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For 15K users protect option is supposed to work as described here:

the question must have at least one answer by a new user aka a user with < 10 rep on the site (which is the required rep limit to answer protected questions)

This answer made me wonder if there is a off-by-one error in calculation somewhere. At the moment of writing this comment its author has only 9 rep on site (6 from one answer and 3 from one question) but protection link isn't displayed to 15K users.

I additionally checked that question is more than a day old: per FAQ this is enough for protect option to become available.

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You earn 1 rep just by joining the site. You can never have less than 1 rep. So to have 10 rep, you must net at least 9 points after joining. If you get an association bonus, you'll start at 101, but only have 1 point toward the ability to answer protected questions - so you'll still need to net at least 9 additional points.

The user in question has, after earning 9 points from 1 question and 1 answer, 10 points, and thus can answer protected questions; this also makes their answers ineligible for triggering the ability to protect questions.

The test is as described:

IsRealNewbie(u) => u.ReputationWithoutAssociationBonus < NewUserPrivilege

If true, the test both prevents the user in question from answering a protected question and enables protection on any question where they have answered.

The alternate interpretation (user must net 10 points, for a total reputation of at least 11) would result in a situation where, upon earning the Remove New User Restrictions privilege, a user would still need to earn one more point to actually answer protected questions - so clearly this interpretation is invalid.

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  • The protection notice says "you must have earned at least 10 reputation on this site", which alludes to the "alternate" interpretation you mention. Can that notice please be modified? Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 3:18

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