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.
Diamond moderators (♦) can delete any post instantly. This group includes elected and appointed volunteer moderators as well as Stack Exchange employees with moderator privileges (such as Community Managers).
Users with reputation ≥ 2k (more precisely, the edit privilege; 1k on sites with "beta" requirements) 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 sites with "beta" requirements) 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 sites with "beta" requirements), 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 four 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. (shown as "Scheduled: RemoveAbandonedClosed" in the question timeline)
The system will automatically delete rejected migrations that were rejected more than 30 days ago. (shown as "Scheduled: RemoveRejectedMigrations" in the question timeline)
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. (shown as "Scheduled: RemoveDeadQuestions" in the question timeline)
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. (shown as "Scheduled: RemoveAbandonedQuestions" in the question timeline)
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. (shown as "Scheduled: RemoveMigrationStubs" in the question timeline)
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. (shown as "User [x] deleted" in the question timeline)
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). (shown as "User [x] destroyed" in the question timeline)
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?
You can't delete your own answer if it has been accepted.
You can't delete your own question if it:
As an example, a question with this answer cannot be self-deleted:
You can't delete any of your own posts if you've already deleted five of your own posts on the same day (with exceptions).
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?
Yes, you can see any of your own deleted questions, and your own deleted answers to any question.
When you open one of your own deleted questions, it will show with a red background, and the cause of the deletion will be indicated at the top. When browsing a question where you've posted a deleted answer, your answer will also show with the same red background and notice at the top. If you've sorted the answers by date modified or date created, or if you've sorted by highest score and lack the moderator tools privilege, your deleted answer will be shown in the same spot where it would otherwise show if it weren't deleted; if you have the moderator tools privilege and sort by highest score, it will show at the bottom along with other deleted answers (if any).
Additionally, if you answered a question that was subsequently deleted, you can see the deleted question and your answer(s) to it, but you can't see other users' answers to it, neither can you see the question's revision history or timeline, unless you have the moderator tools privilege. This applies even if your answer was deleted before the question was deleted.
Can I see a list of my deleted posts, or find links to them?
You can find lists of your deleted questions and answers from your profile. If you go to the Questions subtab of your profile, at the bottom you can click on "Deleted questions". This will give you a list of your deleted questions. You can find deleted answers in the same way - by clicking on "Deleted answers" in the Answers subtab.
If you have the moderator tools privilege, you can search among your own deleted posts using
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 questions and answers migrated to other sites. This is to comply with CC BY-SA license requirements, to supply attribution to users who edited a post before it was migrated. You can access these pages via the destination site either by clicking the "Migrated [x time ago]" link in the question's notice (only for questions migrated within the last 60 days), or by going to the post's revision history or timeline and clicking the "revisions" link on the migration event. (Due to a bug, to access the revision history of a migrated answer, one must use a URL modification detailed in that post.)
What are the criteria for deletion?
For questions, if it no longer adds anything to the site, it 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 impose additional requirements for posts or have specific reasons for deleting posts that don't apply to other network sites. 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.
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 (10k on "full" requirement sites, 2k on "beta" requirement sites), can see all deleted posts that they have links to. Users without the privilege can see their own deleted posts (see Can I still see my own post even after it's deleted? above). Moderators are able to undelete any deleted post.
Users with the moderator tools privilege may vote to undelete deleted questions: it usually takes three votes to undelete a question, but sometimes more.
Users with the trusted user privilege (20k on "full" requirement sites, 4k on "beta" requirement sites) may also vote to undelete deleted answers: it takes three votes to undelete an answer.
Regardless of the above, normal users cannot vote to undelete posts that were deleted by moderators1
Does deleting my own posts or having them deleted by others affect my standing on a site?
First, having a post deleted automatically by receiving four spam or rude or abusive flags, or a single one from a moderator, will levy a 100-reputation penalty on your profile. Repeatedly making posts that get flagged for this reason may result in you being suspended from the site.
Second, deleting multiple posts can lead to question or answer bans, particularly if you have other posts which are downvoted or closed and you have few well-received posts. Single posts are not a problem, but a series of deletions can lead to a post ban. As a general rule, it is better to try to fix a post than to delete it.
Finally, deleting useful content, whether your own or posted by others, may also lead to moderator intervention. In particular, deleting any amount of useful content (even a single post) may be considered vandalism, even if the automated system does not prevent you from deleting that content. In general, users are trusted to evaluate the usefulness of their own posts, but don't have a guaranteed right to remove their content, as detailed in the below section If I flag my post with a request to delete it, what will happen?. Continually abusing the system to delete your useful posts or misusing system features to delete others' useful posts may result in a suspension.
(Moderators will be automatically notified if a user deletes large parts of their own content, both when it's done in a short period of time and when done over longer periods of time.)
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.
The total number of votes you have to undelete per day will be the same as the total number of votes you have to delete per day.
You cannot vote to undelete posts that were deleted by a moderator (♦)1.
Votes to delete or undelete never expire.
You can only vote to delete once per post, except your own posts, which you can vote to delete as many times as you want.
You can only vote to undelete once per post, except your own posts, which you can vote to undelete as many times as you want.
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, unless cleared by a change in state of the post (see below point). Such pending 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. In other words, the check to see if the post should be deleted/undeleted is only run when such a vote is cast on the post.
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 yourself (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 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 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (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 post for moderator attention is not the right process to follow, as Stack Exchange staff are the only ones who can perform a DMCA removal, and only after the formal process by the copyright holder has been followed. Moderator flags requesting removal solely on copyright grounds (especially when you are not the copyright holder) will be declined.
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 and ask that they redact the sensitive information from the post's revision history.
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). This rule does not apply to posts deleted via the plagiarism flag.
- 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.
1 The check to see if a diamond user has deleted a post only checks their current diamond status. This means that if a post that was deleted by normal user votes, but any of said users who voted to delete gain a diamond later (i.e., are elected or appointed as a moderator or get hired as a staff member in a role that entitles them to moderator rights), that post now cannot be undeleted except by another diamond user, even though the original delete vote was a non-binding vote. This also means that a post that was deleted with a binding vote from a user who no longer holds moderator rights can be undeleted by normal users.