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What is wrong with flagging answers that are grossly incorrect? Why should flags "not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer"?

I understand that it is a burden on the moderators to decide if an answer is correct or not but doesn't flagging attract general attention to "Low quality posts"?

I am actually not fully aware of how flags work. Whenever an answer is flagged as "not an answer", everyone (with enough rep) gets to review the post and if found "low-quality" then they can vote to delete it.

What is actually happening behind the scenes? If such wrong answers are not flagged then they will persist because nobody would notice them. In this case, it was even upvoted!!!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Related: Should I flag an answer if it's incorrect? or better When should the “Not an Answer” flag be used? $\endgroup$
    – user9516
    Mar 3, 2015 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Loong The post was downvoted and two reputed users including me had left comments as well. The irony is that the answer has +3 votes which is hardly nullified by the downvotes. I did not flag for moderator intervention. Shouldn't flagged answers appear in the review? $\endgroup$
    Mar 3, 2015 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ I am not very happy about the case @WYSIWYG is referring to, as well. Should it then rather be "is of very low quality"? $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Mar 3, 2015 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ If this is the answer I'm thinking of, I just cast the third delete vote, so it's gone. Your downvote rep changes will be returned, and the world is again in balance. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Mar 3, 2015 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


From How do I properly use the "Not an Answer" Flag, Robert Harvey stated the following here which I have quoted:

What is the Not an Answer Flag?

The Not an Answer flag is a moderator flag that community users can use to notify moderators that a posted answer is not an answer, and should be deleted.

What is the purpose of the Not an Answer flag?

To identify attempts by community members to use answers for any purpose other than answering questions.

When should I use this flag?

Use this flag when an answer is being used to:

  • Ask a question
  • Communicate with another user
  • Say "thanks," or confirm that another posted answer worked for him.
  • "Bump" the question, as in "I have the same problem, have you found a solution?"

When should I not use this flag?

Do not use this flag when:

  • The user posts a partial answer
  • The answer is wrong or inaccurate, or you disagree with it
  • You have to consider the question, other answers, or even the comments on the answer itself in order to determine if an answer is not-an-answer

But I'm still not sure if I'm using the flag correctly ...

Then cast a moderator flag using the custom option instead, and explain why you >think the answer is harmful to the site, and should be removed.

In regards to how flags truly work, I am not sure if anyone really knows. I have asked a few questions on math.meta with links to meta on this topic a few times. Your fearless mod @madscientist even tried to get action with a bounty here but nothing came of it.

  1. https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19081/flagging-a-question-before-it-is-edited
  2. https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/18806/a-post-i-flagged-was-declined-but-then-closed-for-the-same-reason-of-the-flag
  3. What is the difference between disputed and declined flags?
  4. What is a disputed flag?

To summarize, I have been told by mods that a declined flag doesn't mean a mod handled it; however, a decline can come from a mod handling it. Then you read from meta it should have been marked disputed since the community review was in contrast to your flag. So why some flags are declined vs disputed and who handles them seems unclear. Who knows if anyone knows how the flags work 100% of the time.

From How does deleting work.., the following answer declares that:

What are the criteria for deletion?

For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted. Basically, this includes most closed questions that cannot be improved and reopened. However, it may be beneficial to keep duplicates to aid future users in finding the canonical question.

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

  • $\begingroup$ I see no logic in not marking incorrect answers as "not an answer". Yes downvoting should do the job but we are not operating an ideal site. People vote mindlessly. It should be possible to scrutinize every answer and flags serve as a useful instrument for that. We should not keep restating these dogmas. Partial answers are not wrong answers but incorrect answers should definitely be flagged. $\endgroup$
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG SE sites are community rule not just your say. Currently, many sites agree with this style. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ If not "not an answer", then "low quality" be the right flag for these answers? $\endgroup$
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG oh yeah. I actually try to avoid not answer since it can cause your decline ratio to go up whereas disputed don't count. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ I am not saying I should have the say. But there should be a way to bring some posts to scrutiny. $\endgroup$
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG you solved your own question by saying low quality flag. Not answer means not an attempt. A bad answer is still an answer. Low quality means garbage which includes bad answers. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ "Low quality" flag is unavailable for an accepted and upvoted answer. What to do in these cases? $\endgroup$
    Mar 5, 2015 at 9:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just comment and downvote. That is the only advice giving see the last sentence of the last paragraph of my post. On math, we have a chat room dedicated to delete, close, duplicate, and reopen. Users can link posts in there stating what they think. If other users agree, you pick up votes or in this case downvotes. A 20k user can vote to delete when the score is -1. Maybe bio needs a specialized chat room to make other users aware of situations like this. If no one agrees, you wont be able to pick up the downvotes and deletion votes though. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ So you can see how it works chat room in math. Here is a post being talked about now. You may not have the rep but every answer has 2-3 downvotes by the users who don't want this post. They are doing this so they can get it deleted again. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That is a good idea. We should start it here. $\endgroup$
    Mar 5, 2015 at 13:34

I declined that specific flag. "Not an answer" doesn't really apply here as the post is clearly trying to answer the question. You could certainly argue that it misses the point and contains rather dubious statements, but it is still an answer, just not necessarily a good one.

In general, moderators are not supposed to judge the correctness of an answer. This often requires specific domain knowledge that a moderator might not have, Biology is a pretty vast subject. Moderators trying to decide if a particular answer is right or wrong outside their expertise is a pretty bad idea, which is why we generally avoid it at all. This is really something the community should handle with downvotes and delete votes.

I didn't intend to kick the post out of the review queue, the interactions between flags and the review queues are rather complicated and the documentation is sparse and often out of date. As far as I understand it, I didn't have much of a choice and once I handled the flag it would have been kicked out even if I had declared it valid.

  • $\begingroup$ So what to do know? Downvoting can help so we can get the delete vote for this answer back. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Mar 3, 2015 at 14:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Incorrect information is worse and more dangerous than partial information (which is considered "not an answer" but a comment) $\endgroup$
    Mar 3, 2015 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG - down vote and delete. That's how it's usually done (there are even arguments against this). You have the rep to do this, if I do. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Yes I can downvote but what if it is upvoted. This one had +3 upvotes. It would have needed 6 downvotes to make it deletable. And how to attract attention of six reputed users if not by flag. $\endgroup$
    Mar 4, 2015 at 4:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG - When I see that happening, I usually post a link in chat. I know it sounds like cheating, but it's not, especially when an answer is outright wrong. It's up to the community to delete wrong answers, not the mods. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Oh I didn't intend to make the moderator judge if a question is wrong or not. I am just unsure about how flags work. I thought that only "moderator attention" flags are passed to moderators. $\endgroup$
    Mar 4, 2015 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that moderators shouldn't judge the correctness of an answer, and don't really think that incorrectness should be grounds for deleting answers (except in extreme cases, using low-quality). Who should be the ultimate judge of what is incorrect, especially in controversial scientific topics or in cases where there is no clear scientific concensus (maybe rivalling research groups)? The problem here is that the answer was upvoted, instead of strongly downvoted, which is probably due to the fact that the community is small with varying degrees/areas of background knowledge in the user base. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2015 at 11:44

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