What happens when you report abuse on Facebook?

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Social networks

If you encounter abusive content on Facebook, do you press the "Report abuse" button?

Facebook has lifted the veil on the processes it puts into action when one of its 900 million users reports abuse on the site, in a post the Facebook Safety Group published earlier this week on the site.

Reporting abuse on Facebook

Facebook has four teams who deal with abuse reports on the social network. The Safety Team deals with violent and harmful behaviour, Hate and Harrassment tackle hate speech, the Abusive Content Team handle scams, spam and sexually explicit content, and finally the Access Team assist users when their accounts are hacked or impersonated by imposters.

Facebook User Operations teams

Clearly it's important that Facebook is on top of issues like this 24 hours a day, and so the company has based its support teams in four locations worldwide - in the United States, staff are based in Menlo Park, California and Austin, Texas. For coverage of other timezones, there are also teams operating in Dublin and Hyderabad in India.

According to Facebook, abuse complaints are normally handled within 72 hours, and the teams are capable of providing support in up to 24 different languages.

If posts are determined by Facebook staff to be in conflict with the site's community standards then action can be taken to remove content and - in the most serious cases - inform law enforcement agencies.

Facebook has produced an infographic which shows how the process works, and gives some indication of the wide variety of abusive content that can appear on such a popular site.

The graphic is, unfortunately, too wide to show easily on Naked Security - but click on the image below to view or download a larger version.

Facebook reporting guide. Click to view large version of infographic

Of course, you shouldn't forget that just because there's content that you might feel is abusive or offensive that Facebook's team will agree with you.

As Facebook explains:

Because of the diversity of our community, it's possible that something could be disagreeable or disturbing to you without meeting the criteria for being removed or blocked. For this reason, we also offer personal controls over what you see, such as the ability to hide or quietly cut ties with people, Pages, or applications that offend you.

To be frank, the speed of Facebook's growth has sometimes out-run its ability to protect users. It feels to me that there was a greater focus on getting new members than respecting the privacy and safety of those who had already joined. Certainly, when I received death threats from Facebook users a few years ago I found the site's response pitiful.

I like to imagine that Facebook is now growing up. As the website approaches a billion users, Facebook loves to describe itself in terms of being one of the world's largest countries.

Real countries invest in social services and other agencies to protect their citizens. As Facebook matures I hope that we will see it take even more care of its users, defending them from abuse and ensuring that their experience online can be as well protected as possible.

We would be interested in hearing about your experiences when you report abusive content to Facebook. Were you happy with Facebook's reponse? Join the discussion on our Facebook page

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59 Responses to What happens when you report abuse on Facebook?

  1. Kirk · 1200 days ago

    I figured nothing happens. I always thought it just tells me what I want to hear and then blocks the "abuse" from my eyes. That seems more in line with Facebook's mission of sharing information while satisfying the complaints of a diverse population.

    • Valerie Sims · 574 days ago

      Why is it they are not removing hate mail, when they say they dont allow it. For example "i hate midgets they scare the piss out of me" it has the word hate in the title, yet they dont see it necessary to remove it. Can someone answer please. If you are a person affected by dwarfism or have a child affected (around 60 are born a year to average height parents) then this is very hurtful to see this. If someone can help me in what I can do other than reporting I would be grateful.

    • Ellenhatesfacebook · 169 days ago

      I recently deactivated my Facebook account after an extremely embarrassing and inappropriate Photograph of myself went viral.
      I'd like to share my story as I felt that Facebook did nothing to help me and I was very distressed at the time.

      My name is Ellen and I'm from Ireland, I am currently preparing for my final exams in school.
      Last week, I went out to town with a friend of mine and we went to a popular nightclub in Galway - Carbon.
      That night a photographer at the club took a photo of myself and a young man, in that photograph we are kissing and for what ever reason the young man has his phone out and is looking at it (It looks a lot worse than it sounds)
      That evening, the nightclub put the photograph up on their Facebook page and it began to get thousands and thousands of likes.
      The photograph then began to be shared all over the internet, being sent to various websites and within three days of it being posted online - it was safe to say it had gone completely viral.
      Completely panicked and distraught, I started reporting the photograph everywhere it turned up, reporting various users who were sharing it but nothing happened.
      People had started tagging me in the pictures, horrible comments were being left on the photos and I couldn't handle it anymore so I deactivated my Facebook account.
      I recently turned eighteen years old, I am still a student at secondary school and this has absolutely humiliated me and destroyed my confidence.
      The next day back at school I had people pointing at me, whispering about me, EVERYONE HAD SEEN IT.

      Over a week later and Facebook has still done nothing and Im am still the butt end of jokes.

      Try living with this as an eighteen year old.

  2. I actually wish that Facebook would be more aggressive with some of the reports. I've had issues with impersonation and hate acts, and Facebook was slow to handle the requests.

    I mean eventually the imposter profiles were removed, but it took a bit too long. I can tell you though, that porn usually is removed first and almost immediately. It doesn't stay up for very long.

  3. els · 1180 days ago

    What about those "heartwarming" and heavily Liked photos, like Subway's free subs for homeless on Fridays, Old married couples (there are several), and baby and grandma hands, Like if you hate bullying, etc,, that are little more than wholesome fronts for luring the young.
    A simple check of the comments (with further comments disabled, of course, lest the critical ones become buried) shows "Like if you see your age" then lists numbers starting with 11.

  4. Richard Foley · 1171 days ago

    Interesting graphic. I notice there is no procedure in place for objecting to a "ban" or a "block". So it's a one-way street. Whoever gets their report against you in first, wins.

    • Pastor Rick · 732 days ago

      I am in that boat now, blocked for friend requests with no access to FB for 7 days! The only requests I sent out were to my family and a few of my church members. Sad to say there is no option except to wait it out...

    • Anonymous · 677 days ago

      I agree

  5. kjn9 · 1137 days ago

    The Facebook reporting system requires that a complaint belongs to one of a number of categories, shown in the flow chart. What do you do when your complaint is about something different?

    I tried to report a post that was in contempt of court (with the possibility of heavy fines for Facebook), because it made adverse comments about a man who is awaiting trial in the UK. This example did not fit any of the radio-button options in the Facebook complaints pop-up, there was no "other" button, and there was nowhere to explain why the post was problematic. In the end, I had to log out and use the form-to-mail that Facebook offers for complaints from people who do not have a Facebook account.

    Now you've explained that different types of abuse are handled by different teams, I am not hopeful that any of them will deal with this complaint.

    The last thing Facebook wants is to give out email addresses and receive messages like mine. If each member sends an email to Facebook once every three years, Facebook employees would need to process nearly a million messages every day.

    • michaelzwilliamson · 889 days ago

      They can't be fined for allowing someone to post information. If someone graffitis a building, the owner is not at fault.

      Also, they are a US company, so no one gives a crap what the UK thinks about the process (and I speak as a former Brit).

      Any complaint you have about the poster in that context should be taken up with relevant authorities, naming that poster, not FB.

  6. Facebook allowed people to post nudity pictures and that should not be ok at all, there is many young Facebook users who sees naked pictures and others who does not want Facebook account because of that!!!! Facebook need to have a clean system and not allow anyone to post naked picture or any nudity things! Fix this problem as soon as possible, so that we may continue to communicate with friends and family without worry about stupid post that does not belong there!

    • Jay · 806 days ago

      AMEN; Facebook seems to be turning into Victoria's Secret and XXX rated shots.
      This should not be!!!

      • Alice · 754 days ago

        I agree. I came across a pornographic profile by mistake, because the person had the same name of a friend of mine I was searching. I've reported it and nothing has been done, so I've done it again and facebook just sent me an automatic message saying they received my report. The profile is still there! I'm very disappointed, as you said, I can't imagine a child seeing those disgusting photos!

        • Erin · 702 days ago

          I am in the same boat. I can't imagine a child finding these images. I reported it and all the images are still up. Even in sexual acts. Completely pornographic. this is what our world is coming to.
          I believe they get a cut back since you can pay to have your images pushed into mainstream.

        • dr lady P · 254 days ago

          You may have selected the wrong action to be taken. I reported pornography and nude pictures with the request for FB staff to review vs. block or defriend user. The complaint was addressed within a few hours and removed from the page.

    • software robot · 600 days ago


  7. Seeking help · 1056 days ago

    Does anyone know if Facebook will search the archive of a poster? My daughter is being harassed by someone posting about her & then taking it down before she has the ability to report.

    • frustrated · 1025 days ago

      I'm trying to find out how you can file a complaint also when this happens. I was going to mail a letter directly to the office but can't find a mailing address.

      • fb bites · 107 days ago

        It should be at the very bottom of the contact information page in the Help section.

    • Jenny · 894 days ago

      I would be cursious to know if anything can be done with similar problem. Daughter was threatened, that she would be harmed, in to sending a young boy a nude picture (top half) and she innocently did. A couple of months later he posted it on facebook, a friend of mine saw it, by the time we decided to report it, it was taken down. I am so so angry with myself as I am almost always vigilant in keeping an eye on her facebook, friends etc. Is there anyway we can back track and recover this data/photos.

      • Angry Guy · 526 days ago

        Assuming she was underage at the time of the incident you should go to the police if you haven't done so already. It doesn't matter that a year has passed, they take child pornography very seriously, and will send facebook a subpoena to surrender evidence, if that's even needed. If you upload something on facebook and then take it down, it stays on facebook's servers for this exact reason (To be passed along to authorities who ask for it, legally or illegally. This is terrible in general, but in this case it's good.). Why just get him banned from facebook when you can serve true justice?

        The guy who uploaded the picture dug his own grave there, considering the following:

        1)If you post anything on facebook, it will be kept on a nice and cozy spot on facebook's servers until the end of facebook, just waiting to be handed over to the police when the right time comes.
        2)Cops love child pornography cases. They are just perfect for them, since they get to make a show that they are helping the community, cracking down on crime and helping the children, without taking any significant risks (Compare the danger of arresting a child pornographer with the danger of arresting a heroin dealer. How many perverted 15 year olds opening fire on the police have you heard of?)
        3)With crimes such as child pornography, the police are forced to press charges on their own, so you don't have to worry about legal fees and such.

        But if you want to make the retaliation even better (and I highly recommend it), you can threaten to sue for emotional distress, the extortion of your daughter, and to really drive the point home and make him cry in his bed, wait for it, infringement of your daughter's copyrights (This probably won't hold up in court, but they don't need to know that. We are talking about extrajudicial proceedings here, and it's not illegal to sue or threaten to sue someone for something that won't hold up in court). This will probably be too much for the punk's parents, so you will get a very nice settlement out of the whole ordeal. You could take your daughter on an all expenses covered vacation to Disney World, sponsored by that kid's parents.

        And if there was anything mentioning or implying death in the boy's threats, that's another bonus you can use inside and outside of court.

        It doesn't really matter if you are in the US or not, the basic concepts here apply everywhere in the western world.

  8. http://www.ripoffreport.com/computer-programmers/... many complaints can be found on this site about odesk employees not doing their jobs. Personally it should be facebook employees who do the jobs and follow the terms to the T. photoshopping is not allowed supposedly so why are there pictures of a 5 year old sick girl all over facebook that have been reported over and over and still not removed? Then, let's take the alltime report, Mark Fuckerberg which mocks facebook CEO mark zuckerberg. With that page up there, it kinds tells you that facebook is NOT serious about combatting abuse like their recent big public media show.

  9. Angela · 1018 days ago

    I have just watched a video of a man beating up his 1 year old son and it looks like the mother is filming this. There is also another sibling in the house. I have reported this video on facebook but how do I know if this was investigated and not just removed.

    • Sydney · 914 days ago

      That's horrific! I similarly just reported a video of a woman beating a baby. I'm pretty shaken up about having seen that.

      To see the information on your report go to Account Settings > Support Dashboard (located on the left hand panel once in Account Settings). There you can see pending requests and resolved complaints. With the resolved complaints it gives you information as to what was done about your complaint.

      Hope this helps. I also hope that facebook did in fact follow up on the video.

  10. john · 931 days ago

    hey what if a post of me haveing sex was posted , yes I knew it was filmed but then she posted it on internet , is that legal

    • sad fb · 670 days ago

      lesson learnt mate, never do that again. sorry.

    • software robot · 600 days ago

      yeah yew can report it...jus like cyber crimes..n one thing more man,donot do ths shameful act again

  11. Of course, you shouldn't forget that just because there's content that you might feel is abusive or offensive that Facebook's team will agree with you.

  12. Jayvee · 894 days ago

    Facebook has destroyed many peoples lives - IT should be destroyed. Absolute worst invention that has ever and will ever, come into ours and anyones lives. I have nothing but hatred for the social media. Many many beautiful people have had their lives totally turned around because of it. Many many beautiful people have lost their lives because of it.

    Our family has deleted all facebook accounts and we are slowly spreading the word and encouraging others to follow!!

    • mister marmot · 877 days ago

      That's the funniest damned thing I've read on this website...

      • cher · 788 days ago

        No it's not things like this happen and facebook should be held accoutable we have several friends and myself who have complained it is cruel and unfair if not changed will be contacting RCMP next ridiculous facebook why can someone fraudulently put up someone elses name and pic and do nothing?????

    • cher · 788 days ago

      i am starting to agree i can't believe a viscious x is aloud to create a facebook about my friend and spread lies and they won't take the site down they just block it from the person complaining it is his picture and her potty mouth noone seems to care that this can cost someone their reputation and job which can lead to other things like depression and anger we even reported with his ID and all wish someone could help with this issue but noone from facebook seems to care he doesn't want to ask anymore friends to help and ended his facebook a long time ago when his x was aloud to post lies and cost him his relationship with his kids. why is it facebook is not protecting people who don't want it, or being frauded?? someone's job and future is at stake please help.

    • ssttuuky · 768 days ago

      Good luck with that.... The benefits in being connected significantly outweighs all the abuse to it. In the end all social media and its uses by participants are voluntary. You did exactly what you should do and removed yourself. You found it harmful and removed yourself. I monitor my children's accounts for the same reason and have rules related to what they can or can't do on it (same if I take them to a mall). I can tell you that my world has been significantly improved by Facebook. The reconnection with old schoolmates... the forum to organize family events, etc. I've been on social media since myspace started and have yet encountered anything negative except for the friend or family member who had radically different ideas then my own... that isn't abuse that is life.

    • Ivan · 720 days ago

      But you're on here commenting on this?! Hmmmmm

    • Anonymous · 480 days ago

      I agree totally!!

  13. Sarah · 889 days ago

    Well I was recently harrassed by a guy who used my pictures n turned them into vulgar ones. I reported him n I'm so scared of my society now. I deleted my account n never wish to be in such a situation ever again. Since I'm absent on d site I also fear dat he might use my picture n make fake accounts n deface me...all in all I'm a scared wreck at present....so help plz?

  14. Sam · 880 days ago

    Someone took a pic of me and made a vulgar graphic and is sharing it around but every time I report it to facebook it says the author of the content has removed it. But it is still there. How do they not see it? Do these hackers ban FB IPs? Its ridiculous!

  15. Property Investment · 823 days ago

    Hey, I think there is need a lot improvement in Abuse portion. I complaint some nudity on my cousin wall.. but FB didn't respond. FB ruining lives.

  16. caleb · 810 days ago

    I've reported a group to facebook for sexually explicit pictures over a dozen times. they rarely get back to me. and they say they found nothing wrong with the group even though the top statuses were pics of nasty ass girls showing everything. It is NOT facebooks top priority to take care of a group. also im a minor so im pretty sure its against some sort of law to allow minor to see this. I left the group but it doesn't change the fact that its a problem. It clearly violates the terms and agreements. yet facebook does NOTHING. Please explain that. Please.

  17. why does facebook not comment or chime-in on here ?

    • It's because they know they're little shit heads and are probably proud of it. Even the little power of administrator can get to someone's head. In every game I ever played the administrators abused the community because they could. What makes you think this won't happen on social media too?

  18. "This photo wasn't removed

    Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for containing nudity or pornography and found it doesn't violate our community standard on nudity and pornography.

    We understand you still may not want to see this photo."

    Answer i got from facebook for reporting a picture of a woman with a dick in her mouth being spammed on almost every page... That report button is useless.

  19. junior · 787 days ago

    Hi sirs, does screen printing private messages from facebook and post it for everyone to see and after that person post it, he changed the password even its not his own, actually he hack the password of her ex gf, an allegedly my friend who is sweet with me in chatting. ..so is this in any way against law in cyber crime or in facebook rules alone?

  20. Brett Sinclare · 782 days ago

    Facebook allows all kinds of criminal activity on their pages and does little to stop the practice. If your complaint does not fit in a certain categories, you are out of luck. There are no categories for criminal activities. Why? Facebook makes billions and refuses to hire personnel to handle the problems the site causes. They have very bad business practices.

    I reported a site that is involved in criminal activities and they took no action. They refuse to take the time to investigate activity on their site. Google is just as bad, allowing BLOGS to offer illegal products and services. Their reporting system is just as poor.

    With the thousands of Police organizations in the United States, we need a Police Dept that handles online problems. There should be a central reporting agency for all online problems. There is certainly money and Police for every other problem.

  21. Connie M · 781 days ago

    Here's an important thing to note for all of you complaining about content. A. Children under 13 should NOT be on Facebook, that's why they have an age setting. B. Facebook is not the parent, YOU are. You can adjust the settings for your under-18 children so they aren't seeing inappropriate content. C. Just because it is offensive to you does not mean it is to 99 % of the others who are using Facebook. For every 10,000 complaints of religious indignation and "offensive" language posts there may be a complaint that actually could HELP a child being abused. I read an article awhile back (can't find it now) from a FB staff member who had a child contact them because the relative who was sexually abusing her was on his way over. By the time the staffer got to her cry for help several hours had passed. Of course they contacted the police right away, but how much time was wasted because the complaints are looked at in order they are received. If you don't like something you can block the page from posting on your wall WITHOUT contacting FB! If it showed up on your wall it is one of two things: either it is a site you "liked" in which case just go to it, click the like button again and it will "unlike" it, or someone you are FB friends with liked or shared the post. In those cases you can either yell at the friend or choose what you wish to see from them.

  22. Margie Bentley · 781 days ago

    Facebook sucks! What else is there to say.! The more they upgrade it the worst it gets. It's not even fun anymore. Most of my friends don't even use it anymore. Guess it's time for me to also say goodby Facebook!

  23. sanjukta · 779 days ago

    Everybody here is talking about how FB didn't take action when matters were reported as abusive. But I am facing a completely different problem. One of my personal enemy is constantly reporting abuse on my harmless content and FB is aligning with this enemy and removing my content and banning me. I can prove that my content is not in violation of any community guidelines yet I am being penalized. I don't know who has the power to do this. why FB is taking sides with somebody and penalizing me without any proper ground. And there isn't even a way to report this matter to FB, there is no email ID or phone number where I can call or write about my experience.

    • fedup withFB · 653 days ago

      Ditto. My comment get deleted and I get banned for no reason while someone messaging me can say that they want me dead in a car accident and facebook does not see this as an issue and the comment is not removed. WTF?

  24. I've just had a 12 hour temporary ban from posting on Facebook for saying that people on benefits should get food vouchers because I don't go to work to pay for other peoples' fags and booze. Someone has taken exception to it and reported it as abuse and apparently someone at Facebook agrees with them. It was in response to a question on the Politics UK page asking if people on benefits who smoke and drink excessively should have their benefits cut. So it was in context, not abusive, not threatening and not hate speech but Facebook banned me anyway and I have no right of appeal or even any way of contacting someone at Facebook to register my dissatisfaction. I think I'll post an explanation of what's happened on Facebook tomorrow when the ban is lifted and then close my account down and stick to Google+ and Twitter instead. Facebook has lost most of its appeal anyway these days, they're only interested in making money and make little or no effort to deal with all the trolls and fraudsters.

  25. Facebook loves to describe itself in terms of being one of the world's largest countries.

  26. D.Muralidharan · 733 days ago

    Face book is allowing nude pictures to be posted in the walls. They should understand that they are playing with the life of people. I know that some person has committed suside because of this. It should not be very difficult for face book to stop this. They can try for some fire wall in the server which can prevent these kind of photographs while loading itself by some bad elements. Now eventhough millions of users are using facebook, there is always a sense of uncertainity which pervails.

    • I have also come across pornographic pictures on Facebook and when I report them Facebook simply sends a reply saying it is not in violation of their community standards but it is obvious it is porn. The page that posts these photos also threatens to get anyone who reports thier page banned. I feel like Facebook just brushes the issue off.

  27. Nothing happens, but an automated message telling you that it isn't a violation....blah, blah, blah. I find it highly disturbing that they don't feel encouraging someone to kill themselves is a violation of any kind.

  28. ParappaTheRapper · 585 days ago

    I reported violent images of dead police officers killed in the line of duty on a page called "Martial Arts Masters Against Police/Military Brutality". I got a note back from Facebook in just 2 hours saying the images didn't violate their community standards. On Facebook's community standards page, it says right there in black and white: "However, graphic images shared for sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence have no place on our site."

    On a page against police officers, how can images of dead police officers not be considered "sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence"??

  29. sherry · 575 days ago

    I have an ex husband who has been using facebook to spread lies- verbally abuse me and other family members and has threatened to harm us. He says our time is coming and if God doesn't get us- he will. I divorced him because of his drinking and abuse. I feared for my & my children's lives. Now he is drinking again & using facebook to threaten us again. My kids have reported him on facebook but I'm afraid he's ready to snap and hurt someone. I don't have a facebook account. How do I protect us.

  30. JCC · 525 days ago

    I am a member of a Group where the Admins all got messages stating the Group was reported for offensive content, but nothing indicated what that offensive content was. All posts from the last several weeks were reviewed and nothing remotely close to violation of FB policy was found. The group is a "Private Group" for adults age 18+. Nobody steps up to admit reporting the Group and we can find no content deleted. How is a group supposed to fix the problem if they aren't given the information that was reported offensive. It doesn't even need to be the name of the person filing the report. We just need to know WHAT was reported as offensive. If we don't know what offended the person, no corrective action can be taken. We run a tight ship and have a very close knit group. If there truly is a problem, our admins want to take care of it immediately. It doesn't make sense to threaten to delete an account for an offensive post but not tell anyone what that post was. How do we avoid offending someone for the same thing in the future? Just plain senseless.

  31. Mom 2-2 · 436 days ago

    Recently, I kept seeing pictures of a dead man hanging from the back of a truck. He had driven his motorcycle into the truck and his head was lodged in the back of the truck with his body hanging limp and dead. There was blood all down the truck, the mans clothes and on the ground. I blocked the picture and asked the friend to not post those pictures anymore but they started showing up on page after page so I reported the original picture. I was given choices of how to report it, I chose "it doesn't belong on facebook", then was directed to another choice and I chose "depicts dead body, body parts, and for graphic violence, etc. I finished the report. The next day I got the message that ""This photo wasn't removed" "Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for containing graphic violence and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards." If that picture did not violate community standards, NOTHING would. I have no faith whatsoever in FB's reporting process.

  32. Anonymous · 392 days ago

    What happens to the administrators of a group on fb when the group they admin gets shut down from fb ? Do they loose their account ? Or just the group gets shut down? Does anyone knows ?

  33. Rakhi · 34 days ago

    If i block anyone on fb, can i read my past conversation with that person???

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at https://grahamcluley.com, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley