I am seeing an increasing number of people using the offensive flag incorrectly. The description reads:
This question contains content that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.
yet I am seeing it questions that are just bad questions and answers that are just wrong or just links, for example. In the former case down-votes and close-votes are the appropriate responses, and in the latter case down-votes and/or comments are the appropriate responses.
Because of the consequences of something being deleted through offensive flags - a 100 point reputation hit - we have to take these flags seriously and spend some time checking out the post to make sure that we're not missing something.
At the moment the only feedback we can give is in a custom decline reason on the flag - which may well not get read - or a mod message to the user, which can be overkill if this is only the first or second time this happens. Both of these can be effectively ignored and the user can carry on abusing the offensive flag.
If we want the user to stop then the only effective solution is to suspend them from the site for a day or so which seems somewhat harsh.
It would be better if we could prevent the user from using the flag for a short period - a couple of hours or so, maybe a day at most. This means that we are addressing the specific behaviour we want to correct, but allowing the user to carry on using the site for other reasons.
I see this option as being available to moderators where we see the flag - perhaps a new option "decline with suspension" on the "decline" dialog. We could then either pick one of the standard decline reasons or add a custom message as now, plus the length of the suspension. If it's not possible (or in fact desirable) for specific flags to be blocked then a general flag ban would be the best solution. In fact this might be better as it would stop them using the "other" flag to tell us something was "offensive" to them.
The next time the user tried to flag they'd see this message instead of the flag dialog and the time left on their suspension.
If they don't flag before the suspension runs out then they should still be shown the dialog and at least have to click through it before flagging. I know people don't read these things properly, but we can at least say that they were shown the information.
The suspension doesn't need to be more than a day at most, and should usually be a couple of hours. All it is there for it to get the users attention and tell them "stop, you're doing something wrong".