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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?
  • When does the Community user protect a question?

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117

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?

  • Diamond moderators can protect and unprotect any question, regardless of age or answer history.
  • Users with the Protect Questions privilege (15k reputation on graduated sites, 3.5k on beta sites)
    • can protect a question which is at least a day old, and has at least one answer by a new user (i.e. a user that currently has <10 rep on the site1)
    • can unprotect any protected question
  • The system (via the Community user) will automatically protect questions if a certain number of answers from new users get deleted or are posted within a short time. See When does the Community user protect a question? below for more info.

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 is 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 Hot Network Questions or 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

When does the Community user protect a question?

The Community user will protect a question in the following cases:

  1. The number of deleted answers from users with <10 rep1, plus the number of answers with helpful spam flags, is at least 3. (Note that spam answers from new users are counted twice.)
    • Generally, this means that three deleted answers from new users will cause auto-protection, but if at least one of those answers is spam, only two answers will trigger it.
  2. Five answers from users with <10 rep were posted in the last 24 hours. Three answers on Software Engineering, English Language Learners, and Workplace, and 20 answers on Code Golf.

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

Automatic protection notes

  • Multiple answers from the same user are counted as just one towards the checks. For example, if three answers from new users are deleted, but if two of those answers were posted by the same user, the question won't be auto-protected unless it gets another deleted answer from a different (third) low-rep user.
  • The relevant checks are run whenever any qualifying answers are deleted (for criterion 1) or posted (for criterion 2). This means that if a question that met the criteria for automatic protection is unprotected later, and a qualifying answer is later deleted or posted, the question will be re-protected if it still meets the respective criterion. For example, if a question that receives five answers from new users in the last 24 hours is manually unprotected, if it receives another answer from a new user in the same 24-hour period, it will be re-protected.
  • Sites have the ability to turn off auto-protection if they wish. Some per-site metas, especially those with "sandbox" questions, have opted to disable auto-protection.

1 While users with the association bonus but less than 110 reputation aren't allowed to answer protected questions, the checks for automatic protection and whether to allow 15k+ users to protect the question only consider users with <10 rep as "new users", without checking for the association bonus.

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 (provided your reputation on the main site hasn't dropped below 10).

  • 1
    @shog9: Looks like protected questions need 10 votes to delete. Shouldn't that be mentioned here? – juergen d Jan 6 '13 at 19:00
  • 1
    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
  • 1
    @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
  • 1
    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 - Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '13 at 13:26
  • 4
    @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
  • 1
    @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
  • 2
    @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
  • 2
    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
  • 1
    Will answers by low users on questions that become protected be removed? – DaImTo Sep 16 '16 at 11:21
  • 1
    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
  • I've found a bug with the help pages for this system. I thought I had 10 rep on Stack Overflow from posting ages ago, but apparently not. Somehow I only have 9 rep (109 in total). However, on the page which explains "new user privileges," it says I already have the privilege, presumably due to the association bonus. – Lucas Leblanc Oct 23 '18 at 15:49

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protected by Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 7 at 17:07

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

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