I am not sure if this is the right place to ask but we have an interesting situation going on.

We are making a web service that allows users to share files, however, they do not have to sign up and the files are only kept for 2 weeks, i.e, the files will automatically expire after 2 weeks.

My question is, many content and file sharing sites have "Flag as inappropriate" button, which users can click to report a file that is violating the guidelines or file a copyright complain. However, these sites also require users to sign up before using, therefore it makes sense for the website to ban the user whose files have been flagged.

In our situation, users don't have to sign up & files automatically expire after 2 weeks, do we still put up the "Flag as inappropriate" button?

The only situation I can think of is when a user posts a file to a public forum, flagging a file will help us take it down quickly.

  • To me, this sounds more like a legal issue than a UX issue.
    – André
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 7:26
  • 3
    I don't see how this is a legal issue at all; I think you're reading too much into the word "copyright". There are plenty of non-legal reasons you want to moderate content. Since this question isn't "Am I legally okay if you can't flag files but they expire after 2 weeks" it seems perfectly on topic here.
    – Zelda
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 12:59
  • Edited your title since the concern seems to be "it expires so who cares" not "they're not signed up so who cares"
    – Zelda
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


First stop and consider why people need to flag as inappropriate; if content isn't allowed on your site, why is it allowed to be there for two weeks?

If you allow content for two weeks, your site could suddenly become a porn site and without a flagging option your users have no way to share this information. Or, if you are a porn site, your site could suddenly become a malware site, or generally users could start sharing content you don't want.

Sites with User Generated Content require moderation. It's often not possible to go over all entries by yourself; why not enable basic community moderation? Keeping a tight lock on the type of content your site serves helps keep it focused and on topic, which builds trust between you and your users and makes sure whatever * theoretical* guidelines you have for your site turn into practical guidelines.

Stack Exchange is a great example of this; flagging posts helps us enforce our quality standards, in addition to removing spam/offensive posts. Just because sign up isn't required doesn't mean you shouldn't protect your content and the focus of your site.


'Flag as inappropriate' for a public site can be very useful for the reason you outlined - prompt removal of inappropriate content. Whether you NEED that there for legal reasons or not I cannot say, however to avoid misuse of the feature have you considered asking for a minimal amount of user specific information to process the flag? Maybe Name, Email and a short description of why they thing the content should be flagged/removed? This should help you weed through non-genuine removal requests as fair reasoning will become apparent from the content of the message.

You could also store a cookie if your site's privacy policy allows on the user's machine, or store an IP, and log the amount of flags each user submits. OK it's not 100% accurate as users may change machine and many have dynamic IPs but it may help identify some common flag misuse from some users.

Like I say, I can't comment on legalities but as a webmaster I would consider the above.

  • You may have a legal problem if you are considered the holder of inappropriate material. The purpose of the flagging here is to remove offensive content quickly, not to block users. Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 8:02
  • Absolutely, but as I said I can't comment on legalities. I just know that it isn't uncommon for people to mis-use the flag feature
    – TJH
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 8:47
  • I wasn't disagreeing with you, just highlighting why it may be a legal issue. Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 10:42
  • Yeah I understood that :)
    – TJH
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 10:57
  • @SchroedingersCat Safe Harbor laws (US and EU at least) tend to mean you're not responsible as long as you take reasonable action to take stuff down. But the legal issue isn't really the (main) topic here
    – Zelda
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 12:59

If you plan to build an iOS App for your service, there's a good chance that Apple App store may reject it for lacking a "Flag inappropriate" content feature.

My app which allows users to upload content was just rejected for this reason. Apple wants to see a flagging/report feature for User Generated Content.

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