What circumstances can cause a question or answer to be deleted, and what does that actually mean?

  • How can a post be deleted?
  • When can't I delete my own post?
  • Can I see a list of my deleted posts?
  • How can I undelete one of my posts?
  • What does deletion mean for a post?
  • How do votes to delete work?
  • What are the criteria for deletion?
  • What else should I know about deleted posts?
  • If I flag my question with a request to delete it, what will happen?

For more information, see the articles about deleted questions and deleted answers in the Help Center.

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up vote 299 down vote accepted

How can a post be deleted?

By a user:

  1. The author can typically delete their own posts at will; for exceptions, see When can't I delete my own post? below. To delete a post, just use the delete link below it.

  2. Moderators can delete any post instantly.

  3. Users with reputation ≥ 2k (more precisely, the edit privilege; 1k on beta sites) can cause automatic deletion of a post if they choose recommend deletion from within the low-quality review queue (see number 14 below).

  4. Users with reputation ≥ 10k (more precisely, the moderator-tools privilege; 2k on beta sites) can vote to delete questions that have been closed/put on hold or marked as duplicate for 48 hours. It takes three votes to delete; more if the question is popular, but ten votes at most.

  5. Users with reputation ≥ 20k (more precisely, the trusted-user privilege; 4k on beta sites) are not subject to the 48-hour waiting period for deleting closed questions with a score of −3 or lower. They may also vote to delete answers of score −1 or lower, including accepted answers (unless they are the owner of that answer). It takes three votes to delete an answer.

By the system:

  1. The system will automatically delete any post flagged six times as offensive or spam (3 times on English Language & Usage and The Workplace).

  2. The system will automatically delete closed, unlocked questions with zero or negative score having no positively scored or accepted answers or pending reopen votes, that were closed for any reason other than duplicate nine or more days ago and haven't been edited in the past nine days. (RemoveAbandonedClosed)

  3. The system will automatically delete rejected migrations (questions created as a result of a question from another site being migrated there, and later closed for any reason other than duplicate) that are at least 30 days old. (RemoveRejectedMigrations)

  4. The system will automatically delete negatively-scored, unlocked, and unanswered questions that are older than 30 days. (RemoveDeadQuestions)

  5. The system will automatically delete unlocked, unanswered questions older than 365 days on main (non-meta) sites with score of zero (or one, if the owner's account is deleted), fewer than 1.5 views per day on average, and fewer than two comments. (RemoveAbandonedQuestions)

  6. The system will automatically delete any post with a negative score when its owner's account is deleted, unless the post is a question that has at least one positively-scored answer. (This doesn't apply on meta sites.)

  7. The system will automatically delete any post, regardless of score or answers to questions, when its owner's account is destroyed (only done for spammers and blatant trolls).

  8. The system will automatically delete migration stubs (original site copies of questions migrated to other sites, which haven't been rejected by the destination site) that are at least 30 days old. Questions deleted under this criterion still have their revision histories visible to everyone, and links to them redirect to the new question instead of showing an error page. (RemoveMigrationStubs)

  9. Posts with zero or negative score that receive six recommend deletion reviews (four on Stack Overflow) in the low-quality-posts review queue are automatically deleted "from review". Posts can be kicked into this queue either automatically or with very low quality and not an answer flags, and can be removed from the queue if enough Looks OK reviews are cast against them.

    See: The Community user deleted my question! What gives? at Help Center

When can't I delete my own post?

You can't delete your own answer if it has been accepted.

You can't delete your own question if it:

You can't delete any of your questions or answers if you haven't registered your account (that is, associated a Google, Facebook, or Stack Exchange account with it).

Can I still see my post even after it's deleted?

If you have the moderator tools privilege (10k+ rep on designed sites, 2k+ rep on beta and non-designed sites), you can see any deleted question that you have the direct link to, and see all deleted answers to all questions (deleted or not). Note that if the post was deleted as spam or abusive, you cannot see its body directly: you have to navigate to its revision history to see it.

If you don't have the moderator tools privilege, you can see any of your own questions that you have the direct link to, and your own deleted answers to any question. Additionally, you can see any deleted question you have answered as well as your answer(s) to it provided you have the direct link, but you can't see other users' answers to it, neither can you see the question's revision history.

Can I see a list of my deleted posts?

Yes, but only deleted posts which have been created in the last 60 days. If you have the moderator tools privilege, you can search among your own deleted posts using deleted:1. A full list of deleted posts for users without that privilege won't likely happen.

How can I undelete one of my posts?

Self-deleted posts can be viewed and undeleted by their original authors. However, self-deleted questions cannot be edited by their authors unless undeleted first for spam prevention reasons. Self-deleted answers can be edited by the author without undeleting.

Normally, if your deleted post is not self-deleted, you can't undelete it yourself (though you'll be able to vote to undelete as long as a moderator didn't delete it). An exception is if an answer is deleted from Low Quality review queue by "Recommend Deletion" reviews, without three trusted users voting to delete, then it can be undeleted by the author.

If your post was deleted by trusted users or by the Community user, it will require three undelete votes to be undeleted - politely asking for this on the per-site meta may attract the necessary votes if you make a good case for why the question should be restored. Do note that if the question was deleted by the Community user, it must be fixed so that the deletion criteria no longer apply; otherwise, it will be immediately re-deleted.

If your post was deleted by a moderator, you can flag that post and write a note in the "in need of moderator intervention" section explaining the situation and requesting undeletion.

Note: deleted questions do not appear in search results, so you if you wish to later undelete a question that you've deleted you must have saved the URL somewhere. Users with the "moderator tools" privilege can also mark questions as a "favorite" and find them later from the Favorites tab on their profiles. Only moderators can search for other users' deleted posts, nobody else. (Users with the moderator tools privilege can search among their own deleted posts.)

Deleted posts that are no more than 60 days old (since the creation date) are listed under "recent deleted questions" or "recent deleted answers".

What does deletion mean for a post?

Deleted posts are usually not physically deleted (that is, removed from the system); they're just hidden (AKA soft-deleted). This means they won't appear in search results or data dumps, and normal users following links to them will see a 404 (not found) page explaining the cause of deletion. Links to deleted answers will redirect to the question they were on. Links to deleted questions will either show as "voluntarily removed by its author" if the author deleted it, or as "removed from [site] for reasons of moderation" if it was deleted for any other reason.

Moderators, and normal users with "moderator tools" privilege (usually 10k reputation), can see all deleted posts that they have links to. Users with less than 10k reputation see their own deleted posts. Moderators are able to undelete any deleted post.

"10k users" may vote to undelete deleted questions: it usually takes three votes to undelete a question, but sometimes more.

"20k users" may also vote to undelete deleted answers: it takes three votes to undelete an answer.

What else should I know about deleted posts?

  • Reputation changes from bounties, votes (both up and down), and acceptances on deleted posts (including answers to a deleted question) are nullified. (Two exceptions: First. reputation earned for posts with a score of 3 or higher, and where the post has been visible on the site for at least 60 days, is retained. Second, if a bountied question where the awarded answer, if any, would get to keep its reputation changes due to the first exception gets deleted, the reputation change from the bounty will be permanent).

  • Reputation lost as a penalty for having a post deleted by spam or "rude or abusive" flagging is not returned, unless a moderator manually clears the spam or abuse flags. This only happens if the post was deleted in error (a moderator pressed the wrong button, or multiple users conspired to have it deleted).

  • The first time you delete your own post that has a score of 3 or higher, you will earn a Disciplined badge.

  • The first time you delete your own post that has a score of -3 or lower, you will earn a Peer Pressure badge.

  • Answers are automatically deleted when the question they're attached to is deleted. Such answers are automatically undeleted when the question is undeleted, except for answers that were deleted before the question was deleted.

How do votes to delete work?

What are the criteria for deletion?

For questions, a post that no longer adds anything to the site should be deleted. Basically, this includes most closed questions that cannot be improved and reopened. However, it may be beneficial to keep duplicates to aid future users in finding the canonical question, as different people may use different wordings that cause the canonical question to not show up in search.

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

These are general guidelines; some communities in the network may uphold more specific reasons to delete posts or not. For example, on Puzzling.SE, answers to a puzzle without explanation are subject to deletion, and some technical sites will delete answers which are not only wrong but also harmful when tried.

If I flag my question with a request to delete it, what will happen?

The standard policy for moderators is to decline such flags. The reasoning is as follows:

  • If you can delete your question (because it has no answers, or the only answer has no upvotes), then you should do it. It does not require moderator intervention.
  • If you cannot delete your question, then there must be an upvoted answer, multiple answers, or an answer with an awarded bounty. Deleting the question also deletes the answers. Deleting the answers undoes the hard work other people have put in to answer your question, and reverses the reputation they have earned too. This is not fair to the answerers of your question.

If you posted a question that you regret posting because:

  • it is a school assignment and you have now violated your school's "honor code"
  • it is embarrassing because it is a silly question

…then deleting the question is not a solution because users with 10k (2k on beta sites) reputation can still see it anyway. It is also clear in the terms of service (section 3) that:

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 ...

Moderators will not delete your question for the above reasons.

Instead, you can have the post dissociated from your account.

What if I posted my employer's copyrighted code, or there is a copyright violation in my question, and for legal reasons it has to be removed?

Stack Exchange implements a take-down process in accordance with the DMCA. If you are a copyright holder, and someone has posted content which contravenes your copyright, then you can file a copyright take-down and the content will be removed. The process for this is described in section 15 of the terms of service.

Flagging the question for moderator attention is not the right process to follow.

What if I accidentally posted log-in credentials or other such sensitive information?

In that case, replace the relevant information with dummy text/data/code that fulfills the same purpose, as outlined here, and here — both from your question and any answer that might have used it — and take care not to break context of the post, especially if answers are already present. After all that's done, flag the post for moderator attention so they can redact the revision history.

Are there exceptions?

Occasionally some exceptions are made. Often, these exceptions come in to play when:

  • All answers are more than 60 days old, and have 3, or higher score (the standard prevention against deleting answered questions is there so answerers don't lose rep, but if all answers have been visible for at least 60 days and have a score of +3 or higher, this is a moot point since their rep will be kept)
  • There is something suspicious about the question and answers that is not covered in this answer.
  • "You can’t delete your own question when it: has an upvoted answer, or has an accepted answer [...]". Which takes precedence here? Having 10k deletion tools (after 48hours of closure), or the fact that the question is your own?" – TylerH Jan 18 '17 at 20:43
  • 1
    This is the page users arrive at whose answers are deleted, so a bit more clarity might be useful for less experienced users. Can someone with more experience than I have, please improve the explanation given of what to do if an answer is deleted and the user wants to request undelete. The problem is that "[P]olitely asking for this on Meta may attract the necessary votes" isn't going to always be understood by the user - they may not know what Meta means, if it refers to the specific topic Meta or the general Meta site, or how to tell whether it was deleted by a "trusted user" or moderator" – Stilez Feb 10 '17 at 22:05
  • Regarding the rule "by the system 11", will questions be deleted even if they have upvoted answers? – Math Oct 4 '17 at 12:32
  • 1
    @Math Um, yes. (Check out the first sentence in the post linked to in rule 11 itself as a reference.) – robinCTS Oct 10 '17 at 9:41
  • Reputation changes from bounties, votes (both up and down), and acceptances on deleted posts (including answers to a deleted question) are nullified - this makes it seem like it's ok to self-delete badly received questions, when in reality deleted downvoted posts still count towards an automatic question ban. I think that should be clarified. – Mathieu Guindon Oct 30 '17 at 19:07
  • You can't delete your own question when it has an accepted answer --> an OP, apparently, unaccepted my answer, before deleting their Q, which, to me, violates the spirit of this rule, and I would classify their method as a loophole. Deleted Q is at stackoverflow.com/q/48889512/5726027 – Gyan Feb 22 at 7:48
  • @Gyan Sometimes they also have to edit your post, to make their upvote removable. :-) But I think such things happen only rarely... I think in similar cases, if there is an obvious misuse, flagging for mod intervention may help. You can see the deleted questions of others if you have there an answer, thus you can also flag it. – peterh Jun 22 at 16:50
  • 1
    Not able to delete my answer is against the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules! I'm not a lawyer, but this means that this interface is illegal to be use as much as I understand. Let's say for example that I posted in code in my answer a real password by mistake and now I want to delete it... THIS IS REALLY BAD! SINCE EDITING WILL NOT HELP AND I CANNOT DELETE AS WELL... – Ronen Ariely Jul 12 at 7:59
  • 1
    @RonenAriely stackoverflow.com/legal/gdpr/data-subjects – sourcejedi Oct 15 at 14:35
  • Thanks for the response and the link @sourcejedi :-) – Ronen Ariely 2 days ago

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protected by Robert Harvey Sep 26 '12 at 23:05

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