Questions can be protected.

  • What does it mean for a question to be protected?
  • Why are some questions protected?
  • Who can protect and unprotect questions?
  • Who can answer a protected question?
  • When should I protect or unprotect a question?

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What does it mean for a question to be protected?

Protected questions have the additional restriction that new users are not permitted to answer the question. Unlike locked questions, they can still be edited, commented on, and voted on. You can even vote to close them.

Why are some questions protected?

Questions are usually protected because they have attracted either spam answers or "noisy" answers such as "thank you", "this worked for me", or "I'm also having this problem" from new users who may mistake the site as a traditional forum.

Who can protect and unprotect questions?

Note: Criteria 1 and 3 are implemented in a fairly crude fashion, so you may see questions protected if they see a mix of spam answers and new-user answers deleted for other reasons, but don't fit the criteria above. Those don't happen that often and are considered edge cases, but the true way those criteria are implemented in the code is described in the above post.

The system will never unprotect a question automatically, even if the deleted answers are later undeleted or the spam flags are cleared.

Who can answer a protected question?

Users with 10 or more reputation can answer a protected question. However, the +100 account association bonus is ignored for this check2, so users with the association bonus require 110 reputation to answer protected questions. In other words, all users must have earned 10 or more reputation on that specific site to answer a protected question.

The reasoning about this reputation limit discussed in Allow people to answer protected questions if they have earned at least some amount of combined SE rep

When should I protect or unprotect a question?

  • Do protect questions that are attracting a lot of non-answers or very poor answers (spam, etc.) from new users.
  • Don’t protect questions just because they’re linked to on a high-traffic news site.
  • Do unprotect questions that aren’t currently attracting a lot of attention and don’t have a long history of unproductive answers.

See also: Changes and guidelines for the Protected Question status

1 Note that the check for auto-protection is different from the check for answering; users with the association bonus but less than 110 reputation don't count toward auto-protection, even though they aren't able to answer such questions.

2 On per-site metas, this restriction does not apply; if you have the association bonus, you can answer protected questions on per-site metas without needing to earn 10 rep on the main site first.

  • @shog9: Looks like protected questions need 10 votes to delete. Shouldn't that be mentioned here? – juergen d Jan 6 '13 at 19:00
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    That's not really connected to "protect", @juergend - see: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5221/… – Shog9 Jan 6 '13 at 19:08
  • @shog9: Didn't find the paragraph where it says anything about the delete votes though, but OK. – juergen d Jan 6 '13 at 19:17
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    @juergen: "3. Users with reputation >= 10k (more precisely, the “moderator tools” privilege; 2k on beta sites) can vote to delete questions that have been closed for 48 hours. It takes three votes to delete; more if the question is popular, but ten votes at most." – Shog9 Jan 6 '13 at 19:24
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    There was another Q asking How to protect a question, which was closed as a duplicate of this. I don't see how in this answer, nor do I see a link that says "protect" next to "flag", eg. Can we add the how info to this? – gung Feb 19 '13 at 13:26
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    @Shog9 Is there a rationale given for why a protected question ignores the +100 bonus? It seems arbitrary considering the many different permissions that this particular one ignores the bonus. – corsiKa Apr 16 '14 at 22:00
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    @corsiKa The original rationale (as best as I can find) is at meta.stackexchange.com/a/116667/89334. – waiwai933 Apr 16 '14 at 22:07
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    @waiwai933 That does explain that it's intentional (even if not perfectly implemented, at time of that posting), although it doesn't explain the rationale. It explains the what they want ("one real upvote") but not the why. – corsiKa Apr 16 '14 at 22:23
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    this +100 account association bonus is ignored thing is nasty and inconsistent. why not simply require 110 rep for answering a protected question, no strings attached? – törzsmókus Nov 9 '15 at 4:34
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    Will answers by low users on questions that become protected be removed? – DaImTo Sep 16 '16 at 11:21
  • I want to answer this question meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/250177/… Why is it protected? – Matthew Sontum Feb 25 '17 at 17:10
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    To answer a protected question you need 10 reputation on the site, but the "on the site" part seems to be ignored when deciding if a question can be protected. For example, this question has received two answers with scores of -3 and -6, but I don't see the option to protect it. Is this by design or am I missing something here? – Masked Man Apr 15 '17 at 4:22
  • @MaskedMan this is by (stinkin') design, see eg How many questions escape community protection because of reputation gained within checked question? No matter how low the answer score is, rep from upvotes (eg efrom inexperienced grateful asker) can break the option to protect the question. With regards to example question in your comment, two yesterday downvotes to one of cr@ppy answers made it possible to protect it again (unless these will be again overridden by a sympathy upvote from some lemming) – gnat Apr 15 '17 at 9:00
  • @gnat While that is certainly a broken design, it gets even worse here. Those two answers were written by users armed with the association bonus, they did not actually have any reputation gained on the site, even by way of sympathy upvoting. This leads to an "entertaining" situation where the "101" guys can post crappy answers but those don't count to grant protection, but once the question is protected, then the association bonus does not count. – Masked Man Apr 15 '17 at 9:27
  • @MaskedMan probably the way out is for moderators to immediately protect any question they notice in HNQ (mods aren't limited in that unlike regular 15K users). I've seen Physics.SE mods doing this and another mod told me in chat that some other sites do that too – gnat Apr 15 '17 at 9:31

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