I flagged a question as "rude" because it used the letters that spelled a choice Anglo-Saxon expletive beginning with f as the four elements of an example set. Seemed unnecessary and deliberately vulgar, so I flagged it.

The status of the flag is "disputed". What does that really mean? Is the dispute among the moderators as to whether the question is rude? Or did the OP dispute the flag? Or what?

Also, is my rude threshold set too low?

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    $\begingroup$ You might consider adding (specific-flag tag) - depending on whether you want to ask only about this specific case, or whether your question is intended to be more general and this situation is only intended as an illustration. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Nov 18 '16 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ I believe accepting a rude/offensive flag automatically triggers a -100 reputation penalty; as such I moderators make sure to accept only those worthy of such punishment. I would not consider what you described an offensive answer, just a tasteless one. You should have edited the answer renaming the variables. An offensive answer is one like: "The OP of this question is a m****! and you all are s*****s! Go f*** o** all of you!". An otherwise valid answer using $\{c, k, u, f\}$ as a 4-element set does not warrant an offensive flag (IMHO), but, yes, should be avoided. $\endgroup$ – Bakuriu Nov 25 '16 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ Might I ask (for the sole purposes of reviewing this issue) which post you refer to? The formatting can help determine whether or not it was intentionally written that way. Not everyone thinks that deeply when writing.... $\endgroup$ – user64742 Nov 30 '16 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ The question has been closed / deleted. The link to it was math.stackexchange.com/questions/2017620/… $\endgroup$ – John Fisher Dec 4 '16 at 5:32

There are two ways a moderator can act on a "rude or abusive" flag that they disagree with:

  1. explicitly decline the flag, and
  2. clear the flag from the post.

They both have the effect of removing all "rude or abusive" flags from the post, and undoing the automatic downvote associated with each. But while former obviously declines the flag, the latter only disputes it. (When a flag is declined you'll additionally get a note about this in your flagging history.)

(The above also holds for "spam" flags.)

In Stack Exchange nomenclature having a flag disputed flag is not as strong as having it declined. In fact there are some automatic mechanisms which dispute flags. For example, any edit to a post will dispute all "very low quality" flags on it. I do not think there are any negative effects to having flags disputed, whereas having too many declined flags may lead to a temporary flagging ban.

Putting this all together, the flag was disputed because a moderator didn't think that the post warranted a "rude or abusive" flag, and decided to not outright decline it.

That being said, I don't believe that the "rude or offensive" flag was warranted on the post you flagged. Sure a "bad word" could be read off of it, but the post itself could have been simply edited (or an edit suggested) to remove this possibility without damaging the post at all. In general I feel that the "rude or abusive" flags should be reserved for posts whose entire intent appears to be being rude or abusive. These flags are really intended to stop the user from posting more, and at a minimum come with pretty hefty penalties (-100 reputation if enough such flags are raised on a post).

In cases where a post has perhaps objectionable content but is otherwise meaningful, the objectionable content can usually be edited out without harming the mathematical intent of the post. (If the post author and others get into an "edit war" over the objectionable content, a flag will automatically be raised to summon site moderators to the post.) In other cases a moderator-only "other" flag could be raised, or even pop in to the Math Mods' Office chat room.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't it also true that flagging a question (answer) as "very low quality" immediately puts the flagged question (answer) in the "low quality" review queue, and if the reviews are not unanimous in disapproving the said post, one's flag is deemed "disputed?" $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 27 '16 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy That's basically correct, although there is a bit more besides. I think it is more correct to say that if a VLQ review doesn't result in the deletion of the post (and a moderator didn't decline the flag), then the VLQ flag is marked as disputed. For example, editing a post while it is in the VLQ review queue removes it from the queue, and disputes all VLQ flags on the post. (The question above was about "rude/abusive" flags, so I didn't deem it important to mention VLQ reviews.) $\endgroup$ – user642796 Nov 27 '16 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ I added my comment to both observe and confirm a strong hunch I've developed, since most (not all) of my disputed flags are in relation flags for "very low quality." I didn't mean at all to challenge your answer, arjafi. My comment was more of a "while we're on the topic of disputed flags..." sort of thing, asking whether "my hunch" had any merit wrt the vlq flags. Thanks for all "besides" too! And I did not comment to suggest your answer was incomplete in any way. You answered the question(s) (both the OP's and mine!) admirably. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Nov 28 '16 at 19:31

I, too, am amazed by obvious problems that get "disputed" when flagged. Since the moderators are of good faith, though, we must admit that sometimes they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of flags raised by the community, so some of these flags simply don't get the necesary attention.

In this very specific example, though, I believe that one moderator simply did not perceive the expletive, which from your description was not exactly obvious for somebody doing only a quick mental parsing of that post (and moderators cannot afford to waste too much time on any single flag). Next time, flag as "rude" only those posts that are explicitly, manifestly so (such as insults or threats addressed to other users). If some vulgar language is buried inside the post, it is better to choose to flag it as "in need of moderator intervention" and precisely describe the problem in your own words, simplifying the task of the moderator.

On the other hand, since moderators are so busy, honestly, why didn't you try to edit the question yourself and replace that word? Why do so many users believe that "civic duty" means to only signal something to the "powers that be" and expect that "somebody up there" should fix it, instead of fixing the problems themselves when it is in their power? Ask for moderator-specific powers only in problems requiring moderator-specific powers - which the one that you mention does not seem to be.

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