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Report Abuse

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To safeguard a thriving community, you must pay attention to any signals of abuse, and enabling your participants to flag abusive content helps the community moderate itself.


Any active successful social system online is subject to abuse. We know it will occur, so we need to have processes in place for identifying and mitigating it. People need a way to report it that isn't too inconvenient and doesn't require them to type in or restate information that we could glean from context.

In a growing community abuse reporting scales up faster than human beings can handle it, so an escalation strategy is needed to deal with the consequences of popularity.


The pattern can be used in places where users contribute content to the community and other users can access this content.


The experience of reporting abuse should be as simple and transparent as possible. Do not ask the user to enter data that could have been captured automagically. Make it clear to the user how the report will be handled, without overpromising, and then deliver the user cleanly back to the context they reported the abuse from. Where possible, immediately hide the reported content from the user who reported it.

1 Offer a Report Abuse link on any community-generated content (optionally include the standard flag icon). 2 Reporting abuse should take the user to a simple form 3 Abuse reports should be tracked as signals along with other evidence of abuse.

For highly granular user-generated content (such as a stream of vitality updates on a page), the Report Abuse affordance must be made available individually for each item, without overwhelming the page with a stream of Report Abuse links or little flags. See Report Abuse Inline for how to address this.

Report Abuse Link

Use consistent terminology for labeling the report link. Some sites prefer "Report Abuse" and other use "Flag."

Optional Icon

Optionally, include an consistent icon to mark the link for reporting abuse. (Reporting abuse is sometimes colloquially referred to as "flagging" abusive content, hence the iconic symbol for the abuse report button is a flag.) It should be easy for the user to spot a Report Abuse flag icon and click it to initiate the abuse reporting process.

  • Avoid the flag icon in contexts where it will conflict with existing terminology or symbols (as in Mail, where "flagging" a message indicates that it is important and not that it is abusive).
  • Likewise, if the icon doesn't suit the design, then use only the "Report Abuse" link text.
  • Do not use the icon without text. (OK to use text without icon.)

Abuse Report Form

  • Clicking the Report Abuse link should take the user to a form where they can select the type or nature of the abuse and optionally fill in more context.
  • The user should not be required to manually enter the relevant URL or page title or any other metadata we can glean from the source page.
  • If possible use an inline short form for people who are already signed in (they just choose from two categories - offensive or illegal - optionally make a comment, and they're done).
  • Signed out users will need a full page form where they can indicate how they can be contacted:


Submission of the form should generate a success message that does not promise any specific action, and then should return the reporting user to the original context where they initially started the abuse-reporting process, optionally hiding the offending content from them while the response to the report is pending.

Abuse Tracking

After a user submits an abuse report it must be reviewed by a customer care agent (unless a reputation system is in place to track signals of abuse).

As a sitescales up, additional considerations have to be factored into the abuse-reporting process:

1 Just provide a way for user to report abusive content and send the request to a support team for review. 2 Add priority to different requests by allowing users to choose whether this abuse violates community guideline or is illegal. 3 Take into consideration whether you should inform to original poster about the abuse report 4 Take into consideration whether an appeal mechanism should be provided


Providing users a standard way to report abusive content and behavior complements any algorithmic and behavioral signals of abuse gathered.

Related Patterns

As Seen On

  • Yahoo!
  • Craigslist
  • most social sites

Sources / Similar Patterns in Other Libraries

This pattern is based on the Report Abuse component pattern written by Micah Alpern and Christian Crumlish at Yahoo!