Why Do So Many People Think TikTok and Instagram Are Banning Astrology?

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If you follow any astrologers, tarot readers, or zodiac meme accounts on social media, you’ve probably heard rumors about an alleged upcoming “ban” on astrology and tarot content. Over the past three days, social media posts warning of this so-called ban have been viewed tens of thousands of times.

Representatives for both Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) and TikTok told Cosmopolitan that their platforms are not banning astrology or tarot content, and that astrology and tarot content is welcome as long as it follows each platform’s community standards. A TikTok representative added that TikTok’s #astrology videos have over 32 billion views.

So where did this rumor come from? As several astrology and tarot professionals and organizations—including Whitney Hill and the Tarosophy Tarot Association—have pointed out, this seems to be a misunderstanding of a recent change in Meta’s policy regarding keyword targeting for paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram. (This doesn’t apply to TikTok, because TikTok is not owned by Meta.)

On November 9, 2021, Meta announced that beginning on January 19, 2022, the company would remove “Detailed Targeting options that relate to topics people may perceive as sensitive.” Specifically, this includes categories “referencing causes, organizations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation.” Existing ads will continue to run until March 17, 2022.

These changes don’t only affect astrology and tarot professionals. In the announcement, Meta names “lung cancer awareness,” “LGBT culture,” and “Jewish holidays” as three examples of sensitive keywords that can no longer be used in targeted advertising. In fact, the announcement doesn’t specifically mention astrology or tarot at all.

Some astrologers have already noticed these advertising changes going into effect. In January—she estimates it was “by January 21”—professional astrologer and intuitive tarot reader Kiara Stellar went to post an Instagram ad. When she tried to target the ad to people interested in categories like “astrology,” “horoscopes,” or individual zodiac signs, she got a notification reading, “Some interests are no longer available. Your audiences have been updated.”

However, Stellar found that she could reach Instagram users in other ways. “Honestly, I was really worried this was going to affect my business, but I started using other keywords related to personal development, and the ads worked just as well,” Stellar tells Cosmopolitan. “So, in the meantime, I haven’t been affected. I was also worried that this was going to escalate, like they were specifically targeting ‘witches,’ but I’m not so sure anymore since it’s to all religions, anything that they consider to be a ‘sensitive topic.’”

So why did this rumor blow up? To put it simply, many astrology and tarot professionals do not have a lot of trust in the tech world—and it’s easy to see why. For example, the tech company Stripe—which serves as the exclusive payments processor for platforms including Substack, Medium, Shopify, and Clubhouse—used to boot tarot readers and astrologers from their platform with no warning, due to a policy prohibiting “psychic services.” (Stripe changed this policy in November 2021 following an article by tarot reader and writer Meg Jones Wall in Wired).

And as Deborah Netburn reported for the L.A. Times in November 2021, scammers frequently impersonate astrologers and tarot readers on Instagram—particularly Black and brown practitioners. These scammers create copycat accounts and then DM the user’s followers, asking to ask them to pay for personalized readings.

Additionally, over the past two years, some astrologers and tarot readers have noticed their social media reach declining and blamed shadow-banning—meaning that they suspect social media platforms are limiting their posts’ visibility. But it’s impossible to say if this is due to shadow-banning or other factors such as unrelated changes to the algorithm (like Instagram introducing and promoting Reels), or a change in audience interest or habits (like people spending less time on social media as pandemic restrictions ease).

In a Twitter thread, author, astrologer, and digital marketing professional Whitney Hill wrote that Meta’s advertising policy change seems to be in response to concerns about “massive oversteps in data gathering” from tech companies, but added that astrologers and tarot readers should try to avoid an over-reliance on social media. “For those who are able to build an audience elsewhere, I do recommend considering alternatives to a social media-only presence,” Hill tells Cosmopolitan. “Beyond platform-driven changes, we’re also seeing accounts being hacked or impersonated. Loss of access to the social media account, identity, or promotional tools, for any reason, potentially means the loss of the hard work put into building content and audience. Having another platform, like a website, can be a form of risk mitigation.”

This is smart advice for people in any field—if the words “pivot to video” send a chill down your spine (raises hand), you know that relying on a single social media platform to bring you the vast majority of your audience can have disastrous consequences when that platform’s algorithm changes.

So no, there is no “astrology ban.” But if you really want to make sure you’re not missing any of your favorite astrologer’s or tarot reader’s content, signing up for their newsletter is always a good idea.

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