This is about our behavior policy and how it relates to flagging offensive comments (and posts, I suppose).

  • Is it a violation of the behavior policy to insult another citizen, or to equate their actions on the site with serious offenses such as violent hate crimes?
  • In particular, should a "rude or offensive" flag for such statements be acted upon?
  • Are flagged comments which would normally be deleted as offensive considered not worthy of removal if their visibility is limited to only some citizens rather than the entire Internet? (i.e. does our dirty laundry get washed less vigorously if we're the only ones who can see it?)

These questions are prompted by a recent comment which compared a citizen's undesirable posting habits to an act of genocide. It was an otherwise accurate comment which may have contributed to the speedy deletion of the post by its owner, and so the comment is only visible to 10k+ rep users. I flagged it as offensive prior to the post's deletion, and the flag was declined after the deletion --to my incredulous dismay.

I provided links to the individual incident, as requested, but I'm concerned it'll put focus on the incident instead of the questions it brought to my mind.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Please link to the post in question. Also, as a note, I have no idea how the flagging system relates to flagged comments on deleted posts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's bsaically impossible for anybody without 10k to talk about this except in incredibly broad terms without more information. Maybe that's okay in this case given the nature of the incident, but if you want widespread participation then something more is going to have to be provided. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can post a screenshot if need be, but I don't think that's really in the spirit of things. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, @BESW, you've done quite enough, thanks. We'll discuss it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 12:04
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton Thanks much for the speedy attention to that incident, but it's not why I made the post. My broad framing of the questions was deliberate and I actually hoped for answers to them rather than to create drama and get people all agitated about a specific comment whose point I honestly agreed with. I'm afraid I failed on that count. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 12:31

1 Answer 1


Flags and Flag Handling

As for the flag, I don't know in this specific case because I didn't handle it (I was the flag-ee), but I usually decline flags on stuff that's deleted already. Deleted items are meant to be deleted and they appear just for change-history, they're not "Q&A just for high rep users." Not sure what the value would ever be except for a Vindicated Feeling of Righteousness (tm).

Flag handling is pretty low tech actually. It generally just gives you the options of "delete," "declined - helpful", and "declined - not helpful." So unless it's a flag on a Q/A/C that we think is egregious enough to delete out of hand, we "decline-helpful" and then edit or comment or mod-message or do whatever other thing that the flag system doesn't understand to mitigate. As a result the vast majority of flags are "declined." We only really proc the delete when it's over the top - spam or a long string of cusses... Or sometimes a comment we'd delete anyway, though often there it's part of an argument-thread where we delete the whole batch instead.

You should interpret "declined - helpful" as the mod agrees and will possibly do something, and "declined - not helpful" as the mod thinks you just wasted their time and please don't do it again. Because of how it works technically, unless deletion out of hand is the answer, it gets declined. This is an odd fencepost case in that the answer and thus comment was already deleted, so "delete" is not really effective...

Also, the flagging system is super inconsistent from Q to A to C. Comment flags just have "delete," "edit," and "dismiss" but no "helpful/unhelpful" choice, dismiss just dismisses it.

enter image description here

Flag stuff that's a problem, but don't seek self validation in the result codes that come back.

Some other information on flags and flag handling.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid I failed to make myself clear. I agree with your comment and if this post was about getting it deleted I'd've linked to it from the start. The incident got me thinking about how little I know about the behavior and flagging policies, and I thank you for addressing that in your last paragraph. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 12:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That's good to know, but all I'm getting on my end is "declined," "helpful," or "disputed." The only time I've seen more than one word is once when I got "declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention." I'll hazard a guess that's "not helpful." \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah. Well, we don't get to freeform text in, it's all radio buttons. Flag something and I'll screenshot it and paste it in. (I cant' actually, as a diamond mod my flags auto delete) \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aye, no foul, just thought I'd throw out that we don't see the "declined - helpful" bits, we just get "declined." So the nuance of implication is lost, and now we both know that! \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feel free and flag it again, I can't find it after I dismissed - that guy must have changed his user name because I tried to search on it to no avail \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 14:51
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ note, if you choose helpful, it will not show as declined in people's flag stream. In the case of comment flags, editing and deleting the comment will both dismiss the flag as helpful. Dismissing is will dismiss it as declined. For post flags it's a bit more complicated. Deleting or editing a post, and closing a question will clear as helpful. You can also select "do nothing" and mark the flag as helpful or declined. If you choose declined for a post flag you must select a reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk He's unregistered, so I guess unregistered accounts don't show up in search results \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 10:48

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