Given that Stack Exchange, Inc. is based in the USA, how does it justify the policy of allowing someone to edit another person's question?

If someone objects to the grammar, formatting, etc. of a question, they can post a comment. No one should be allowed to edit another person's submission.

This is a violation of the right of free speech in the USA.

When you add that the original poster is not notified of the changes and is not given a veto over the changes, Stack Exchange, Inc. is putting itself on very thin ice.

And then there are copyright laws: any question, comment, or answer I post is implicitly covered the USA's (and other countries') copyright laws.

Allowing someone to edit my submission not only violates my free speech rights but also violates copyright laws.

How is this justified? Has there been a legal test of this policy?

  • 25
    You assign rights to your content to Stack Exchange once it's posted here. This includes the right to modify your content. If you don't like that, you shouldn't post here. It's pretty simple.
    – jimsug
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 3:18
  • 5
    To delete your profile there is a handy option when you click on the contact us link in the footer
    – random
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 3:21
  • 9
    It would be wrong for users to be able to edit the post while keeping your name on it and leave you with no recourse. Fortunately, under the Creative Common license you still retain the right to have your name disassociated/removed from any posts. (If you wish to do this, either raise a custom flag or contact the staff with your request.)
    – Jeremy
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 4:02
  • 12
    Note that magazines and newspapers in the US routinely edit, or simply refuse to print, letters to the editor that they may receive. This has been done for well over a century. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 4:04
  • 3
    Always related: About the violence inherent in Stack Exchange: Freedom of speech (From Arqade) Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 10:57
  • 8
    Holy cow. You're absolutely right, and I can't believe no-one has realized this before. I would strongly urge you to hire a lawyer immediately and initiate proceedings on this issue in both civil and criminal court. Don't forget to post about your intentions to sites which will have sympathetic or supportive users for your cause, like Slashdot or Hacker News. /me adds popcorn to grocery list
    – jscs
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 19:18
  • 3
    Stack Exchange is Congress? News to me -- but I guess it's better than those clowns in DC.
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Copied directly from the footer. When you post anything on Stack Exchange, you automatically license it under CC BY-SA. Therefore, no free speech is being violated (SE is not a government-owned company anyway), nor are any copyright laws.


When you add that the original poster is not notified of the changes and is not given a veto over the changes, Stack Exchange, Inc is putting itself on very thin ice.

is plain wrong.

  • You may always either rollback an objectionable edit or flag your post as "other" and ask for it to be disassociated from your account, which means that your username will not appear next to it.

  • Even if you had neither of these abilities, no legal issues would apply (well, except for the fact that the CC BY-SA license requires the ability to disassociate) because again, Stack Exchange is not a government-owned company, and the First Amendment does not apply to privately owned companies or organizations.

    See also:

    (by the wonderful xkcd, of course)


This is a violation of the right of free speech in the USA.

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I believe you're talking about the first amendment, which only really applies to the government.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

In essence you've agreed to the terms of service which includes the lines

You agree that all Subscriber Content that You contribute to the Network is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Exchange under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. You grant Stack Exchange the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to use, copy, cache, publish, display, distribute, modify, create derivative works and store such Subscriber Content and to allow others to do so in any medium now known or hereinafter developed (“Content License”) in order to provide the Services, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by You

So yes, you keep using the words "First Amendment". They do not mean what you think they mean.

As such, the assertion in your question seems to reflect a certain lack of understanding of both the US constitution (which in this case isn't the right thing to look at), and the terms of service (which is). In short, whatever you've posted here has been licensed under a copyleft license to Stack Exchange, and part of that allows other users to do edits.


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