How can a post be deleted?
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, on the left (only available from a browser, not the SE/SO app).
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 14 below).
Users with reputation ≥ 10k (more precisely, the access to moderator tools privilege; 2k on beta sites) can vote to delete questions that have been closed or marked as a duplicate at least 48 hours ago. 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), can vote to delete closed questions within 48 hours of being closed, so long as they score −3 or lower. They may also vote to delete answers of score −1 or lower (0 or lower if through the Low Quality Posts review queue), including accepted answers (unless they are the owner of that answer). It takes three votes to delete an answer.
- The system (i.e. the Community user) will automatically delete any post red flagged enough times as rude or abusive or spam. It takes six red flags from normal users, or a single one from a moderator, to delete a post for this reason.
The system will automatically delete closed, unlocked, and non-migrated questions that have zero or negative score, have no positively scored or accepted answers or pending reopen votes, were closed for any reason other than duplicate nine or more days ago, and haven't been edited in the past nine days. (
The system will automatically delete rejected migrations that were rejected more than 30 days ago. (
The system will automatically delete negatively-scored, non-migrated, unlocked, and unanswered questions (both open and closed, including as duplicates) that are older than 30 days. (
The system will automatically delete unlocked, unanswered questions older than 365 days on main (non-meta) sites, that have a score of zero (or have a score of 1 and the owner's account is deleted), have fewer than 1.5 views per day on average, and fewer than two comments. (
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. (
By account removal:
The system will automatically delete any post with a negative score when its owner's account is deleted, unless the post is an open question that has at least one positively-scored answer, or is on a meta site.
The system will automatically delete any post, regardless of score, answers, or the site it's on, when its owner's account is destroyed (only done for spammers and blatant trolls).
Answers with zero or negative score that receive six recommend deletion reviews (four on Stack Overflow) in the Low Quality Posts (LQP) review queue are automatically deleted "from review". Answers 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 toward them. (Posts with a positive score will not be deleted through this route if the outcome is for deletion, but a flag will be raised to let moderators know of the outcome.)
Note that trusted users, provided they still have delete votes, can exercise their delete votes in that queue, provided the answer has a score of 0 or lower. If three delete votes are cast (visible in the review as Delete rather than Recommend Deletion) then the ≥ 20k rules in number 5 above apply. Otherwise, a "Delete" review will count the same as a "Recommend Deletion" review.
By side effects:
- When a question is deleted, all its answers are also automatically deleted.
When can't I delete my own post?
Special note: You can't delete your own post using the Android app. You can, however, delete your post by using the app's option to open the question in a Web browser and deleting it from there, provided none of the below apply.
You can't delete your own answer if it has been accepted.
You can't delete your own question if it:
The question with this answer cannot be deleted:
You can't delete any of your own posts if you've already deleted five of your own posts on the same day.
Unregistered users (users who haven't registered their account - that is, associated a Google, Facebook, or Stack Exchange account with it) can't delete any of their own posts.
Note: if you're a moderator, none of the above apply; you can delete your own post even if it wouldn't ordinarily be allowed.
Can I still see my own post even after it's deleted?
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 deleted 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.
Even without that privilege, it's possible to find posts deleted longer than 60 days ago if they've been voted on, by carefully browsing through your reputation history.
When can I see others' deleted posts?
If you have the access to 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 answered a deleted question, you can always see the deleted question along with your own deleted answer.
Additionally, all users can see revision histories of posts migrated to other sites and deleted as migration stubs, provided the migration was not rejected. This is to comply with CC BY-SA license requirements. There is no link to this history on the origin site itself, but you can access it via the destination site either by clicking the "Migrated [x time ago]" link in the notice (only for questions migrated less than 60 days ago), or by going to the post's revision history or timeline and clicking the "revisions" link on the migration event.
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.
How can I undelete one of my posts?
Self-deleted posts can be viewed and undeleted by their original authors. While self-deleted answers can be edited by the author without undeleting, self-deleted questions cannot be edited by their authors unless undeleted first for spam prevention reasons.
Depending on who deleted your post, you may or may not be able to undelete it. If it was deleted by...
- you, the author: you can undelete it
- multiple high-reputation users1 or the Community user: you can vote to undelete, but it will require more votes from high-reputation users or a moderator to undelete
- a moderator: you cannot undelete it, and high-reputation users cannot vote to undelete; the only ones who can undelete them are moderators
- from review (without three trusted users voting to delete): you can undelete it, but doing so will alert moderators
You cannot undelete your own post if it is locked.
If your post was deleted by high-reputation users or by the Community user, it will require three undelete votes to be undeleted (more if it's a question and it was popular) - 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 (i.e. why the post doesn't meet the deletion criteria above). Do note that if the question was deleted by the Community user, it must be fixed so that the automatic deletion criteria no longer apply; otherwise, it will be re-deleted once the script runs again.
If your post was deleted by a moderator, you can flag that post, writing a note in the "in need of moderator intervention" section explaining the situation and requesting undeletion. Be sure to clearly indicate in your flag why the post does not meet the criteria for deletion outlined above. If your request is declined, or as an alternative, you can make a request on the per-site meta per the above paragraph.
Note: deleted questions do not appear in search results, so 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 "bookmark" questions and find them later from the Bookmarks tab in 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 were deleted no more than 60 days ago are listed under "deleted recent questions" or "deleted recent 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 the 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 votes (both up and down), bounties (both giving on questions and receiving on answers), acceptances, and approved suggested edits on deleted posts (including answers to deleted questions) 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. This does not include reputation lost from giving bounties on them (this will be nullified as normal).
- Second, if a question that has had bounties awarded to answers is deleted, and one or more of the answers would get to retain their reputation per the above first exception, the bounty reputation given to those answers will not be refunded to the bounty owner(s).
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?
If you have the vote to delete privilege (part of the "moderator tools" privilege) (10k rep on launched sites, 2k on beta sites), you get five votes to delete per day, plus 1 vote per 1000 reputation points above 10k (up to a maximum of 30 votes per day). Votes to delete your own posts may or may not count toward the limit, depending on circumstances.
You get as many votes to undelete as votes to delete.
You cannot vote to undelete posts that were deleted by moderators1.
Votes to delete or undelete never expire.
There is no system-imposed limit on the number of times you can vote to delete or undelete a post: if you voted to delete and it was subsequently undeleted, you can vote to delete again, and vice versa. Note that some sites, including Stack Overflow, have community-imposed limits on voting to delete or undelete a post multiple times.
If there are pending delete votes on a post that no longer has the required negative score to vote to delete (answers with a score of 0 or higher, or questions closed within the last 48 hours with a score of -2 or higher), the button to delete will disappear, but prior delete votes will still remain pending. Such votes are only shown in the 10k tools' Delete statistics, as well as on the post itself to the author and moderators.
If a closed question is reopened, any pending delete votes on it will be cleared.
If a question's popularity drops to a point where the current number of pending delete/undelete votes would be enough to cause the respective action (e.g. a question has five pending delete votes and used to require six, then its score dropped so now it only requires five), it will not be deleted/undeleted immediately - one more vote will be required to result in action.
If I flag my post 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 post (because it has no answers, the only answer has no upvotes, or it's not an accepted answer), then you should do it. It doesn't require moderator intervention. If you're using the mobile app (which doesn't have a delete option), you should tap "more" and open the question in a Web browser to delete it.
- If you cannot delete your post because you've already deleted five of your own posts today, keep in mind that this limit exists in order to prevent users from "rage quitting". If you believe your post should be deleted, you should wait until the next day to delete it, rather than flag.
- If you cannot delete your question because it has 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 cannot delete your question because there are other questions closed as duplicates of your question: if you were allowed to delete the question, then it would be extremely confusing for other users, as they'd be directed to a deleted question when attempting to browse the site for answers and stumble upon the duplicate question(s). Moderators are also prevented from deleting such questions for this reason.
- If you cannot delete your answer, then it must have been accepted by the question author. One of the main points of these sites is to provide help to others searching for answers; deleting your answer that the author has indicated as helpful to them detracts from maintaining such a knowledge base.
If you made a post 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 post is not a solution because users with 10k (2k on beta sites) reputation can still see it anyway. It is also clear in Public Network Terms of Service (section 6) that:
You agree that any and all content, ... that you provide to the public Network (collectively, "Subscriber Content"), is perpetually and irrevocably licensed to Stack Overflow on a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis pursuant to Creative Commons licensing terms (CC BY-SA 4.0), and you grant Stack Overflow the perpetual and irrevocable right and license to access, use, process, copy, distribute, export, display and to commercially exploit such Subscriber Content, even if such Subscriber Content has been contributed and subsequently removed by you as reasonably necessary...
Moderators will not delete your post 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.
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.
1 The check to see if a moderator has deleted a post, for the purposes of checking whether users can (vote to) undelete a given post, checks moderator statuses live, rather than checking whether or not a deleting user was a moderator at the time of deletion. This means that a post that was deleted by high-reputation users, one or more of whom became a current moderator at some point later, cannot be undeleted except by another moderator. This also means that a post that was bindingly deleted by a moderator who is no longer a current moderator can be undeleted by normal users.