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On standard posts, if you have flagged something for one reason, you cannot re-flag the post for the same reason. This prevents people from spamming flags on specific posts if they didn't get the result they wanted the first time. If they need to, they can provide a custom flag to moderators and explain in detail what might have been missed on their first flag.

This same limit doesn't apply to comment flags. As a result, people can keep re-flagging comments over and over in an attempt to force moderators to remove them. I've often seen this on comments that provide constructive criticism for an incorrect answer, where the answerer simply wants to silence the dissenting opinion. This also happens on Meta.SO frequently when people disagree with someone's take on a situation.

I've handled multiple cases where I've had to decline three "rude / offensive" flags in a row on the same comment, each immediately after the last was declined. Since we can't see who flagged a comment, or a comment's flag history, we might not realize this is happening until we dig deeper.

This wastes moderator time and allows extremely troublesome flaggers to sometimes luck into getting a different moderator to remove the innocuous comment (because of a misclick, being tired of dealing with these comment flags, etc.).

I propose that once a user has cast a specific type of flag on a comment ("not constructive", "rude / offensive", "obsolete"), they not be allowed to use one of these defaults flags again on the same comment. They should be free to use a custom comment flag to further explain why we should take action, in case something was missed. I believe this would curb the abuse of these flags that we see.

  • While this is a great suggestion, I'd wager the technical reason why this might be difficult to implement could be the same that might prevent the identification of the flagger in the first place, the lack of this information being tracked at all in the system. This would fit to the general nature of comments as second class citizens in other aspects of the system, too. – Christian Rau Dec 9 '15 at 17:56
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    @ChristianRau - This information is tracked, it's just not presented to moderators. A user can view which flags they have cast on comments, and we can review a user's flagging history to see the same. This is how I know that certain people were behind the flagging of a comment multiple times. – Brad Larson Dec 9 '15 at 18:07
  • Right, completely forgot about that. – Christian Rau Dec 9 '15 at 18:20
  • 5
    I didn't even know that was possible. Could it be that users are expecting some visual change to occur when they flag a comment and think the flag didn't "take" when they don't see it? Maybe the repeat flaggers think the flag isn't working. – BSMP Dec 11 '15 at 1:29
11

This will be added in the next build.

Users will only be able to flag comments once per flag type (with the exception of "Other", in which they can keep on complaining). When opening the flag dialog again (after the existing flag has been cleared), the user will see the previously used flag greyed out with a note below it, as it does in post flagging.

12

Update: July 2017.

Even though it doesn't happen a ton, this still is taking place and the behavior is different from posts. I've been meaning to get back to this but it fell into my large backlog of things to look at. I've now written it up internally for review in hopes it can be implemented without too much hassle. I'll change this to while we move it through our process.


I've been meaning to look at this for a while to see how often users actually do this and to see if it's worth the effort to put these restrictions in place.

The stats are for the past year of comment flags on sites that had at least one comment flagged multiple times by the same user, including only the comment flags, not constructive, too chatty, rude, or obsolete. I purposely left out the "other" comment flag because that would be the one a user would be left with if this was implemented.

After pulling the numbers to see what percentage of comments are being flagged multiple times as you'll notice it doesn't happen a lot.

# Comment Flags # Re-flags % Reflagged Site Name 
--------------- ---------- ----------- --------- 
209406          969        0.46        Stack Overflow
3592            36         1.0         Super User
1041            14         1.34        Server Fault
21              2          9.52        Stack Apps
208             6          2.88        Home Improvement
231             2          0.87        Game Developers
1318            14         1.06        Gaming    
124             4          3.23        GIS       
8619            169        1.96        Mathematics
350             2          0.57        Photography
383             23         6.01        Statistical Analysis
408             2          0.49        Web Apps  
117             2          1.71        Webmasters
594             41         6.9         Apple     
2199            28         1.27        English Language and Usage
269             10         3.72        Personal Finance and Money
2768            11         0.4         Role-playing Games
1030            6          0.58        TeX - LaTeX
2103            26         1.24        Ubuntu    
1078            6          0.56        Unix and Linux
156             6          3.85        WordPress 
1892            28         1.48        Programmers
724             4          0.55        Android Enthusiasts
186             22         11.83       Board and Card Games
1479            8          0.54        Physics   
1325            18         1.36        IT Security
47              2          4.26        Writers   
761             24         3.15        Electronics and Robotics
267             6          2.25        Graphic Design
7590            60         0.79        Database Administrators
2578            49         1.9         Science Fiction
3813            29         0.76        Code Review
794             10         1.26        Code Golf 
82              15         18.29       Quantitative Finance
779             51         6.55        Skeptics  
450             4          0.89        Drupal Answers
133             8          6.02        Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
438             2          0.46        Parenting 
55              2          3.64        SharePoint
301             6          1.99        Musical Practice and Performance
36              2          5.56        Software Quality Assurance and Testing
1938            14         0.72        Jewish Life and Learning
603             19         3.15        German Language and Usage
219             6          2.74        Japanese Language and Usage
52              2          3.85        Gardening and Landscaping
332             12         3.61        Philosophy
902             29         3.22        Travel    
41              2          4.88        Signal Processing
2148            6          0.28        Christianity
560             7          1.25        Movies    
19              2          10.53       Chinese Language and Usage
401             5          1.25        Biology   
133             2          1.5         The Great Outdoors
61              4          6.56        Martial Arts
1117            25         2.24        Academia  
1765            10         0.57        Computer Science
1991            2          0.1         The Workplace
1114            6          0.54        Chemistry 
36              6          16.67       Chess     
965             26         2.69        Islam     
100             2          2.0         Salesforce
257             2          0.78        User Experience
15              2          13.33       Audio-Video Production
131             12         9.16        Magento   
414             16         3.86        English Language Learners
38              2          5.26        Sustainable Living
107             2          1.87        Network Engineering Stack Exchange
37              2          5.41        Open Data Stack Exchange
202             2          0.99        Blender Stack Exchange
596             6          1.01        MathOverflow
525             2          0.38        Space Exploration Stack Exchange
1119            8          0.71        Stack Overflow em Português
337             2          0.59        Aviation Stack Exchange
754             4          0.53        Software Recommendations Stack Exchange
43              2          4.65        Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange
672             10         1.49        Puzzling Stack Exchange
54              4          7.41        Buddhism Stack Exchange
186             6          3.23        Hinduism Stack Exchange
109             6          5.5         スタック・オーバーフロー
49              2          4.08        Emacs Stack Exchange
41              2          4.88        History of Science and Mathematics Stack Exchange
353             8          2.27        Lifehacks Stack Exchange
912             10         1.1         Engineering Stack Exchange
10              2          20.0        Coffee Stack Exchange
41              2          4.88        Music Fans Stack Exchange
2505            8          0.32        Stack Overflow на русском
254             4          1.57        Law Stack Exchange
113             4          3.54        Stack Overflow en español

The above numbers are when the same user flags the same comment multiple times with what could be different flags. Since you initially asked about users flagging the same comment multiple times with the same flag, I figured I better pull those stats as well:

# Comment Flags # Re-flags % Reflagged Site Name 
--------------- ---------- ----------- --------- 
209421          747        0.36        Stack Overflow
3579            27         0.75        Super User
1042            11         1.06        Server Fault
22              2          9.09        Stack Apps
210             4          1.9         Home Improvement
228             2          0.88        Game Developers
1316            14         1.06        Gaming    
120             4          3.33        GIS       
8625            133        1.54        Mathematics
349             2          0.57        Photography
386             17         4.4         Statistical Analysis
408             2          0.49        Web Apps  
120             2          1.67        Webmasters
590             38         6.44        Apple     
2232            19         0.85        English Language and Usage
263             6          2.28        Personal Finance and Money
2752            11         0.4         Role-playing Games
1045            6          0.57        TeX - LaTeX
2101            16         0.76        Ubuntu    
1073            2          0.19        Unix and Linux
163             2          1.23        WordPress 
1892            22         1.16        Programmers
726             4          0.55        Android Enthusiasts
187             20         10.7        Board and Card Games
1502            6          0.4         Physics   
1327            18         1.36        IT Security
47              2          4.26        Writers   
760             20         2.63        Electronics and Robotics
269             2          0.74        Graphic Design
7799            56         0.72        Database Administrators
2601            33         1.27        Science Fiction
3804            23         0.6         Code Review
798             6          0.75        Code Golf 
82              15         18.29       Quantitative Finance
775             44         5.68        Skeptics  
451             4          0.89        Drupal Answers
135             5          3.7         Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
440             2          0.45        Parenting 
55              2          3.64        SharePoint
300             4          1.33        Musical Practice and Performance
37              2          5.41        Software Quality Assurance and Testing
1951            8          0.41        Jewish Life and Learning
600             17         2.83        German Language and Usage
213             6          2.82        Japanese Language and Usage
50              2          4           Gardening and Landscaping
334             12         3.59        Philosophy
915             26         2.84        Travel    
41              2          4.88        Signal Processing
2144            6          0.28        Christianity
563             2          0.36        Movies    
19              2          10.53       Chinese Language and Usage
384             5          1.3         Biology   
137             2          1.46        The Great Outdoors
61              4          6.56        Martial Arts
1075            17         1.58        Academia  
1755            7          0.4         Computer Science
1116            2          0.18        Chemistry 
36              6          16.67       Chess     
968             16         1.65        Islam     
102             2          1.96        Salesforce
250             2          0.8         User Experience
15              2          13.33       Audio-Video Production
131             12         9.16        Magento   
409             14         3.42        English Language Learners
41              2          4.88        Sustainable Living
87              2          2.3         Network Engineering Stack Exchange
37              2          5.41        Open Data Stack Exchange
207             4          1.93        Blender Stack Exchange
598             4          0.67        MathOverflow
523             2          0.38        Space Exploration Stack Exchange
1119            8          0.71        Stack Overflow em Português
764             2          0.26        Software Recommendations Stack Exchange
742             6          0.81        Puzzling Stack Exchange
54              2          3.7         Buddhism Stack Exchange
177             6          3.39        Hinduism Stack Exchange
109             4          3.67        スタック・オーバーフロー
49              2          4.08        Emacs Stack Exchange
41              2          4.88        History of Science and Mathematics Stack Exchange
369             6          1.63        Lifehacks Stack Exchange
914             10         1.09        Engineering Stack Exchange
40              2          5           Music Fans Stack Exchange
2515            2          0.08        Stack Overflow на русском
266             3          1.13        Law Stack Exchange
114             4          3.51        Stack Overflow en español

Considering the percentage of comments re-flagged is so low, I'm not entirely sold on this idea but I'm not saying no...yet. Since it's more of an annoyance than a common problem, I'm going to this to see how much work would be involved.

  • 4
    I'm actually somewhat surprised at how frequent this is. If I'm reading this right, that's happening nearly three times a day on Stack Overflow. Not a huge number compared to the overall rate of comment flags coming in, but it's troubling to me that this is that frequent. – Brad Larson Mar 4 '16 at 22:26
  • 4
    It's really going to come down to how difficult it will be to implement it @BradLarson. Hopefully it won't be too bad and we can fix it. – Taryn Mar 4 '16 at 22:37
  • 1
    @BradLarson I pulled some more numbers after I realized that the first dataset was for any comment with any flag multiple times. The latest set of data is same comment, same flag multiple times. On SO you see over 2 flags a day which are noise, still a low percentage of overall flags but I'm going to pass it over to the devs to see if we can get it fixed. – Taryn Mar 8 '16 at 22:21
  • 3
    As a mod I've run into a few users who consistently do this. It might be sufficient if some threshold of this would trigger a mod flag on the user somehow, so we could instruct that person on how (not) to flag. Just a thought, not fully baked or anything... – Monica Cellio Apr 11 '16 at 4:06

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