While many answers on SE sites are of great value, sometimes some answers are also wrong. This is dangerous since this misleads readers and hurts the network’s credibility.
It seems there are two major ways to deal with wrong answers:
- The right one: Leave a comment explaining why it is wrong, hopefully it’s author fixes it. If not, let the community downvote it.
This path is great, but only provided it works. It doesn’t have to. It | also | happens | that | wrong answers are highly upvoted or accepted for a long time. While I have no evidence, to my intuition the “post a comment and downvote” solution is bound to be relatively ineffective on high-traffic sites like StackOverflow, just because few members of the community look at old thread or try to clean them up, partially because there are so unhandleably many of them, and partially because of the constant stream of new questions requiring attention. So, one person may post a comment and downvote, but no one notices it and the wrong answer remains at the top.
I’m suggesting a third way:
Allow answers to be marked as wrong by users with enough reputation. A user, marking an answer as incorrect, will have to elaborate themselves why do they think so. Answers marked as wrong will be put in a separate review queue, therefore bringing their wrongness to the attention of the community (mitigating the problem of no one noticing that a comment was posted explaining the falseness of an answer). If the answer gathers enough anti-support of users allowed to vote in such a queue, it automatically gets deleted. The mechanism here could be similar to that of casting delete votes. However, the ‘wrong answer’ button would be distinct from the ‘delete’ button, following the different purposes of both mechanisms (I’m not suggesting to cast delete votes on wrong answers).
It is important to note that my proposed mechanism should only be used against answers that are blatantly false. It should not be used against technically correct answers that yet promote “bad practises” or are “inelegant” or something; these are opinion-based, subjective issues, and therefore they can be left to the usual judgement by the community by upvotes or downvotes. What I’m trying to fight here, and what I think should be fought much more vigorously here, are answers that are objectively, factually, provably false. Therefore, I’m not suggesting the mechanism to all sites in the network. Opinion-based sites, like Writers or Worldbuilding or Parenting or Programmers or CodeGolf could have this queue disabled; but sites like StackOverflow or Mathematics or Skeptics should definitely have it enabled.
If the mechanics proposed above are too harsh or too similar to the delete votes or low quality review queue, my other proposal is that any answers marked as false by reviewers of this suggested new queue would be moved to the bottom, greyed out regardless of their votes and have a visible warning put near them like “According to the community, this answer contains false information”.