Can we get a link to [legal] - https://stackexchange.com/legal - and include the first part of section 3 (about the use of content) included in the "defacing content" mod message template?

We get a small, but regular, number of users replying to the effect of "show me where is says I'm not allowed to delete my content".

I'd also include a link to the contact us page so that the user can request content disassociation if they're so inclined.

I'd suggest something along the lines of this:

From section 3 on the legal page:

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

You have the right to have the content disassociated from your account (use the contact us to request this) if you no longer wish to have the content associated with your name.

Or possibly, in plainer English:

You have the right to delete the content that you have posted and licensed to Stack Exchange, and Stack Exchange has the right to restore the content based on the license granted by you.

(thanks to BoltClock for suggesting that, albeit indirectly)

  • +1 for translating legalese into English, and also, the question, I like.
    – NVZ
    Jun 5, 2017 at 17:30
  • "You have the right to delete the content" does not seem right to me... The "edit" and "delete" buttons are just features offered by SE (with restrictions on their use), they are not something that users are entitled to.
    – user315433
    Jun 5, 2017 at 17:59
  • @Gerry, What you have the absolute right to do is remove your name from the content. In a lot of cases deleting is OK as the content is not unique (e.g. one of many answers) so ultimately it doesn't matter that the content is deleted. This is to cover the other cases where it does mater - your's is the only answer (for example).
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jun 5, 2017 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


I got a few thoughts....

Regarding the legal underpinnings for deletion

For reference, here's the current template for "self-destruction of useful content":

You have recently removed or defaced a lot of content from your posts. Please note that once you post a question or answer to this site, those posts become part of the collective efforts of others who have also contributed to that content. Posts that are potentially useful to others should not be removed except under extraordinary circumstances. Even if the post is no longer useful to the original author, that information is still beneficial to others who may run into similar problems in the future - this is the underlying philosophy of Stack Exchange.

Extensive deletions take a lot of effort to repair. I have placed your account on hold for {suspensionDurationDays} days while I reach out to you to avoid any further misunderstandings. Once this matter has been resolved, your reputation score will be restored and your account will resume as normal.

Please respond to this message. I sincerely hope this is just a misunderstanding, but if you feel you have an exceptional reason to remove this content then let me know. If you'd prefer, you can contact Stack Exchange directly through the 'contact us' link at the bottom of the site.

Note that the first paragraph focuses heavily on why we might try to stop folks from deleting their posts. I like this strategy - it cuts straight to the point, which is that we're reaching out because these deletions may be hurting others; critically, we're not contacting them because we wanna debate the legality of their deletions, or because authors cannot as a rule delete stuff - this is objectively false, given authors are the primary deletionists and we generally don't care. In short, the ToS serves the goals already stated in the message, not vice-versa.

I'm not entirely convinced that bringing the ToS or license into this is gonna placate the folks who really want their stuff deleted in the first place... But if we were to do so, we should try & figure out how to work it in such that it reinforces the existing message.

Regarding disassociation

A bit of background: the method for doing this is one of a class of ancient tools that tend to cause more problems than they solve if used regularly - it is second cousin to the old revision destruction tool we used prior to the introduction of the current redaction tooling, if you can recall the headaches that regularly arose with that. Now, we're obligated to remove folks' names from their posts if we're publishing those posts and they ask us not to name them... This doesn't necessarily mean "disassociate" though. The most expedient way to handle these requests is to just delete the post - so we'll generally disassociate only if the post is gonna remain visible on the site and is thus of sufficient utility to warrant the extra effort needed to scrub the associations.

Why do I mention this? Because if you're even using this template, there's a pretty good chance someone isn't just deleting one post - they're either deleting multiple posts, or getting into some sort of battle over a single post. Disassociation might be applicable in some of these cases, but it's just as likely that they want the posts redacted, completely misunderstand how these sites work, or... are just trying to be jackasses.

IOW, we shouldn't presume to know ahead of time what the author's motivations are - hence the last set of changes made to this message to focus on asking for a response.

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