In collaborative tools, users can sometimes leave inappropriate comments. Platforms try to deal with that by allowing users report inappropriate stuff.

Google+ uses "report abuse", as a button in the profile.

Instagram uses "report" and then allows you to choose whether "it's spam" or "it's inappropriate".

Can you provide some more examples and explain the difference?

  • 3
    Because they're two different things, and two different rules being broken. What is your particular concern? Are you looking to include a 'report' function in something you're building?
    – JonW
    Jan 29, 2018 at 10:26
  • @JonW I'll ask the obvious next question: What two sets of rules that you mention do these terms tend to describe? Perhaps that could help OP decide which is more fitting in their scenario. Jan 29, 2018 at 16:02
  • @maxathousand That's kind of my point - OP hasn't given information about their scenario. Different sites / platforms / tools have different rules. Some you can swear and curse, others you can't. Some you can link affiliate Amazon links, others you can't. It's totally going to depend on the specific situation.
    – JonW
    Jan 29, 2018 at 16:12
  • @JonW I'm planning to have one button for any inappropriate actions by software users. This button can be used by all the other users, so there's no exact rule for what that should mean, as it's personal opinion of each user to decide what they believe to be inappropriate. The button would just say report, but then a confirmation dialog would appear asking "Are you sure you want to report spam/abuse?" A message, a comment, a user might be reported.
    – Oksi
    Feb 1, 2018 at 8:55

3 Answers 3


Spam implies a "selling" element, whether in unsolicited bulk email or as posts on social media. Abuse is a broader description that can include spam but also, for example, content that is horrific, sexist, racist, misogynistic, intended to incite violence, and so on. Most platforms and outlets provide definitions, like that of Google+ https://support.google.com/plus/answer/6320425.


Spam also involves with amount, frequency, and other repeating nature of the post.

Abuse can be one-off. (But some abuses may need repetition as well in certain contexts, like some bullying)


This might be just as valid on english.stackexchange.com - great place to discuss the nuances of English words and grammar.

I think abuse is more broad. It covers more, but some timid/unexperienced users might not know exactly what qualifies as abuse and avoid using it. They might think spam isn't considered abuse so they wouldn't report it.

Spam is pretty specific to emails and other forms of unsolicited communications. You might not report a DDoS attack to a spam list, but Grandpa Dirt who just got his first computer last week surely has a general idea of what spam is from watching the TV (news, etc) over the last 15+ years.

I think you might be splitting hairs with this one. But if it's important, then I would say it depends on your community and what you're expecting exactly. If it's specific to unsolicited comms I would say stick with "Spam". "Abuse" is a pretty known term in the techy community. Most ISPs and domain registrars have had abuse emails since the mid 90s (or earlier).

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