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Every once in a while I see flags displayed to me in one of the tabs of the moderator tools. Most of the time I just ignore them, because I don't understand what they could possibly be about, but sometimes I see one of them where I think, “now really, no action is required here at all”, so I add an “invalid flag” (one of the choices I have there) on top of the already existing flag (because that's what the instructions tell me to do). I was hoping that by doing so I tell the moderators that they can safely ignore that flag and deal with more important things.

Every single one of those flags was “disputed” (whatever that means), so I must misunderstand something fundamental here.

Could somebody please explain to me what I should do about those flags?

  1. Should I just ignore them in general?
  2. In what situations should I do something about them?
  3. Exactly when should I flag such a flag displayed to me as “invalid”?

I see the flagging system as a means for me to try and help the moderators to do their jobs instead of adding a burden to it, so I'd welcome a clarification.

Finally, what are those flags displayed to me anyway? Are they automatically generated, based on the number of comments to the question and other factors? Because, as I understand it, flags by users are treated confidentially. I'm confused.

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Those flags you see are from other users, but you only see those flags that use one of the standard flagging reasons. Flags for moderator attention with free-form text are still only shown to moderators, and moderators can also see who is flagging for most flags.

The idea behind showing those flags to high-rep users is that they can help out with some of the moderation. If you agree with a flag you can add another flag yourself, showing the moderators that multiple users found the post in question problematic. This is sometimes useful if it is not a clear cut decision, especially if you use a free-form flag and explain your reason and what should be done with the post in question.

Adding an invalid flag disputes the existing flags, so you did nothing wrong there, the terminology is just a bit confusing. This is useful to moderators to know that some users disagree with the flag and that they probably should take a closer look and maybe not act on the flag.

Adding another flag or disputing a flag just gives the moderators another opinion, it can provide them with more information and make it easier to act quickly.

Another way you can help is by acting on those flags if you can. That means e.g. closing questions that should be closed, or sometimes editing posts to salvage them. If you have delete votes you could also use those in some cases.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, this seems to clear it up. Nevertheless, when I read "disputed - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it" it sounds to me as if I did do something wrong. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Oct 28 '11 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ Check again, that probably reads "Declined - a moderator ...", this means a moderator declined the flag you disputed. Which means your own invalid flag was probably right, but I agree that the wording is very confusing. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Oct 28 '11 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I copy-pasted it :) here's a screen shot of that line. (I'm not sure if it would be proper to reveal more information). Anyway, if you're right, then my question is answered. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Oct 28 '11 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Well, even more confusing because the moderator interface for that says "decline", so I assumed it would show up also as "declined" for the users. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Oct 28 '11 at 12:30

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