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A recently added feature blocks the deletion of duplicate targets, even by moderators. A user wishing to delete such a question is advised to reopen or delete the duplicates first.

Presumably, Community bot is not yet sentient enough to follow this advice. Does this mean that duplicate targets will never be automatically deleted?

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    … how do you know Community isn't sentient enough? – bjb568 Feb 8 '15 at 0:51
  • @FamousBlueRaincoat: looking; the deletion faq appears to only name closed as duplicate as criteria to stay execution, so I'm now thinking I may be wrong. – Martijn Pieters Feb 8 '15 at 0:56
  • @MartijnPieters For example, this question on Math.SE is closed as a duplicate of question that was deleted by Community on November 15, 2014. (I know you don't have 10K on Math, but I don't have 10K anywhere else, so could not find an example elsewhere). – user259867 Feb 8 '15 at 1:01
  • Right, looks like I mis-remembered, as I cannot now find any evidence. – Martijn Pieters Feb 8 '15 at 1:02
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They get deleted.

The dup-target restriction on voting to delete is just that: a restriction on voting. The abandoned-question cleanup doesn't vote; it just deletes.

We discussed this exact scenario while implementing the voting restriction, and identified the most likely scenario for auto-deletion of dup-targets as the one that matches your example: questions where the duplicate was asked by the author of the original. Why? Because in most other cases, dup-closing is restricted to targets that are answered, which also prevents auto-deletion.

Of course, leaving broken dup-links laying around isn't ideal, even in these situations - but the proper solution here lies elsewhere:

  1. We should expand auto-deletion to snap up unanswered duplicates with dead targets.
  2. We should automatically reopen answered duplicates with dead targets.

Neither of these are a very high priority right now (this is kind of an edge-case), so if you encounter these stubs laying around either vote to delete them or flag for moderator attention and let the mods know that the stub can safely be deleted as the target is gone.

We also discussed another, even more rare situation: a question closed as a duplicate of another question also closed as a duplicate, where the middle question in this chain gets deleted thus breaking the restriction on deleting the final target. This is... gonna be hard to fix in a robust manner; it would probably be more beneficial to simply create a list of edge-cases for mods and 10K users to review and sort out manually.

  • Thanks. Have you also considered the special status of questions that are merged, not merely closed as duplicates? I got a bug report over on meta.Math, not sure if it was noticed: Merged questions prevent deletion. – user259867 Feb 8 '15 at 2:33
  • Yes; hang on, I'll answer. – Shog9 Feb 8 '15 at 2:39
  • Re: the last paragraph, the query Find duplicates of deleted posts (lowest score first) seems good enough for that. – user259867 Feb 8 '15 at 3:24
  • I think you should revisit this, because it can lead to some odd circumstances: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/310298/… – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Jun 8 '18 at 18:19
  • Not only does it have those "odd circumstances" above that should be looked into (that anonymous users will be redirected to a deleted question if the dupe has no answers), but you should also consider that on meta sites, the restriction that questions can only be closed as duplicates of answered questions doesn't exist. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Jul 16 '18 at 21:21

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