I flagged this answer as not-an-answer, because it contains nothing useful except an off-site link which is now broken.

My flag was disputed and the "answer" remains.

I was under the impression that answers containing nothing but an off-site link were not allowed; has this changed? Are we to consider answers which contain no useful information and a single broken link to be valid answers?

I flagged two similar no-content answers and both of those flags were also disputed (though one was deleted anyways). Is this a case of somebody with access to the mod tools not understanding SO's policy on link-only answers?

  • 1
    Probably a genuine mistake, like the mod who handled the flag got distracted by the phone or something else and forgot to dispatch the post. The outcome of disputed flags can look weird as well depending on how they stack, regardless of whether a mod marked as helpful or declined.
    – Kev
    Aug 5, 2012 at 23:57
  • Just a tip : If you find answer that only contains broken link, what I think is the best approach is to leave a comment saying that the link is broken and that it should contain explanation (not just a link). This way you leave the author the chance to improve the answer with actual content. If the next day or two, the answer wasn't edited, it becomes flag worthy.
    – HoLyVieR
    Aug 6, 2012 at 0:33
  • 1
    @HoLyVieR If you look at the answer I linked to, you'll see I did exactly that. I disagree though: The answer should be deleted and then flagged for undeletion when it's improved.
    – user229044
    Aug 6, 2012 at 3:56

3 Answers 3


It's possbile that neither the user who cast the "invalid flag" flag nor the moderator (maybe precisely because of the "invalid flag" flag) were aware that the link is defunct. The flag queue is huge and there are only a few moderators.

In cases like this, rather than just casting a NAA flag, you should flag as Other and explain that the link is now dead and – therefore – the answer is now useless.

  • 2
    If it's just a link we'd be more than likely to just convert it to a comment, the custom message helps more if the link is dead.
    – casperOne
    Aug 6, 2012 at 1:28

If at all possible, we should try to improve answers, so I tried to use the Wayback Machine to see if I could at least get a copy of the old content and at least put this "answer" back into it's previous state of being helpful. However, a robots.txt file on that server prevented the Internet Archive from parsing it while the link was still active.

Thus, in this case, I believe it needs to be flagged again for removal, and I've done so.

As an aside, if your flag was "disputed", all that means is that a 10K user saw your flag in the flag queue and disagreed with the flag. This is by no means a final answer. Moderators cannot mark a flag as disputed, only helpful or declined. (Although the flag may still show "disputed" either way.)

By leaving a comment, you've made it clearer to the moderator that there is indeed a problem with the post. This will help him see that action needs to be taken, up to and including deletion of the post.


Their "rule" is that link-only answers which are accepted are an "exception" but this is clearly a case for getting that rule terminated.

  • 2
    In practice I don't see any rules about it, flagging a link-only answer as NAA has always been gambling on flag weight in my experience after 1.1k flags.
    – Esailija
    Aug 5, 2012 at 21:46
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    @Esailija: Several moderators have stated publicly here on meta that they follow this policy, and other moderators have voiced their opinions against that policy. So yes, it is gambling. It depends on whether you get a moderator that is for or against it. I almost always flag using "other - link only" so getting disputed isn't an issue.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Aug 5, 2012 at 21:50
  • There is general agreement amongst the mods that if the accepted answer is link only, the link still works and seems to go somewhere useful and isn't hellishly downvoted, then we don't delete the post. It's not ideal, but at the end of the day it's that external content that solved the OP's problem and we respect that choice. Otherwise we shoot on sight. There is no gamble, unless you can cite specific examples.
    – Kev
    Aug 6, 2012 at 0:01
  • 1
    I should also add that we also review the question as well and take into account the quality of the post. If the question is junk then it'll get closed, and we may opt to delete the link-only accepted answer. Context is everything.
    – Kev
    Aug 6, 2012 at 0:05
  • 2
    To quote from Shog's answer: meta.stackexchange.com/a/136026/419 - But even decent questions sometimes get link-only answers, and if there's only one useful answer, deleting it to achieve purity accomplishes nothing. - useful being in the eye of the beholder i.e. the OP.
    – Kev
    Aug 6, 2012 at 0:07

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