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This may be a controversial question, but I think it is important to know the opinion of the community (and hopefully of SE) on this.

In the comments on a recent answer to another question, I have seen some users discussing the possibility of teaming up to flag comments and posts they deem inappropriate, in order to trigger the automatic deletion of those posts due to reaching the flag threshold (comments are automatically deleted after 3+score/3 flags, and posts are automatically deleted after 6 "spam" or "rude or abusive" flags). Note that I am not against the particular goal of these users. I just want to discuss the appropriateness of coordinated flagging in general.

On the one hand, there exist already on the big sites coordinated efforts to close or delete posts with the aim of keeping the site clean and clearing the review queues (CURED on Math.SE, and SOCVR on SO). These efforts are viewed as a good thing because they keep the sites clean. It might then be natural to also allow coordinated flagging.

On the other hand, flag-based actions have a stronger effect on the authors of the posts. Deleted comments cannot be seen by almost anyone, and flag-deleted posts lead to a -100 reputation penalty. Coordinated flagging gives a group of 3 to 6 users some powers that only moderators have (i.e., delete comments). These users have not been elected, and it might happen they make deletion decisions that do not represent what the majority of the community wants. My interpretation of the flag threshold is that, if enough users independently decide that a post is rude/spam, then it probably is. However, if this decision is not independent, then this argument does not necessarily hold anymore.

So what are the thoughts of the community and of SE on coordinated flagging? Is it a good thing under some circumstances? Or should it be prevented?

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    Most probably, there are automatic checks that will notify moderators when such things happen. Also, if you notice this you may want to flag for moderators to check what is going on here. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 6 at 8:24
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    We are already "teaming up to flag comments and posts they deem inappropriate". There are even queues for us to find posts others have found. However we shouldn't do it based on a particular user. It's not clear what you mean by "independent". I realize you are talking about a level of coordination higher than the feed & the queues, but how do the basic principles leave you in doubt? – philipxy Oct 9 at 1:12
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    @philipxy that's why I am referring to the actions that are not in the queues, i. e., comment deletion and 100 rep penalty. These actions are harmful, and cannot be reversed by a group of the same size from the community, so I think that there is potential for abuse. – wimi Oct 9 at 6:22
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    What an extraordinarily well formulated question! – Trilarion Oct 9 at 20:29
  • Comments are disposable. – Mast Oct 19 at 13:01
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+150

When it comes to teaming up to remove certain content from the site(s) one is walking a very fine line.

In the past the community has established that in some circumstances it is warranted and wanted that this happens. Examples are the same you mention in your question (SOCVR on Stack Overflow). The part that sets SOCVR, and other similar rooms, apart from teaming up to flag comments for auto-deletion is that everything is publicly recorded, and can be reviewed by people with the appropriate amount of reputation. This holds for closed posts, deleted posts and posts deleted by flagging.

For example a post that was deleted by votes from users shows:

Enter image description here

A post deleted by gathering a certain number of flags shows:

Enter image description here

This is visible for anyone that has access to the moderator tools.

Deleted comments don't have such a record publicly available. Hence the community can't keep users in check that team up to get comments auto-deleted by means of R&A / spam flags. Only moderators can review these actions.

Another downside is that there is bias to posts that are brought to such a chatroom/group. I know, from personal experience, that one is less thorough reviewing a post when brought up by others in a dedicated channel. I am inclined to close a post brought up in SOCVR faster than I normally would, as I trust the judgement of the person bringing the post to the room.

So in conclusion, I would have no objection whatsoever when this is only about moderating posts. When this comes down to moderating comments I strongly object.

If it turns out that it takes too long for moderators to handle custom flags on comments that are CoC violations, we should seek for ways to optimize this. We could install a special CoC violations flag (that gets handled with priority), or find different ways to reduce the time a flag spends in a queue.

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    Agreed. While posts moderation is quite traceable and can be reversed by the community, this does not apply to comments and shouldn't be the way to go. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Oct 6 at 8:47
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    So it isn't a problem when people team up to flag spam, but it is a problem if they are teaming up to flag things that aren't spam? – Wasabi Oct 8 at 16:49
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    No, it isn't a problem when they flag posts (which could be spam), as they leave a public trace, as opposed to cimmenta. Due to the public trace the community can check on its own members, which they cant when it is about comments. – Luuklag Oct 8 at 17:21
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    The thing is that we can strongly object, but we can't really do anything else about it. A few users have the ability to quickly delete comments from others, it's just that so far this feature wasn't abused too much, I guess. Maybe it would be better to leave the final decision about the deletion of comments to moderators. If this means more moderators are needed, I'd be fine with it. – Trilarion Oct 10 at 6:33
  • Thanks for the excellent grammar check as always @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q – Luuklag Oct 19 at 14:26

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