I recently flagged an answer which I think wasn't an answer. To my surprise, the flag was somehow declined. The screenshots below show the question and the flag declination.

When flagging, I added a comment indicating why I flagged it as NAA. In the low-quality queue, two users also voted to delete the answer and the answer has no up votes.

Am I missing something, or should this flag have led to post deletion?

This might seem like a non-issue, but this has been happening somewhat regularly. I flag for low-quality or NAA, the flag gets declined and hours later the post is deleted anyway. In many cases I get that upvotes dispute the flag, but in this case that doesn't seem to have occurred.

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    Took a quick look and I don't see how that is even an attempt to answer the question. I think your flag had merit. May be missing something obvious, I'll let the mod who handled it answer this.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 23:20
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    The answer has been deleted, so it looks like it worked out in the end
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 23:56
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    @divibisan Not necessarily, Too many declined flags and you get flag banned: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/173878/… - "If at least 25% of your flags from the past 7 days were declined, you're blocked from flagging anything." Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 1:38
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    @yannis I declined that flag because even though ComradeH apparently misunderstood what the question was, he still did attempt to answer what he believed to be the question. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 20:13
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    @SamIam should answers not be flagged if they answer in good faith something they mistake for the actual question?
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 20:42
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    @JJJ That's contested, as evidenced in this meta question. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:00
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    The way I see it, It is also possible for a moderator to misunderstand the question, so if we were to delete answers because the answered misunderstood the question, that would be in effect the moderators deciding correctness. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:01
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    Hm, can't say I agree with that logic @Sam. We are here to curate content. The answerer was certainly confused. How does that make their answer less of a non-answer? Or, to put it another way: What value is there for future readers in keeping an answer that doesn't actually answer the question around?
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:01
  • @yannis The classics are: "I'm having this problem too" "Thanks for your answer" "@answerer your answer doesn't work. Help!" Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:02
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    @SamIam it's also important to be clear on which flags will be handled positively and which will be declined. While I don't care about a few declined flags, as noted in a previous comment it's not desirable for reasonable flags to be declined on a regular basis. That discourages flaggers and eventually it may impact site content negatively.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:03
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    @SamIam This isn't about judging correctness. There's nothing incorrect in the answer. The only issue with it is that it doesn't answer the question.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:07
  • @yannis It's moderators deciding correctness, because It is also possible for a moderator to misunderstand the question. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:08
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    Which question the answer targets is a vector of it's correctness. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:09

2 Answers 2


To be fair, the question was relatively low quality in itself (-2 score as of now):

Is there a general consensus that Britain should continue to be a permanent member of the UN security council ? Other countries such as Japan or India have larger economies and/or militaries.

The now-deleted answer harped on the distinction between the UK and Britain. Whether the answer was facetious or really misunderstood the question is going to turn into a similar debate as the one we recently had on trolling from new accounts.

I think it's not worth the meta-effort to debate these to such an extent. Like I said on another occasion, low-quality questions invite whimsical if not outright low-quality answers. The best way to prevent this is to fix questions, possibly closing them as a first step if the OP doesn't respond to comments for clarification.

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    "The best way to prevent this is to fix questions, possibly closing them as a first step if the OP doesn't respond to comments for clarification." This. A thousand times this.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:30
  • Yes, but the question itself (after editing) seems pretty clear and the answer seems quite obvious. There is a lot of criticism of the UN permanent member system in general, the UK isn't as influential as it used to be with many other countries having surpassed it, but there is no consensus that the UK should be removed because it's in many countries' interest that it is there. So the gist of the question isn't bad and while I agree with editing to fix such questions, I don't think we're in the position where we are swimming in questions and we can close because they're not perfect.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:32
  • @JJJ Closure isn't final. Close, fix, re-open.
    – yannis
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:52
  • @JJJ: if we go that route, I should be howling for having this deleted. (-10 question, +7 anwer; answer had no downvotes at all) Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 21:56
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    @Fizz and if that question was asked in good faith, possibly by elaborating why that may be the case then it could be undeleted and reopened. As for this question, per the reasoning in my previous comment, there are arguments why you could reasonably say the UK shouldn't have a permanent seat or why no country should have a permanent seat forever. So by elaborating a bit on the question at hand, there is a good question in there whereas it's harder to find that in the question you link. All I'm saying is that if there is a question there, we should opt for editing over deletion when possible.
    – JJJ Mod
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 22:07

This debate tends to repeat itself every once in a while. The gist of the problem is that when you flag an answer which apparently misinterpreted the question, there is a chance that you misinterpreted the question yourself, while the answer did not. Or that the answer, while not answering the literal question, still provides useful information on the topic. Or that the answer could have been written in good faith even if it looks like it wasn't, and good faith shall be assumed regardless. Therefore it was decided that such answers should be allowed to stay and dealt with by voting, not by flags.

Bringing such answers to meta helps getting them deleted by mod power, or sometimes forcing the author to delete it by subjecting them to tarring and feathering. What it won't do is changing how such flags are handled in general: if you keep flagging extremely poor or bad-faith-looking answers as NAA, some of your flags will be declined.

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