I recently flagged a StackOverflow question for moderator attention because related to the decompilation of third-party software, which smelt a little dodgy.

The response I got for the flag was:

declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention

This leaves me a little confused. Was I correct to flag this for moderator attention, even if my fears were misplaced? I can see several possible reasons for this flag response:

  1. The number of auto flag responses are small and this is the nearest fit. Perhaps the real response is "Thanks, a valid use of the flag system but I'm not too worried about this myself."

  2. The moderator incorrectly thinks it's not his/her job to care about such issues.

  3. I incorrectly think the moderator should care about these things, but actually there's another way to handle this

Can anyone advise on what my correct action should have been? (Focussing on how I should have used the tools, rather than concerning whether I was right or not).

  • Vote as you see fit. That's all really. The community is able enough to handle such issues. Moderator intervention isn't really needed.
    – Bart
    Jul 24, 2013 at 13:24
  • 1
    It's not 1, because mods can type custom decline messages. Also I know this is a duplicate but I can't find it.
    – Doorknob
    Jul 24, 2013 at 13:25
  • @Bart For some reason, voting to close it didn't even occur to me. Jul 24, 2013 at 13:27
  • 1
    Related, maybe a dup: Dealing with questions that openly imply software piracy (the reason I think it might be a dup is Robert's answer more or less answers this question) Jul 24, 2013 at 13:29
  • 1
    -1: decompilation might sound shady to you, but in fact in most countries you're allowed to do that for purpose or interoperability. For example in European Union it's a guaranteed right. Regardless of what EULA says about it, because general law always takes precedence.
    – vartec
    Jul 24, 2013 at 15:04
  • @vartec I tried to be quite careful in this question to focus on whether I did the right thing assuming I was correct in my fears. So feel free to pretend the other question was about the shadiest subject known to man and then judge my response. Jul 25, 2013 at 7:20

1 Answer 1


Only flag for moderator attention if you believe a post is an exceptional case. In this case, this question has no exceptional quality.

Exceptional cases include (not exhaustive):

  • violating our Terms of Service
  • copyright infringement
  • aspects of the post that present the need to short-circuit the community moderation
  • riots breaking out over the question (yo-yoing between open and closed, and cauing a ruckus
  • plagiarism
  • authentication/authorization/connection strings/tokens visible in post
  • suspected sock puppet activity
  • serial downvoting that isn't resolved by the automated serial vote removal system
  • Very low quality post -- in essence a post that should be immediately deleted because it is unsalvagable through editing and actively makes the site a worse place by its presence.

Relevant reasons not to step in:

  • Third-party NDA agreements.
  • We do not enforce contracts between two other entities.

Essentially, if a post is going to cause serious issues that can't be handled through the community, flag it for us. Otherwise, let the community do its thing. Vote to close, downvote, whatever.

There's a very high bar for a moderator to step in -- mostly because we're meant to be exception handlers. It hasn't always been this way (in practice), but we've seen that the more we handle outside the community moderation system, the more often people flag items for us to handle, as opposed to handling it within the community moderation system. Thousands of 3K users can handle thousands of questions. 12 moderators cannot scale that well.

  • You mention "copyright infringement". Do you mean questions relating to activities that infringe copyright? If not, then I guess that's the same thing as your plagiarism item later in the list? Jul 24, 2013 at 13:41
  • @DuncanJones plagiarism can be between two users; copyright infringment is normally a user vs. an entity. Jul 24, 2013 at 13:43
  • Just curious: are "it needs ♦ moderator attention -- not an answer" flags actually seen by moderators, or are these handled automatically (if multiple flags have been raised)? (I couldn't find it in the review queue, but maybe I'm missing something.)
    – Arjan
    Jul 24, 2013 at 13:50
  • @Arjan Yes (part of the reason why I say my list isn't exhaustive). Just make sure you're actually flagging something that isn't an answer. Jul 24, 2013 at 13:53
  • Ok, thanks... I wonder if we really need to bother moderators with "not an answer" then (voting/commenting might do the job too, though probably not for passing-by unregistered users who cannot delete). But that's a different topic.
    – Arjan
    Jul 24, 2013 at 14:02
  • @DuncanJones, for what it's worth, copyright and plagiarism are quite different: plagiarism concerns attribution while copyright concerns distribution. They're only slightly correlated, in that if you plagiarize a copyrighted document without changing it at all, you're probably also violating copyright law.
    – senderle
    Jul 30, 2013 at 23:25

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