Unfair bias in flagging

A current thread started to run high with emotion: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/bird-feeders-and-dangers/18437/31

In the course of the argument, two different users made statements which implied a threat of violence. One of these was flagged, the other was not. Why is that?

My working hypothesis is: because the latter was with the prevailing opinion of the thread, whereas the former was counter to the prevailing opinion.

Here’s why it matters: in order to reach trust level 3, a user

  • Must not have received more than 5 spam or offensive flags (with unique posts and unique users for each, confirmed by a moderator)

Now, note that there is no time limit on this; it seems to mean no more than 5, ever. So if the same kind of statement is flagged for one user, but not another in the same thread, that is unfairly putting one at risk and not the other. The user who went against prevailing opinion is one step closer to being disqualified, whereas the one who made the same threat, but was with prevailing opinion, is not. See the injustice here?

I’m not sure where you got this from, but looking at our Settings, as an admin, I see:

User must not have had more than 5 posts flagged by 5 different users in the last 100 days to qualify for promotion to trust level 3.

So it’s not all time, it’s for the last 100 days.

For what it’s worth, moderators have “reviewed” 65 flags in the past year. Unfortunately Discourse doesn’t clearly define they mean by “reviewed” here, but it shows that very few posts are flagged on this forum - mostly thanks to the excellent community we have as well as the moderators who volunteer their time to keep things tidy and civil.

All that being said, if you (meaning anyone reading this, not just the OP) see something you believe violates the guidelines of the forum, you can flag it and moderators will take a look, or you can message @forum_moderators directly if you don’t feel comfortable flagging a post.


Not really, no. The only injustice is that someone doesn’t get as many fake internet points as they feel they deserve.

edited to remove sarcasm

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@kmagnacca you’re out of line. There’s absolutely no need for this kind of passive-aggressive sarcasm. Take your trolling elsewhere.


Hey everybody. I definitely want to address this topic with the full attention it deserves. But I’m only awake because anxiety is keeping me up, and too tired to be fully levelheaded. Most of the mods are asleep. I’m closing this thread for 5 hours so that things don’t get out of hand. We will get back to you.

As noted: if you see something problematic, just flag it. We will address flags.


This topic was automatically opened after 5 hours.

In my experience, and looking over the linked thread, mods flag pretty aggressively here in order to curtail behaviors before they have a chance to escalate very much, but it’s also not only one mod doing the managing. That means that one mod may not flag something, but another later mod may flag it.

Honestly, there wasn’t much in that thread that I personally feel was all that worthy of flagging (at least from the hidden comments that were possible to unhide, maybe there were others that got more aggressive), but each person has different tolerances to what bothers them.

I absolutely agree that things should be treated equally no matter what the reviewer’s own opinion may be, but I understand that personal opinions sometimes make it difficult to be “equally biased”.

Give it a bit of time, often another mod (or user) will step in and point out something that was missed.

Unfortunately it’s easy for people to be more aggressive and opinionated online and say things in ways that they never would in person, and it’s also easy to read something and take it in a more hurtful way than was intended. The lack of face-to-face real-time interaction means that everyone has to be a combination of more diplomatic, more careful, thicker skinned, and more willing to give the benefit of the doubt than they would in a face-to-face encounter.

That’s often not easy to do and the mods are put in a difficult position of having to act as, well, moderators and the social conscience of the forum. not an enviable task.


Maybe i am a bit confused here, but if there was a post that you felt should be flagged that wasn’t, couldn’t you have flagged it yourself? I am not encouraging ‘putative’ flagging, but if you truly feel the post violated the guidelines, go ahead and flag it.

We should probably just try to avoid the cat topic, because we aren’t ever going to solve it here. If we all lived in the same town, we could get together and try to hash out some rules that would lead to some sort of possible solution, However, we aren’t neighbors here, we aren’t even on the same continent. And, people aren’t changing their minds based on these posts. So i’d maybe ask we just let the cat topic be for a while.


Honestly the whole cat topic is an extension of the pet topic, which in turn is an extension of the domestic animal topic and that’s a messy issue with 20,000+ years of history behind it.

I’d be willing to bet that there were arguments between people 20-30 thousand years ago over the issue when the ancestors to dogs and gray wolves was in the process of being domesticated by/ domesticating humans, and that there were similar arguments 10 thousand years ago when goats and sheep were domesticated.

Likely not as vociferous as ones now, but these are ancient issues.

That doesn’t lessen their import, but it should help to give a bit of perspective.

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I can understand the flagging of fluffyinca’s post in that thread, even though I do not agree with it, because it contained a threat, of some sorts. I can not think of any possible reason for flagging jasonhernandez74’s post.


Nor I. And for what it’s worth, any “threat” in fluffyinca’s post was purely hypothetical.

Not clear on how responding to a post about making feeders safe with an unpleasant dismissal of the topic and a thinly veiled admonition to kill cats is OK if the standards are so strict that jasonhernandez74’s post is unacceptable but I’m not going to bother flagging it or arguing about it. Moderators are aware of the topic and can make their best decisions.

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I don’t think either should have been flagged. I am objecting to the unequal treatment.

My experience with online forums is that you never know who is going to be upset by what. And so, no matter the policy of the specific forum, I apply my own policy: never flag anything unless it is spam.

well, any user is free to flag a post if they have a concern, not just the moderators. It is by nature going to be biased as people are less likely to flag comments that they agree with (and even less so their own inappropriate posts!). If you choose not to flag things, that is fine too. I am not aware of any negative consequence that happened to that user because of the flag, and in fact there was moderator dialogue with them and as far as i know there aren’t any recurring issues or hard feelings about it.

Someone was uncomfortable and flagged a post, moderators popped in, the situation was discussed… i haven’t seen any further problematic posts of that sort. i think the system worked how it was designed to here.


I’m confused as well as @charlie. I could only see one post, and @jasonhernandez74 withdrew his post so I can’t read it. I don’t really see an implied threat in the post I can read, and since I don’t know what the second said I can’t comment on it. This seems to be a tempest in a teapot - cats/birds invokes strong feelings on both sides, so tempers may be high regarding the topic. I don’t see bias in flagging - one comment was flagged, and one was withdrawn, presumably because of a private message sent to the poster. One of the tenets of iNat is assume people mean no harm - the corollary to that is don’t intend harm.
And FFS, it was a post about bird feeders - grow up people.

I’m going to close this topic, it’s not trending in a constructive direction and the original post has been replied to.

  • Please keep in mind that anyone can flag a post, as @charlie mentioned, so if you see something that you believe violates the forum guidelines or iNat community guidelines, you can flag it to bring it to the attention of moderators. It’s not just moderators or staff who can flag posts.

  • Just like iNaturalist, this forum is meant to be a safe place to discuss things in a civil and constructive manner, so please do so. Remember that everyone here is another human being so please treat them with respect and civility even if you strongly disagree. If you find yourself getting emotional, you don’t have to respond - take time to cool off and either write a civil response or choose to let things be if further interaction will not improve the situation. If you do that and you stay on topic, the odds are incredibly low that your post will be flagged.