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I'm not voicing for a way to retract my flag. I flagged inappropriately by misreading the question, but it would be convenient to, in some way, indicate to moderator "I misflagged, please ignore me and decline this."

In this question, Anna Lear states:

There's no way to retract a flag, but you can flag the answer again and explain the situation in the "other" textbox.

This appears to be outdated though. Jeff specifically says not to do this, and attempting to re-flag a post just gives you an error:

You have already flagged this post for moderator attention

It appears you can't have multiple pending flags cast on a single post the same time. You have to wait until the previous one gets dismissed before you can cast another. So, what do we do now to indicate that our flag should be ignored?

I know there's already an "invalid flag" option built into the system in the 10k tools. Would it be possible to somehow modify that, or add an option next to still-pending flags in my summary to "mark as invalid" which will just add an "invalid flag" to the pending one already there? This way moderators don't have to read my flag and wonder what the hell I'm talking about.

I think this would be a fair compromise between not allowing you to indicate in any way that it was a bad flag and flat-out retracting the flag. Not indicating it at all, especially on a custom flag which may need some investigating, seems like a waste of moderator's time. Rather than spending a couple seconds dismissing it, they'll spend who knows how long figuring it out on their own. I also realize that retracting flags is probably way more work than necessary. But since there's already an "invalid flag" reason built in, allowing a user to flag throw an invalid flag at their own flag seems like it could more easily be implemented.

If not via the flagging summary, you could detect if the user has already flagged the post in question when they attempt to flag again, and display a different dialog such as "You already have a flag pending for this post - flag as invalid."

Note: This is mainly focused on custom flags, which 10k users can't see to cast their own invalid flags and aren't always as straight-forward when it comes to investigating them.

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I've seen this error message before, but I also recently flagged an answer as "other", and was able to flag it again as spam soon after. Maybe triggering the error depends on the type of the first flag? –  bfavaretto Jul 27 '12 at 0:36
Possibly, spam/offensive flags are very different, and can even be auto-handled when they reach so many. Maybe a dev could explain what's allowed when it comes to flagging. –  animuson Jul 27 '12 at 0:37
If it's a VLQ flag you can self-dispute with an edit. –  Flexo Jul 27 '12 at 10:15
I don't think that is a very good duplicate. It is more of a discussion, while this is a specific feature request. –  animuson Aug 26 '12 at 19:10
Yo dawg, I heard you liked flags –  ChristopherW May 8 '13 at 0:23
This request should probably be declined now, since the 10k flags queue is gone and thus the "invalid flags" flag is (I'm guessing) now obsolete. Doesn't make much sense to resurrect such a feature just to cancel flags. –  animuson Nov 17 at 3:24
Or close with custom reason "no longer relevant"? –  Behaviour Nov 17 at 3:35

2 Answers 2

When a flag reaches a moderator, it's most likely been passed through at least one other 10k user who can investigate the flag and decide if it's worth taking action or not.

By the time the moderator attends to the flag, he/she has more information to use to help him/her decide what action, if any, is necessary.

In addition to looking at the flags, the moderator will likely also investigate him/herself, and this includes reading comments.

If you, a respected 10k+ user misunderstood a question or misinterpreted what was really happening, then it's also likely another 10k+ user or even moderator may misinterpret as well!

In these cases, I leave a comment on the question as a message to other users not to flag the post and why. For example:

Just FYI, on first glance this question looks like it's off-topic, but then I re-read the question and noticed the op is talking about X, which is on topic here!

Not only will others see this, but the moderator will see it as well. Most importantly, this will help prevent additional false flags from 15 rep and higher users, who cannot see the flag queue or 10k tools.

share|improve this answer
Depends on the flag. Custom flags are only shown to moderators, but I like this and it makes sense. :) –  animuson Jul 27 '12 at 0:42
Right, I think some of the reasoning is a bit of red herring. It is possible that you flag a low-quality question, but then the user at some point improves that significantly and finally, in which case retracting would be nice IMO. –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 9:04
@LaszloPapp - retracting is more like, "Oops, I made a mistake". If something was flagged very low quality and went through the 10k tools and was improved by 10k users and moderators, then that should be a handled flag, not a retracted flag. In that case, I would hope the moderator would see that the post had been improved and simply mark as helpful, which it was. Hope this helps! –  jmort253 Sep 28 '13 at 18:26
@jmort253: nice theory, and I agree with that, however the practice simply works differently. I see many declined flags due to that. –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 18:28
@LaszloPapp - Well, as a 2k+ user, there are things you can do to fix problems. This is where community moderation comes into play. You can edit and leave comments, and if fixing something is that simple, then I can see the flag being declined since it doesn't require a moderator to comment or edit. In short, that's just noise. –  jmort253 Sep 28 '13 at 18:35
@jmort253: 10 rep away from 3k+. :))) Beyond the joke, no. The OP significantly improved a meaningless question. I cannot figure out from a few words what the OP wanted to ask (this was confirmed by others and downvotes). That is why I flagged it as unclear. I hope rightfully? However, the OP seems to have improved the question, so the flag is not useful from that point on. –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 18:37
@LaszloPapp - Sorry, I just wanted to emphasize the editing privilege that comes at 2k.... so... almost 3k+ user. Early congrats on that milestone! :D) As for flagging, some people are a little too trigger happy with flags. Sometimes a comment is all that is needed, like "Hey op, what you said about X isn't too clear. Can you please [edit] and explain what it is you are trying to do? Thank you." If that person doesn't edit, then there are plenty of eyes on the post who will then legitimately flag it or vote to close. Hope this helps! :) –  jmort253 Sep 28 '13 at 18:43
And I guess I don't like the idea of retracting flags because it helps people excuse themselves from the moderation responsibilities/privileges they've earned. What makes Stack Overflow scale is the regular users like you and me who can step in and offer tips and technical writing assistance to those new to writing Stack Overflow posts. If we make it easier to flag frivolously, this makes it more difficult for diamond moderators and defeats the purpose of many of the reputation privileges. Hope this helps clarify. –  jmort253 Sep 28 '13 at 18:46
@jmort253: how would I be legitimately different than others flagging such posts the same way for the same reason? This is how posts are put on hold, aren't they? There is always some chance the OP improves the question. –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 18:47
@jmort253: To your other post: well, no, users with certain rep are trusted user, and they do not just come to the site to flag randomly. I am not saying this should be available to everyone, but at least trusted users (i.e. over a certain rep). –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 18:49
@LaszloPapp - I guess I was thinking about the keywords, "very low quality" that you mentioned in your first comment, which is a separate flag reason of its own that generally means "This post is just so bad that it should just outright be deleted". Putting things on hold is different, and flagging as such is sort of how SO trains lower rep users on the norms of the site so they use their close vote privileges more carefully once they earn them. –  jmort253 Sep 28 '13 at 18:49
@jmort253: no, I even mentioned the option "unclear" which is not the "low quality". Note, I also mentioned to put on hold, not delete. –  lpapp Sep 28 '13 at 18:51

I just tested at this very answer: when I attempted to submit a second flag while prior one has not yet been processed, it was rejected exactly the way you describe:


As for the statement you refer to - it likely assumes that second flag is submitted only after first one has been processed. This does not look outdated, casting "Other" flag over another one (also of "Other" type) worked fine to me less than 10 days ago.

In my flagging summary page twin flags look as follows:


Note at above screen shot, flags dates are quite recent - Jul 19.

share|improve this answer
Your second flag occurred after your first flag was processed—there's no way for a mod to mark one flag as helpful and another declined if they're simultaneously on the post. –  waiwai933 Jul 27 '12 at 8:26
@waiwai933 that's an interesting observation. Maybe an option to submit second flag is available only after the first one has been processed. I'll check that now –  gnat Jul 27 '12 at 8:30

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