(This question has nothing to do with licence changes).

From: https://stackoverflow.com/help/deleted-answers

Answers can be deleted at any time by their authors, unless the answer has been accepted by the question asker.

From How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?

The author can typically delete their own posts at will.

When I exercise this right, it would appear that moderators of the community take it upon themselves to deny it.

I expect moderators to uphold the rights of all community members. It appears in this instance that has not occurred, and instead moderators act against the rights of its members.

If there is some sort of dependency between how moderators have been trained to act, and the documentation above, could that please be highlighted. Furthermore, could any other discrepancies please be highlighted.

My expectation going forward is that moderators will undo the reverts to restore my answers to the state that they should been in - deleted.

  • 1
    Could you point to some specific answer(s) that you asked to be deleted? That might be useful.
    – Kaz
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 11:53
  • 1
    An example is this: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/132387/… Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 11:58
  • I think this sums it up as well as anyone can: meta.stackexchange.com/a/5222/352946
    – Neo
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 12:26
  • @MisterPositive Sums what up? Are you able to link to a specific part of that page, or provide a quote or something? Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 12:27
  • 4
    I don't believe it does. But happy to reread it (note I actually linked that page in my question). If you could provide some sort of hint as to what the pertinent information is, that would be really handy. Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 12:31

3 Answers 3


In all of this it's important to remember that you've licensed your content to SE and while you still hold the copyright, they have the right to distribute that content. Also note that the system generates a flag if you delete too much, too quickly. There are times when your right to delete content clashes with SE's right to distribute said content.

For me (speaking as a moderator on several sites) it all depends on how many of your posts you are deleting and over what time frame. It also matters, in the case of answers, what the score is and how many competing answers there are.

If you're just deleting one or two posts every month or so then that's generally not a problem. If you're deleting low scoring answers where there's at least one competing answer to the question then that's generally not a problem. You're probably just removing content that either wrong, outdated or doesn't add anything new.

Where it get's complicated is when you're deleting large numbers of posts over a short period of time or yours is the only answer.

In the first case that could be a sign of a rage quit. This is often (but not always) accompanied by the vandalising of posts that can't be deleted - questions and accepted answers. In these cases we need to know and restore the content.

In the second case we have to consider whether having a partial answer is better than having no answer at all.

So, to sum up. It all depends on why you are removing content. If you're doing it because the post isn't useful then that should be OK. However, if you are doing it because you want to make a point, you don't want your content on SE or some other reason then that's not OK. As I said at the start of this answer, by posting you've given SE the right to distribute your content. If you don't want them to have that right any more you need to contact them directly and sort it out that way, most likely by having the content disassociated from your account.

  • 1
    So are the two links I posted just wrong then? Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 15:08
  • 9
    @GregoryCurrie they're not wrong. The MSE posts describes the mechanics and the fundamental rules that you are allowed to delete your content. However, in this answer I was trying to explain some nuances that overlay that.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 15:12
  • 1
    There are times when your right to delete content clashes with SE's right to distribute said content. Those circumstances are clearly outlined in the help section as well as the Meta post linked by OP + Mr Positive.
    – rath
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 15:26
  • 3
    " If you don't want them to have that right any more you need to contact them directly and sort it out that way, most likely by having the content disassociated from your account." how would that help? Disassociating content does nothing other than disassociate it - it remains visible, you just don't see who wrote it any more. That's not even almost what OP wants.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 7:12
  • 1
    This seems a bit off. It'd seem like SE's licensing would mean that it's not a copyright violation to refuse an author the ability to delete their own, non-accepted answer. However, if SE has written that they grant authors the ability to delete their non-accepted answers at any time, then wouldn't denying that ability still be a violation of their written guarantees even if it's not a copyright violation? In other words, I get that this doesn't sound like a copyright violation, but if SE has granted authors the right to delete, it's not clear to me how a copyright agreement would matter.
    – Nat
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 4:04
  • 3
    If this is true, shouldn't the Help section be updated to explain what you've explained? Currently, this answer does not align with what the Help section says, so I have to downvote.
    – user91988
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 22:48

It seems like the dispute here is that there is a difference between having the ability to delete a post, in the technical sense, versus the guidelines that explain when it is considered "okay" to delete a post.

You linked to a Meta community wiki answer that explains those two different criteria. Near the top of the accepted answer is a section that describes under what conditions a user has the technical ability to delete an answer or question:

By a user:

  1. The author can typically delete their own posts at will; for exceptions, see When can't I delete my own post? below. To delete a post, just use the delete link below it, on the left (only available from a browser, not the SE/SO app).

However, that same answer also describes the conditions for when it is considered acceptable to use that capability:

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.

These are general guidelines; some communities in the network may uphold more specific reasons to delete posts or not. For example, on Puzzling.SE, answers to a puzzle without explanation are subject to deletion, and some technical sites will delete answers which are not only wrong but also harmful when tried.

It seems to me that the most straightforward interpretation of this is that once you've posted content (and given SE license to that content, per the terms of service), there may be conditions when you are technically able to push the delete button, yet it is not considered acceptable to do so. If you have posted an answer, you will have a delete button under most cases.

In a sense, this is broadly consistent with other site functionality - there are many cases where we have technical functions available - yet, that does not imply that we are freely able to use them at will, because there are site guidelines that provide clarification on when it is (or is not) considered acceptable.

  • Just for information: The "delete" button is displayed on all posts regardless of eligibility for deletion. If you try it, you'll get an error with the appropriate message (ie. you cannot delete an accepted answer). The post linked by Gregory and Mr Positive does not address the mass deletion scenario.
    – rath
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 15:21

This question has nothing to do with licence changes

Be that as it may, I still encourage you read the answers posted by us in the moderator team on the related discussion.

The other answers here give a good in-depth explanation. The short answer is in the FAQ you quote:

The author can typically delete their own posts at will

What you are trying to do is rather atypical. Guidelines remaining what they are, as moderators we are exception handlers that step in where the normal process and community management break down. One such instance is in mass-deletions of answers which is tantamount to vandalising site contributions. Once you submit a post, you automatically lose full control of that content. When it is in the community's best interest that those posts remain where they are, it's our mandate as moderators to step in. Here that will mean:

  • we undelete these posts
  • we suspend the account temporarily to stop the deletions

There is really not much else that we as moderators are able to do. If you wish to distance yourself from the site to this extent, account deletion remains the only real option. There is simply no way of mass-deleting content you've submitted that was well received.

  • 5
    Thank you for responding to this. I hit a mental road block in terms of elegantly stating what you just did.
    – Neo
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 16:57
  • To be fair, while it does say typically, it says to look at the exceptions later for when it cannot be deleted, which has an explicit list which does not include anything against what he was trying to do. Maybe the wording in both stackoverflow and this stack rules should be updated? Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 8:28
  • @さりげない告白 You could raise the point on main meta, but we don't write out every possible scenario. Blanket deletions are covered on meta as vandalism so you can look for those threads if you'd like to read more about the community POV on that. The main point with my answer here is that just because there's no explicit mention of this not being allowed in the linked articles, that doesn't make it okay nor does it mean that we can't / shouldn't intervene.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 11:46
  • I didn't mean writing out every scenario, but something as general as ・And anything else deemed as necessary by our moderation team. to allow the person reading that to know there are situations outside of those situations to where deleting isn't allowed (which I think is reasonable), but if something like that isn't explicitly in a section for "When can't I delete my own post?" then it isn't unreasonable for someone to come to the conclusion that they are free to delete it however they want other than the explicitly stated cases. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 11:58
  • @さりげない告白 Well, we don't have that written out anywhere else either I believe. It's just kind of implied. OP can delete. Community can undelete. Moderators can step in at their discretion in case things happen that the community doesn't have the right tools to handle. But you're just debating it with me here so if you think the meta should be adjusted I'd suggest bringing it up there.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:34

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