake ones you create just for selling. You'd pretty much need to get your friends or family to be your reverse-smurfs, which would involve them potentially getting shadowbanned from Marketplace as well.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:32 PM on December 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

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