How can a post be deleted?
By a user:
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.
Moderators can delete any post instantly.
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 13 below).
Users with reputation ≥ 10k (more precisely, the moderator-tools privilege; 2k on beta sites) can vote to delete questions that have been closed/on-hold for 48 hours. It takes three votes to delete; more if the question is popular, but ten votes at most.
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:
The system will automatically delete any post flagged six times as offensive or spam (3 times on English Language & Usage and The Workplace).
The system will automatically delete closed (not as a duplicate), unlocked questions with zero or negative score having no positively scored or accepted answers or pending reopen votes, that were closed 9 or more days ago and haven't been edited in the past 9 days. (
The system will automatically delete rejected migrations (questions created as a result of a question being migrated from another site, and later closed for any reason other than duplicate) that are at least 30 days old. (
The system will automatically delete unlocked, unanswered questions that have negative score that are at least 30 days old. (
The system will automatically delete unlocked, unanswered questions on main (non-meta) sites with score of zero (or one, if the owner is deleted), fewer than 1.5 views per day on average, and fewer than two comments that are at least 365 days old. (
The system will automatically delete any question (and its answers) or answer with a negative score when its owner's account is deleted, unless the question is open and has at least one positively-scored answer.
The system will automatically delete migration stubs (original site copies of questions migrated to other sites) that are at least 30 days old. Questions autodeleted 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. (
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 answers that have been accepted.
You can't delete your own question when it:
You can't delete any of your questions or answers if you haven't registered your account (that is, associated an OpenID with it).
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.
Note that you can still see any of your own deleted posts regardless of reputation level if you saved the link somewhere else.
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 may be able to vote to undelete). 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 one of your other posts and write a note in the "other" 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 10k reputation and up 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. ("10k users" can search among their 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 >=10k reputation, 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 above 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 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 "code of conduct"
- 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.