I'm going to go right out and say it: We need something like this to be implemented.
As someone who deals with post disassociations regularly, I can say that we've hit a bit of a tipping point where these requests have fallen into blatant abuse territory and are becoming increasingly common - a bit too common. Some of the reasons we see:
- I want to clean up my profile so that it looks better to potential employers.
- I don't like the responses I got to this question.
- I want to reset my account so I can ask questions again.
- I did something completely wrong and want it erased from my record.
Now we really don't want to get into legal battles as a company, but these are all quite horrible and abusive reasons to disassociate something. But that's only because of the way we have implemented how we remove credit. Completely removing the post from their account altogether is going a bit overboard on the cooperation. While it's easier implementation-wise, it causes a lot more side-effects that just make handling them annoying.
But there are concerns with throwing this tool into the hands of the users. I do still think that staff are needed to approve these requests, even if it's allowing users to submit a specific "disassociate" request and dropping it into a queue for staff to either click Approve or Reject. It would allow us to see patterns and look closer at situations where there's a bunch of requests from a single user in the queue - a signal that perhaps we should talk to the user instead.
Getting back to what I said earlier, the main reason that post disassociations are such a pain for us is that we are very reluctant to actually process them because of the way we process them. We don't actually need to put control completely into users' hands, we just need to have a better system of removing credit that lets us not worry about post disassociations nearly as much. Having to analyze the situations and determine how credible their reason is or if they're trying to bypass some block yada yada ya - that's time consuming and shouldn't be necessary. It wouldn't be necessary if our system was properly designed to handle these requests. But right now we're just stuck with a really old, simplistic tool that kind of does the job but really poorly.
I'm going to be thinking more about this problem and hopefully draft up some ideas about how we'd actually want this to work and what would make it simplest for us to handle. One of the biggest concerns here is that any way we try to do this, it's probably going to require a lot of reworking of many parts of code throughout the site, and that means a lot of developer time. If we can find a way to minimize that as much as possible, that would be great.
Past all of that, we need to reinforce the idea that Internet participation is permanent. Most of our pages get saved to the Wayback Machine, where users could probably just look up who posted it anyways. As well, other users may still remember who posted it, and we can't prevent them from actively telling other people who the original owner of the content was (we won't delete chat messages saying "this was actually posted by user123" just because you desire that).
Removing credit as an idea is already a poor one at that - all you're doing is making it harder to find the information, not really erasing it. The original intent behind the disassociation clause of the license was to allow users to walk away from something that has completely changed from what they originally created or is incorporated into something they never wanted to be associated with, not to just walk away from anything they feel like. Pretty much the only reason we comply with disassociation requests is because we don't want to deal with the potential legal implications of not complying with them.
As a follow-up to this, we decided to go very heavy on the information aspect of this problem and see what happens. This primarily involved completely rewriting the FAQ about disassociation to include more details about the implications and why it probably won't help you (rather than just saying "here's how - go do it"), as well as wiping some information in other spots and directing users there instead.
In addition, comments that merely tell users to go to the contact us page and request disassociation rather than linking to the FAQ are subject to immediate deletion. We do not want users just directing people directly to the form and giving the impression that this feature is an everyday use feature with no consequences. Please always link to the FAQ, and never to the contact page.
As a result of these very minor changes, we've seen a very noticeable decline in the amount of abusive disassociation requests we've been receiving as of late. That doesn't make the rest of the problem invalid - we definitely do need to fix the disassociation system at some point, but we're very happy with this decline in what we considered abuse of a feature.