I have just been suspended from chatting in the C++ lounge for a message that was deleted by the @Feeds bot, that is from May this year. Why now the suspension (30 mins) for a message so old already?!

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I'm confused.

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    The long arm of the law is so long, it can reach through time. (Seriously though, +1, this doesn't sound right) – Pekka Sep 4 '11 at 14:48
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    Also, some random person is in the C++ lounge flagging things on a random basis it seems. That needs to STOP! Flagging should be done one a reasonable basis that what is being flagged is actually offensive, in the context that it's being written in. – Tony The Lion Sep 4 '11 at 14:50
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    Because that's how wonderful the flagging system is. You get banned when nobody even remembers what the flagged thing was actually about. – Cat Plus Plus Sep 4 '11 at 15:21
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    @Tony: you used a word whose whole point is to be offensive in many circles (schools, network television, most places of business...). So you don't really have much of a leg to stand on when you get suspended (for a really nominal amount of time) for using it. I agree with you that the lesson would have been better learned had it been delivered more proximately...but better late than never, I suppose. – Pete L. Clark Sep 4 '11 at 22:38
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    This is a perfectly good and valid Meta question. That said, regarding the specific case: expletives are not allowed on the network even if zero users find them offensive. – Pops Sep 6 '11 at 15:46
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    @Popular: Whether we agree with that "decision" or not doesn't even matter here: The whole idea of blocking someone is to make them stop doing wrong in the future. Considering that, banning users for things they've done wrong months ago (and maybe haven't done since) just doesn't make sense, because it won't have stopped them doing it again five months ago. – sbi Sep 6 '11 at 15:51
  • @sbi, I know it doesn't matter. That's why I posted a throwaway comment instead of an answer. I have not stated any kind of opinion about the banning policies. – Pops Sep 6 '11 at 15:55

Some teenager, who never answered a single C++ question on SO, and who was never before seen in the C++ chat room, storms into the room, actively searches the room's history for words and phrases he finds offensive and then goes on a rampage flagging a bunch of old messages. Of course, given just sentences with words like "fuck" in it, without any textual context, room name, indeed, without even the message's date, or any other information that would be helpful when asked to agree or disagree to a flag, enough users (of other rooms) agreed with those flags and several regulars of the C++ room (it's not only been Tony, AFAIK) got suspended for half an hour.

This whole thing is so stupid, it makes my toenails curl up in disgust.

The way the flagging system is implemented now it does more damage than it does good. It is lacking features vital for it to properly function. This is just another instance of this problem.

Also, the ability to flag messages should expire after a while, in order to prevent the community having to spend resources on issues such as this one.

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    And what will happen to me and Welbog when somebody finds Welbog's room? We'll be banned for weeks. – Pekka Sep 6 '11 at 14:59
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    That's quite an accusation. Do you have links or any other sources? AFAIK, only mods and devs can see who flagged. – John Sep 6 '11 at 15:17
  • @John I thought room owners can see who flagged, but I can be wrong – Pekka Sep 6 '11 at 15:19
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    @sbi Ah the poster himself is always a good source. However, IMHO this answer still reads very much like a rant. Given all the recent Meta activity about digging up and flagging old posts, it comes as no surprise to me that that was extended to the chat rooms. Expletives are not allowed on SE in general if you don't want to get banned, don't break the rules. – John Sep 6 '11 at 15:32
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    @John Chat rooms have always been a more relaxed environment than their parent sites. If the audience inside the room isn't offended, I see no reason for outsiders to start flagging stuff. – Pekka Sep 6 '11 at 15:35
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    @sbi 1. Not clear cut, or people simply disagree. 2. If the people in charge say word X is against the rules, IMHO there is no problem with a regex searching for word X. 3&4. This is SE. Policies are applied retroactively. (rep-recalc, anyone?) – John Sep 6 '11 at 15:49
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    @sbi Perhaps require a certain number of posts in a room before someone can start flagging things in that room? – John Sep 6 '11 at 15:50
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    Y'all should really consider taking this discussion to (heh) CHAT – Shog9 Sep 6 '11 at 16:03
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    @Shog9: The question has the "discussion" tag. What are we supposed to do except discuss it? – DeadMG Sep 7 '11 at 10:31
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    @DeadMG: when you're ending up with 5-point, numbered replies in comments, you've exhausted what comments can do for you. Also, this was getting really tangential - the question was simple enough. – Shog9 Sep 7 '11 at 15:26
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    Chat actually does have slightly better reply indicators, which can help. But beyond that, when you're involved in a fast-paced discussion it can be used more effectively "real time" without resorting to a numbering scheme to keep track of which intra-conversation threads are being responded to. Combined, it tends to work a little better than comments (of course, the preferred solution for anything important is to just open up another meta question on the subject, but I'm not sure that's useful here). – Shog9 Sep 9 '11 at 14:53
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    @Shog9: So let's make the discussion tag a synonym of moved-to-chat. – sbi Sep 12 '11 at 17:43
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    +1 for "toenails curling up in disgust." :P – Alenanno Jan 18 '12 at 9:29

In addition to a number of other tweaks (some applied, some still planned/in-progress), there is now a moratorium in effect, to prevent flagging of old posts. Regular flagging is now limited to recent messages; if an old message is so offensive that it deserves flagging long after it is cold, the user can still flag it for moderator attention, but this is far more obvious and less an avenue for flag abuse.

We are also planning to limit the number of concurrent unresolved flags per user for similar reasons. See More information is needed in chat Flagged Posts for the current set of changes.


I'm not sure if you're actually confused or if this is a feature-request in disguise. Somebody noticed your old message and flagged it. Flagged messages are shown to 10k users, so some of them noticed it and marked it valid. Eventually it got enough flags to be deleted, and you were banned. The same thing can happen on the main site (although you'd lose rep instead of getting banned); it's not like a message stops being offensive with age

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    Well... it is actually. If it wasn't offensive when it was posted,and before the eyeballs of everybody who was in chat that very moment, why is it offensive now? – badp Sep 4 '11 at 16:22
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    @bad Because different people find different things offensive? In any case, your example is a message that was never offensive; Tony seems to be saying that a message that was offensive at first will somehow not be offensive four months later and should no longer be flagged – Michael Mrozek Sep 4 '11 at 16:30
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    I quote from the question comments, "Flagging should be done one a reasonable basis that what is being flagged is actually offensive" - I really don't think he believes his message was offensive in the first place. – badp Sep 4 '11 at 16:38
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    @bad Then there's an awful lot in the question about the message being old that has absolutely nothing to do with it – Michael Mrozek Sep 4 '11 at 17:01
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    @Michael - I think context DEFINES what is offensive and inoffensive. If we are talking about your family's business of raising plump mules and I say "Your mom has as fat ass" then it could be a compliment. If taken OUT OF THE CONTEXT of that conversation it seems like an insult and/or offensive. – JNK Sep 6 '11 at 15:56
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    @JNK ...I have no idea what any of that has to do with my answer. He asked how he got suspended for such an old message, and I explained what probably happened; somehow this question morphed into huge comment threads about how broken chat flagging is. I almost never use chat flagging, and have no opinion on it either way. If it turns out the message wasn't offensive then yes, it's unfortunate that he got banned, but that's not the question – Michael Mrozek Sep 6 '11 at 16:00
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    there should be a restriction on the length of time you can go back and flag.. not sure what the right time limit is - maybe 24 hrs? – Brian Sep 6 '11 at 16:23
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    @0A0D That's pretty much exactly the opposite of the argument I was making. "it's not like a message stops being offensive with age" – Michael Mrozek Sep 6 '11 at 16:25
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    @Michael: Yes, you are technically correct but in the context of how the flagging action worked if the flagging only removed it from the transcript and didn't enact a ban eventually, then I don't think anyone would have a problem. But just like in real life, there are statute of limitations on certain "crimes". – Brian Sep 6 '11 at 16:26
  • @0A0D That seems sane to me; you might want to post it as a separate feature request – Michael Mrozek Sep 6 '11 at 16:39
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    @MichaelMrozek: I have to disagree with the statement "it's not like a message stops being offensive with age". Words and society's acceptance of them change through time. Take the FCC for example, it currently fines for the use of the word "dick" when used to refer to a penis, but not when referring to a detective or when speaking to someone in a pejorative manner. That wasn't always the case. – casperOne Nov 9 '11 at 19:24
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    @casperOne ...ok, but this was a couple months IIRC, not decades – Michael Mrozek Nov 9 '11 at 19:43

Right/wrong/rants aside, how about treating flagging like a privilege that must be earned per room? (Perhaps at least X posts in the room? Maybe with Y starred?)

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    I'm not sure why you would need experience in a particular room to identify offensive posts in it. It's like needing a certain amount of rep in the c++ tag before you can flag questions tagged c++ – Michael Mrozek Sep 6 '11 at 16:07
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    Apparently the majority opinion is that offensive is subjective. While I don't agree, I wanted to see whether the idea of requiring experience to flag was liked or disliked. – John Sep 6 '11 at 16:17
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    @Michael: Because every room has its culture, and you should have a chance to get to know that culture before you decide what might be offensive? C++ is all about facts (or it's on Programmers.SE), while chatting is about relaxing. – sbi Sep 6 '11 at 16:19
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    Some posts are clearly offensive and need dealing with quickly, it does not take experience in a given room to know they are offensive. Given that rooms are public spaces, they could contain nothing that is clearly offensive to members of the public. – Ian Ringrose Nov 9 '11 at 9:46
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    @Ian: There's more to this world than the 2 sides of your pond. There are "members of the public" who are offended by anything you can think of. There's cultures that do not allow women to watch sport, those which despise mentioning "alcohol" in public, and those which disapprove of us "unbelievers" (from the POV of their religion) to publicly post our thoughts. Contrary to popular believe, Right Or Wrong™ is no universal truth, but a cultural artifact. This is an international site, open to the world, with all its cultures. Be tolerant. – sbi Nov 30 '11 at 19:10

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