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I was wondering how they know it is not a real thing: they use machine learning, they feed the content with all metadata in and then let some trained AI logic filter/prioritize it. If the learning algorithm has found that most people don't 'engage' with content from certain people, or with a certain type of content, it might filter it without being intentionally being programmed in, right?

Thats not really the same as shadowbanning though is it? What you've described isn't much different than you posting with few to no followers; its just being further enforced by the recommendation engine. But ultimately, hopefully, its still a reflection of the community's taste, and not the administration.

Shadowbanning is more of an explicit denial of the community taken by someone who doesn't represent the community, but rather the hosting service itself. It might align with community taste, but also might not.

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