Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms


Cite this article as:
Cynthia Khoo (17/12/2021). Flagging. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Cynthia Khoo

‘Flagging’ is a common “mechanism for reporting offensive content to a social media platform” (Crawford and Gillespie, 2016)1 or other digital platforms, and refers to the act itself of clicking or otherwise demarcating that a specific social media post, link, video, or other content should be removed or reviewed by the platform. According to Crawford and Gillespie, the flagging feature “is found on nearly all sites that host user-generated content, including Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Flickr, YouTube, Instagram, and Foursquare, as well as in the comments sections on most blogs and news sites” (Crawford and Gillespie, 2016)2. Flagging processes can involve varying degrees of sophistication depending on the options offered by the platform. For example, some platforms may allow a user to flag content by simply reporting it as offensive but with no further detail or explanation. Other platforms may provide a drop-down menu or open field form upon a piece of content is flagged, which permits the user to write or select a pre-filled reason that they flagged the content (e.g., noting whether it is harassment, contains violence, or contains nudity), or categorizing what they consider the relevant infraction to be (e.g., image-based abuse, copyright infringement, or violating one or more community standards).

While the above description is what flagging is widely understood to be at a basic level, Crawford and Gillespie discuss in their paper “What is a flag for? Social media reporting tools and the vocabulary of complaint” the broader and more complex sociological role and influence that user flags hold or can be interpreted to have across digital platforms, as “a little-understood yet significant marker of interactions between users, platforms, humans, and algorithms, as well as broader political and regulatory forces” (Crawford and Gillespie, 2016)3.


  1. Crawford, Kate. Gillespie, Tarleton. (2016). What is a flag for? Social media reporting tools and the vocabulary of complaint. New Media & Society. 18:3 410, 412.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
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By Cynthia Khoo

Cynthia Khoo is an Associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, where she leads on worker surveillance and the civil rights implications of commercial data practices, including algorithmic discrimination. She is a Canadian technology and human rights lawyer who joined the Center after accumulating years of experience in technology law, policy, research, and advocacy with various digital rights NGOs and through her sole practice law firm. Cynthia is also a fellow at the Citizen Lab (University of Toronto). She holds a J.D. from the University of Victoria and an LL.M. from the University of Ottawa.

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