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The titular question came up in another thread.

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This answer is out of date. The current flag procedures are described in another answer.

From the meta.so faq on 10k tools:
Users with sufficiently high reputation (10k on mature sites, 2k on beta sites) can see posts (questions or answers) flagged as offensive or spam.
♦ moderators can see those, as well as posts flagged for moderator attention.

From the meta.so faq on comment voting and flagging:
Comment flags are visible to moderators, but are also handled automatically - if enough users flag a comment, it is automatically deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. After a flag becomes visible, what determines its lifespan -- when might it become invisible? $\endgroup$ – T.. Sep 21 '10 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ Also, are users notified of flags on their postings? $\endgroup$ – T.. Sep 21 '10 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Offensive and spam flags expire after 48 hours or can be cleared manually. Flags for moderator attention must be cleared manually. (I think deleting a post will also clear its flags.) Users do not receive notifications about flags, so please edit the post or write a comment, depending on severity, if you want someone to take notice. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Sep 21 '10 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Now that this ancient thread got linked from a current meta post, I gave an up-to-date description of the system below. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Dec 3 '14 at 1:27
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The accepted answer is out of date. The current flag procedures are described here.

Visible only to moderators

  1. spam
  2. rude/abusive
  3. other (needs ♦ moderator attention)
  4. all comment flags

Remark. Flags of types 1, 2, 4 can be handled automatically by the system, if enough of them are raised. The post or comment gets deleted in this case, and the flags are marked helpful.

Visible to moderators and to users with access to Low Quality Review Queue

  1. very low quality
  2. not an answer

Remark. Most of these flags are resolved in Review Queue, one way or the other. They only enter the moderator queue if one of the following happens

  1. The flag remains unresolved for an hour.
  2. The outcome of review is to recommend deletion, but the answer has a positive score or is accepted.
  3. The outcome of review is mixed.

The rules are documented here.

Visible only to users with access to Close Vote Review Queue

  1. duplicate question
  2. question should be closed for another reason

Remark. These are sometimes called closeflags; their classification parallels the classification of closevotes. Users below 3000 rep cast closeflags; users with 3000 and above cast closevotes.

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