I flagged a question as offensive, figuring that it may not get the 6 votes needed to shut it down, but it was the right thing to do (no, I won't point out which one, since that would derail the discussion of this issue, this is not about the particular flag).

I got the following feedback on the flag page:

Offensive Flag declined

The message is also plainly wrong, since offensive and spam flags should be used for those reasons, since the community alone with enough votes can deal with those issues. They do not need to be mod-targeted specifically, since it doesn't always require their intervention.

I did not flag the moderator, I just flagged the post as offensive. If they don't want to fix it, then fine just leave it alone, but there is no reason to decline an offensively flagged post. If 5 others don't agree, then it will disappear on its own. The offensive and spam flags work that way, and shouldn't be declined.

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    Doesn't it bubble up to the moderators and 10K+ users? I thought all flags ultimately go to the moderators for acceptance or declining. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:11
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    I agree with Lance that the mods don't need to dismiss these flags unless they are going to do something about the post, if that's the issue at hand (the discussion could go two ways here)
    – jcolebrand
    Sep 26, 2011 at 15:13
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    I can't help but notice that you find a lot of thing offensive. Might want to lighten up a bit... meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24079/… Sep 26, 2011 at 15:15
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    @0A0D, 6 spam or offensive flags will automatically delete and lock the post. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:15
  • @Adam, offensive is a pretty cut-and-dry concept, might it be that a lot of offensive stuff gets posted? I don't lighten up on moral issues. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:16
  • @LanceRoberts: Right I just thought that it all bubbles up to moderator attention always. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:16
  • @0A0D, yes, they see them all, and can kill them before they get to 6 flags (and should), but nicking anybody with a decline isn't necessary. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:17
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    @LanceRoberts there is a total running flag count and those get counted for the display, iirc, so that they are driving to get that running flag count as close to zero as possible (and they would like to keep it at zero). FWIW that's why they have elections to bring on additional mods when we already have so many, because they want to be able to keep those flag counts down.
    – jcolebrand
    Sep 26, 2011 at 15:22
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    @Lance, I'm saying that if you find yourself getting offended far more than others, it might be a good idea to take a deep breath and rethink some assumptions about what's moral. Or not, it's your time and blood pressure :) Sep 26, 2011 at 15:23
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    Relevant: xkcd.com/386 :) Sep 26, 2011 at 15:24
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    @Adam, I think about what's moral in everything I do. The fact that I get to answer to God for every action I take is a huge motivation to always think of the moral implications of my actions. It may be pressure, but doing what's right always involves some pressure. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:25
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    I'm not sure about the needs to decline offensive flags (considering they age away), but I must agree that the selected decline reason isn't very appropriate. This wasn't a flag that was seeking moderator intervention.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Sep 26, 2011 at 15:29
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    @GraceNote: Yep and that's why I was against adding a reason to decline flags because it just pisses people off and adds more questions than answers. Sep 26, 2011 at 15:35
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    This feature request is to have mods not touch the offensive/spam flags?
    – random
    Sep 26, 2011 at 16:41
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    I find this feature request to be offensive.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 26, 2011 at 18:46

6 Answers 6


I'm a bit late to this one, but; if the flag on this post was simply the phrasing "whining", then it was not necessary to flag it - as a user with 26.5k, you have more than enough reason to simply make a subtle edit. I rephrased it to "complaining"; it took mere moments, and nobody was harmed.

Whether it was truly offensive is... well, a bit subjective; I'm not even going to get into that. But easily fixed with a tiny little edit, which did not change the nature of the post.

To quote the FAQ:

If you see something that needs improvement, click edit and help us make it so!

  • Thanks, that wasn't really the issue here, but I appreciate it being taken care of. It's one notch better now. Sep 26, 2011 at 19:17
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    @Lance... so... what exactly was the issue? I'm really confused. Frankly, being a bit more open about what the problem is exactly would have saved a lot of guesswork and uncertainty... Sep 26, 2011 at 19:20
  • that was the issue for the referenced question. The issue here is how any spam or offensive flags get handled, and the specific message that comes up. Of course, I probably could have explained it better, but things went south quick anyways. You and @Shog9 were probably right that I should have just edited it the way I thought, instead of trying other methods, but hey, I'm not him who shall not be named. Sep 26, 2011 at 19:22
  • @Lance - yes, that was very unfortunate and hard to piece together after-the-fact. Sep 26, 2011 at 19:23
  • @Lance re the flag reason... well, I suspect I could have gone either way on that one myself; it could have been resolved without flagging - compared to what is normally flagged as truly offensive it is pretty mild. The ideal scenario would have been for the OP to voluntarily rephrased it after you (quite reasonably in a comment) noted that it wasn't the best phrasing. Sep 26, 2011 at 19:26
  • yes, it was mild compared to other most other flags. Sep 26, 2011 at 19:29

I did not flag the moderator, I just flagged the post as offensive. If they don't want to fix it, then fine just leave it alone, but there is no reason to decline an offensively flagged post.

Yes, you did flag for a moderator. The fact that the community can vote to deal with spam/offensive flags without moderator intervention should not weaken spam/offensive flags. Those flags are, in my mind, stronger than regular flags because they make a stronger assertion about the post. They require my immediate attention. Allowing the community to deal with spam/offensive posts allows them to be dealt with more quickly. It doesn't mean moderators should let them sit in the queue until they eventually evaporate.

  • Hmm, well, it's not in the block "it needs ♦ moderator attention", so in this sense Lance didn't "flag the moderator". (Ah, Ninefingers adresses this point.) Sep 26, 2011 at 17:23
  • Sure, but they could handle them better. I agree that they should check them to close egregious ones ASAP, but if they don't think it merits it, they could either let it go, or flag neutral(?) or helpful. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:25
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    @HendrikVogt They all go to the same moderator queue. Spam/offensive flags are not something moderators should be expected to ignore. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:26
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    @LanceRoberts No, I'm not going to just let it go or flag it neutral or helpful if it's not helpful. By leaving it there I'd just be wasting the time of every other moderator who checks the queue. By marking it helpful I'd be encouraging improper flagging. Declining flags is meant to show you what you shouldn't be flagging. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:28
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    Eh, I'm not fully feeling this one. I agree that if they are spam and offensive, they should be dealt with more quickly. But I'd say the same about egregious close and delete scenarios in general. And when we don't agree with the closure or deletion, we generally either let it play out (if we simply don't agree), or we start up discussion opposing the closure/deletion as necessary (if we flat out disagree). If it is the matter of the latter, I'd certainly hope that would be a wiser thing to feedback on.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Sep 26, 2011 at 17:28
  • @Bill: Sure, I didn't mean to say this. I just wanted to point out that "I did not flag the moderator" is correct if one only looks at the flag dialog. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:30
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    @GraceNote There was no reason to let it play out. The post was flagged for no reason so I dismissed it. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:30
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    The crux of the issue, to me, isn't the fact it was declined (as mentioned, you may disagree on the post being offensive), it is the chosen decline reason. Which gives the impression that "a flagger marking something they find offensive as offensive is not something that requires intervention", which is a bit at odds with what you're saying that we should act on offensive material. Even if you may disagree that the post is offensive, that doesn't immediately make it non-offensive to the flagger who interpreted it as such.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Sep 26, 2011 at 17:38
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    @GraceNote Yes, I do agree that the chosen reason was the wrong one. At the time I assumed Lance was flagging something that he knew was not offensive. However, that does seem to be an afterthought to his main point that the flag shouldn't have been dismissed at all. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:43
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    The "no evidence to support it" reason may have been a better option. This tells me that introducing decline reasons only added another area where one can make a mistake that results in hurt feelings all around. (Although personally I likely would've dismissed as "helpful" on the assumption that even though the post might not be offensive, it was flagged in good faith. I say this without knowing what was actually flagged.)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Sep 26, 2011 at 17:45
  • I think @AnnaLear hit the nail on the head. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:48
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    @AnnaLear Yes, that's the one I should have chosen. Since I didn't feel like it was flagged in good faith, I thought "don't flag things that don't need to be flagged" was the better option at the time. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:49

On the one hand, I agree in principle. On the other hand, after seeing what you flagged offensive, I'm kinda depressed. This falls squarely in the realm of "flagging for catharsis", doesn't it...

Therefore, I suggest the solution to this is to remove spam and offensive flags from the flagging summary page (the one that breaks out the user's flag weight and puts flag results & reasons in their face) completely. As you note, they evaporate over time anyway, which could result in some confusion for users keeping a sharp eye on their past flags. Also, this would increase the anonymity of these particular flags.

  • Comments moved to chat - most pertinent details covered elsewhere, but jump in if you're curious.
    – Shog9
    Sep 26, 2011 at 19:39

Moderators are also members of the community. If they happen across offensive and spam flags in the mod queue, it's up to their judgement and discretion to either nuke the steamroll or drive in the final nail with their blood diamond sledgehammer.

Users are known to at times flag posts that are neither offensive nor spam. Letting them pile up to the point of a -100 EXP hit would be letting evil or misguided flags win.

Moderators need the ability to decline these flags as they do with any other flag and may indeed require their intervention should the reasoning not gel.

  • The issue is really the declined reason. @BillTheLizard acknowledges that. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:50

I flagged a question as offensive, figuring that it may not get the 6 votes needed to shut it down, but it was the right thing to do

Actually, the jury seems to be out on your conclusion there. Without seeing the post in question, we simply can't say, but looking at the comments on Shog9's answer I'm thinking there's some debate.

I did not flag the moderator, I just flagged the post as offensive.

The flag dialog is perhaps a little confusing. There's "flag for moderator attention" and "flag as offensive. However, there's one flag queue. Moderators see them all, for this reason:

They do not need to be mod-targeted specifically, since it doesn't always require their intervention.

Yes they do. Moderators need to be aware of patterns of repeated abuse so as to deal with problem users. This means stepping into the flag queue and handling flags, offensive, spam, etc flags.

If they don't want to fix it, then fine just leave it alone, but there is no reason to decline an offensively flagged post.

Actually yes there is. Flagging post as offensive, if carried through, has a -100 reputation penalty to the poster. Secondly, you've just generated another flag for moderators to review. Moderators volunteer their time for this. I see nothing wrong with letting good faith, thanks for letting us know but I didn't need to do anything flags go as helpful/no action needed, but blatantly wrong flags should be hammered. That line is of course subjective - see the first point I addressed.

The message is also plainly wrong

I think it's about right - only flag things moderators may need to do something about. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to act on that exact post - but they may need to do something, even if that's only talking to other mods and taking note of the situation. However, what the message is saying is that if a moderator really doesn't need to see that at all, then don't flag it. Back to point 1 again.

  • As you can see from those comments, it did derail the discussion from the real issue. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:27
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    @Lance the real issue is whether the flag was or wasn't correct. Assuming it was, a mistake has been made (it happens). If it wasn't, then the result you see in your feedback is exactly right. Looking at Bill's response, it sounds very much like the latter case occurred here.
    – user142852
    Sep 26, 2011 at 17:37
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    actually no, I didn't come here to complain about one flag that got turned down, I was pointing out the larger issue, which is that the feedback isn't right. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:42
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    @LanceRoberts If that was your main point, why is it in your last paragraph? It should be in your title and what you lead with. Sep 26, 2011 at 17:51
  • @Bill, I think my title is correct, wrongly referring to the bad message. But there is still the secondary point of how it's handled. Yes, I agree with better composition skills, I could have formed the question better (as is usual for me). Sep 26, 2011 at 17:59
  • @LanceRoberts "Offensive flag declined for the wrong reason" would have saved us all some time here. I think it's the one thing we all agree on. :) Sep 26, 2011 at 18:02
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    @Bill, I agree, I'll use your adjective-noun instead of the adverb. Sep 26, 2011 at 18:03

This question is the reason why we should not have the ability to comment on declined flags. As this thread has played out for the past 2 hours, it can easily offend someone or lead to more questions than answers. I propose that we strike the decline reason. Just leave it as declined.

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