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I have 17 flags waiting for review, where the oldest one is from 8th January
Now I am wondering what happens with these old flags? Will they stay open until forever or is there a system that ensures every flag will be dealt with?

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Flags do not naturally expire. There are two outcomes for flag handling.

  1. the flag is raised and ends up in the moderator queue (depending on the type of reason associated with the flag) which is dealt with by diamond moderators. Depending on how many flags that are open, how severe the issue is or whether or not the moderator wants to discuss the resolution with other moderator / community members this may take a while. (I say 'queue' but that implies that they're dealt with in order, when infact moderators can see all open moderator flags at any time and can deal with whichever they feel appropriate to do so at any one time).

  2. the flag is automatically handled by action taken on the post itself. Such action could be:

    • The post is reviewed by the community who look over items in the review queue. If enough members vote to close / delete the post then that'll automatically handle your flag against it and mark it as useful.
    • If the owner of the post decides to delete it then that'll also automatically remove your flag and mark it as useful.

If none of the above has happened then the flags will remain open until one of these outcomes occurs. Stack Overflow is a pretty busy place and can have a lot of flags open at any one time. The priority ones are dealt with pretty sharpish but others can take a bit longer. Not all flags go into the moderator queue - if it's a flag that can be handled by the community (such as recommending closure) then it just adds the post to the review queue, leaving the moderators free to look over their more serious issues.

Note: There are some fringe cases when one of the above options has happened but the flag still remains uncleared (such as if it's flagged at the same time as the post is closed), but even in that situation it still remains in the moderator flag queue who will deal with it in due course.

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