It happens occasionally that what seems (to me, the flagger) a straightforward and basically undisputable flag is declined or disputed by a mod.

Reading through some of the related posts, I see that if one flag on a post is disputed, all flags on that post are automatically disputed, which might of course indicate that my flag was never even reviewed, but someone else (probably incorrectly) flagged the same answer, and their flag was disputed. (This seems to me a completely nonsensical way of managing flag disputes, but that’s not what this is about.)

With actual declined flags, though, there is no such ambiguity: someone definitely reviewed my flag and declined it. Now, this in itself is not a problem—it’s how the modding system is supposed to work—but occasionally, the decline just seems to be incorrect.

Most flags I submit are “Not an answer”; so too the one that sparked my writing here. In this question, which asks about the etymology of the suffix -th used to make abstract nouns from adjectives, a user posted this answer dealing with the old third-person verbal ending -th. In my book, that is absolutely not an answer: it is completely unrelated to the matter asked in the question.

Yet the flag was declined with what I am assuming is a standard option: “flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer”.

I presume simply flagging the same answer again would likely not help; but is there a ‘proper’ procedure to follow if I want to somehow express that I find the flag review incorrect?

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    It is actually exceptionally seldom that a flag gets rejected by a mod. What happens much, much, much more often is that it gets disputed by a fellow high-rep user. And all a mod can do in such cases is just say "yeah I've seen that". He can't overrule one way or the other. – RegDwigнt Jan 13 '14 at 20:12
  • @RegDwigнt, I thought flags on answers were only available to mods—I certainly can’t see any flag queue anywhere (or does it perhaps just require 10,000 points or something like that?) … – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 13 '14 at 20:19
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    @JanusBahsJacquet english.stackexchange.com/help/privileges specifically "10,000 - access to moderator tools - Handle flags, access reports, delete questions" – MetaEd Jan 13 '14 at 20:21
  • @MετάEd, there we go, I see. Thank you (I can never find those bloody pages when I need them)! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 13 '14 at 20:23
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    @Reg: The question asked (and what I too would like to know) is about flags that are declined. I think the 'disputed' system is working reasonably well, but I agree with Janus that the standard 'declined' screed is very annoying when my flag said "this answer is not just wrong but harmful". How much scope do the mods have to explain the decision to decline a flag? If we knew more we might be less frustrated. – TimLymington Jan 13 '14 at 22:43
  • I've received the following explanations for three flags where the answer was not an answer at all, or was completely wrong: declined - flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer Strange, but I don't make the rules. – anongoodnurse Jan 14 '14 at 4:01
  • @Susan You say "...or was completely wrong" and the decline reason says "flags should not be used to indicate...an altogether wrong answer". I'm not sure what's strange about that. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 16 '14 at 15:44
  • It is strange that answers which are completely wrong, which might give people the wrong impression (despite the correct answers that precede it) would be allowed to continue to be shown. What is not strange about that? – anongoodnurse Jan 17 '14 at 5:52
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    @Susan: If you think an answer is wrong, you should downvote it ('unhelpful'). If it is provably wrong, comment with an explanation or link to show the problem. But mistaken answers also have a value on SE sites, if only so that people can see 'this is a common belief but mistaken because...'. We already have enough complaints about censorship without bending the rules to delete answers with which we disagree. – TimLymington Jan 18 '14 at 17:09

It is my understanding that flags are always handled in bulk, so all flags are marked either helpful or declined. This can be confusing, since it may seem as though your consistent flagging is marked inconsistently, when really it is just a limitation of the system. (I normally mark flags according to the majority, so sometimes I may decline a flag and yet still respond to it as though I might have marked it helpful.)

In the specific case you mention, I declined the flags on the answer because it was an answer, even though it might not be a particularly good one. I have some leeway in providing a custom decline message, but again this message would have gone to everyone who flagged the answer, and in this case, I felt the standard notice was sufficient to cover my judgment.

Usually, I will either delete posts flagged as non-answers or I will convert them to a comment, editing for length as necessary. If the post is at least an attempt to answer the question, then I generally will reject the flag.

In these cases or in any case where the non-answer flag is rejected and you disagree, you might consider leaving a comment for the poster with some specific guidance and giving them time to clarify or add to the post as necessary. If the answer is simply wrong, then downvote. That's what downvoting is for. You may also vote to delete if you feel the content is so egregiously in error that it should not be on the site. (Voting to delete answers is a 20K privilege.)

It is my intent in these instances to direct our community toward helping poor answers to improve.

If you have done all these things and still feel unsatisfied with the situation, ping a mod in chat and we can talk it through.

I hope that answers your question. Let me know if I missed anything.

  • Correction: voting to delete answers is a 20K privilege. Or at least, it's a more-than-18K privilege, because I don't have it. – Marthaª Jan 14 '14 at 0:58
  • @Marthaª Do you have privileges to vote to delete questions? – Kit Z. Fox Jan 14 '14 at 1:00
  • Questions, yes, but not answers. (I edited my comment.) – Marthaª Jan 14 '14 at 1:02
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    Thanks for that. I did not know that flags were handled in bulk—that does make the situation more understandable. And as both you and Martha have said, I suppose this case can be seen as at least an attempt to answer the question, even if it is a hopelessly useless one. I did naturally both downvote and leave a comment (I always do this even with spam and complete non-answers, in the event that some innocent Googler sees the answer before it is dealt with). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 14 '14 at 1:03
  • Thanks, I updated it. That means we have 24 community members with that privilege, excluding mods. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 14 '14 at 1:03
  • According to the link MetaEd helpfully provided in the comments to the question, deleting answers is a Trusted User (20,000 rep) privilege. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 14 '14 at 1:04
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    @Janus I have noticed that many of the users who are diligent flaggers are also diligent about commenting on the items that are flagged. I do appreciate the effort and I am sure the OPs appreciate it too. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 14 '14 at 1:05
  • @Marthaª and KitFox: I wonder where people draw the line between what is and is not an attempt to answer a question. Just now, I came across this answer. To me, that does not count as even an attempt to answer the question. Sure, it mentions the lyric asked about and is (probably, at least) not posted by a spambot or anything like that—but it’s just a proselytising rant about the Bible and how to rear children. Would you consider that this person has attempted to answer the question? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 18 '14 at 14:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, yup, as horrendously bad as that is, it's an attempt at an answer. It deserves to be downvoted into oblivion, but if you're going to flag it, choose "very low quality", not "not an answer". – Marthaª Jan 19 '14 at 1:56
  • @Martha, the problem with the “very poor quality” option is that, in my experience, those flags are always disputed, presumably because more or less everything (even that train wreck of an answer) can be ‘fixed’ with enough editing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 19 '14 at 2:07
  • @KitFox I've been getting a ton of disputed flags when flagging things as invalid. But, occasionally I see an invalid flag as helpful. Does this mean that a mod agreed with the flag? And, would an invalid flag be tagged as declined if a mod disagreed? – David M Apr 8 '14 at 0:20
  • @DavidM I can't say for sure without an example. Ping me in chat and I can look into it. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 8 '14 at 11:34

In the example you give, I agree with the decline: "not an answer" means just that, i.e. it's not even attempting to answer the question. Going on about an unrelated -th ending is totally wrong, but it's still an attempt at an answer. "Not an answer" would be asking a follow-up question ("But how do you explain the -th in 'believeth'?"), or making a comment on someone else's answer ("I don't think the ablaut had anything to do with it."), or trying to start a conversation with someone ("@Anwulf, my cousin's aunt's daughter-in-law's husband also says 'height' like you do.").

If you really do think a decline was incorrect, I think your options are the usual:

  • Forget it and move on to the next task
  • See if you can find a mod in chat and hash it out
  • Post a specific question in Meta (I would only suggest this in particularly egregious cases)

Flagging the same answer again (if the system will even let you do that; I'm not sure it would) is likely to be pointless.


I have also seen very obviously correct flags get disputed and nothing ever comes of it. The flagged posts will just sit there unless you go grab a mod and whine about it convincingly.

It would be handy to have some sort of appeal process for flags that you thought were indisputable. Sometimes people make mistakes when reviewing flags or have an ulterior motive for disagreeing. Or, at the very least, a way to discuss it with a mod to get a more "official" opinion on the subject.

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