The offensive/spam flags in chat are shown to every moderator from a parent site (on chat.stackexchange.com that is every SE 2.0 moderator, more than 200 right now) and 10k chat users as well. This is potentially far more users than a flag on an SE site itself is shown to.

I don't think it is necessary to show the flag to so many users at once. This can lead to the impressive sight of an entire horde of moderators descending onto one chat room when some flagging is going on, but it often notifies far more people than necessary to act.

Another huge disadvantage of notifying so many users at once is that only the fastest users to act decide on the fate of the flag. If you read up on the context of the flagged message, odds are that by the time you're finished with that someone already validated or dismissed the flag. This leads to hasty decisions on those flags because the users that take their time won't get to decide on the flag.

I propose that the chat flags are first shown only to mods and users in the same chat room, if there are enough users present that the flag could be acted on (so either one moderator or six 10k+ users). If they don't act after a short while or not enough privileged users are present in the room, the flag should be escalated to the mods and users of the parent site. If those users don't act on the flag, it be shown to all moderators and users on Chat.SE.

The exact delay should be just long enough to allow present and active users to handle the flag. Given the high speed that flags are currently handled in many cases, 30-60 seconds might be enough. Though looking at some hard data on flag handling times might be a better way to come up with a useful length.

It might also be useful to increase the number of users that see the flag incrementally even at the stage where all 10k users and moderators are notified. You don't need all of them, and the wide exposure has negative aspects as well.

The advantages would be:

  • Not bothering users that are not needed to come to a quick decision
  • Allows local differences in chat culture to be policed more consistently
  • Higher chance of showing the flag to users that already know the context

But there is also a danger to this, if flags are handled locally and nobody outside the room can see them, the potential for abuse is much higher. This could allow a chat room to develop a very hostile culture, and just flag away anyone that complains, or just dismiss valid flags.

There should be an obvious way for a user to involve moderators from outside the chat room. This could be the "flag for a moderator" option, they would remain global by default and ignore the escalation system. That would also need some UI work as this option is currently rather well hidden and I suspect that many chat users don't even know that there are two types of flags. I've posted my ideas about this in a different feature request

  • 1
    One thing about this: it would need to make sure the person is actually there. A lot of people are forever on chat, but AFK a lot.
    – John
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:28
  • 14
    @Bob That's why there should also be a timed escalation, if nobody checks the flag after 5 minutes it's just escalated to the broader range of users and mods. Determining if someone is really unavailable, or just has the chat in a tab open and is ready to act is probably impossible. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:31
  • Good point. And I guess it wouldn't matter much if it sits there for five minutes anyway considering no one sees it.
    – John
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:33
  • linked to: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/112691/…
    – Rob Moir
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 12:23
  • 6
    But some of us enjoy mod parties ...
    – C. Ross
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


I'm definitely in favor of this. Always have been, but particularly after today's chatpocalypse on SF.

Two caveats/enhancements I'd like to suggest:

  1. A high-rep user whose post is flagged should not be able to act on their own flags.
    (I'd be surprised if this wasn't already part of the system)
  2. When a post is flagged it should get a visible flag in the chat.
    (Something to notify people that - hey - this got flagged. Someone was upset by it. This will go a long way toward peer/community enforcement by simply raising awareness of flags.)

Edited to add a third enhancement: Make it a three-tiered escalation system:

  • Immediately to all the 10ks for the room's site
    • 5 minutes: All the 10Ks online.
    • 10 minutes: All the mods and 10Ks online

Swap roles above as seems sensible, maybe to blues first and then all 10Ks if they're too busy.
Honestly if a flag hangs around more than 5 minutes (and there are users around) it's probably really questionable.

  • 3
    Both are already implemented, you can't invalidate flags against your own posts and there's a blue mark to the right of flagged messages in chat. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:37
  • 1
    @voretaq if you look at my screenshot it's missing decline and approve buttons. Even mods can't act on their own flags! Also, as Fabian says, you can just about see the red indicator in the bottom left.
    – user142852
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:40
  • @Fabian: Is that blue marker visible to the poster? Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:42
  • @TiZon Not sure, I haven't had any of my posts flagged yet. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:43
  • @fabian AFAIK I've never been flagged, I do vaguely recall the blue marker though from responding to other flags -- as long as it's visible to everyone (including the poster) I'm happy :-).
    – voretaq7
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:47
  • 2
    Better late than never, but I've had one of my chat messages flagged, and I could see the blue marker, @BartDeVos
    – user149432
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 17:26
  • The only problem I see with hiding the flags from users outside of the room for 5 minutes is that 6 10k chat users can easily override any and all chat flags in 5 minutes. Very easily. It kinda ruins the entire point of showing them.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 19:18
  • Incredibly late comment: only the flagger and mods/10k users can see that a message has been flagged.
    – user307833
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 7:30

This can lead to the impressive sight of an entire horde of moderators...

Yes it can, however, there is a quick workaround we can use to avoid this for the moment.

enter image description here

The link I have highlighted there takes you to the transcript, not the chat room. This allows you to nosey on what's going on without appearing en masse in the room itself. At this point, you can see some of the context and if the message is horrendously obscene you can hit the delete button and/or act on the flag as appropriate. Otherwise you can leave it to the mods of that site, or their 10ks.

I do this personally to avoid entering the room and so creating the motorway accident effect - where everyone slows down to look.

However, I recommend this as a kind-of workaround to the en-masse-room-entering-problem only. I think, really, we probably need some curtailing of the flag visibility, otherwise some of the 200+ mods are going to load the room itself.

I apologise to the 230 mods who had to put up with this flag so I could obtain this screenshot. Also, the word my freehand circles has obscured is bugging, as in "annoying". Just so we're clear....


I agree 100% that these problems exist and should be addressed. I like the idea of an escalation system, but I have one problem with the system you propose: Don't limit the initial flags to users in one room.

I've seen and even had to moderate rooms that had enough cliquish high rep users that if anyone got offended or thought things were getting out of hand they could all mob together and dismiss any spam or offensive flags. This creates a rotten culture of disrespect and blatant non compliance with the SE standards and rules, flaming anyone who thinks differently. As soon as the clique leaders were moderated or banned other users came out of the woodwork and the room became a welcoming open place where issues were respectfully and considerately taken care of, with the occasional help of moderators.

I would think this a one time or odd case, but I have unfortunately seen this multiple times. Giving chat flags even less visibility to outside eyes will only make this worse and deepen the problem.

Another point worth mentioning is context. Context can be important when handling chat flags but the majority are pretty clear cut. If it doesn't follow the Stack Exchange be nice policy it doesn't belong here, whether that is chat, meta, or the main site, regardless of context. There are plenty of other mediums for these conversations outside of Stack Exchange. I do not believe that ban hammers need to fly for every inappropriate message or conversation, some are perfectly reasonable elsewhere, but it still does not belong here. A little cleaning and polite request to move it elsewhere can do just as good.

  • That is a problem, and I amended my post a while back to address this. There has to be an obvious way to flag for outside help in the flag dialog. This along with some better tools to give mods the ability to see what flags were raised in that room and what happened to them should make it much harder for 10k users to abuse the ability to dismiss flags. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 7:15

I agree that some sort of escalation would be a big help -- let's not flood all signed-in 10k users with flags they probably don't have context to handle anyway. But I also agree with this answer that we shouldn't just leave it to the occupants of a room to handle their flags, because sometimes that...fails spectacularly.

I think two things would mitigate that risk so that we could escalate flags without letting problems fly under the radar entirely:

  • As I suggested here, make it easier for moderators to audit flagging history in their site's rooms after the fact.

  • Raise auto-flags for moderators if flag or flag-decline velocity or overall volume reach certain thresholds. I don't know what those thresholds should be, but if a room is attracting a burst of flags, or if most flags are being declined, that's something it's worth telling moderators about. Chat raises moderator auto-flags for users who are repeatedly kicked, and the main sites raise auto-flags for things like high comment volume and many edits to the same post, so this suggestion is in that spirit.

  • I proposed some of this in a different feature request (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/239343/…). My original feature request here is really old by now, and my new feature request has a bit more detail on how I'd try to avoid this particular issue. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:00
  • 1
    Oh, thanks -- can be hard to find the right questions in the MSE haystack. I got to this one via something that was closed as a duplicate of it today. There's overlap between our proposals but they're not identical, so maybe I should answer over there (if somebody else hasn't covered these points; need to review). Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 16:08

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