When following a permalink to an answer that has been deleted, most viewers get to see the question instead. (The browser cannot find the <div id="answer-xx" ...> to scroll to, unless one has enough reputation to see deleted posts.) Most of the time this is nice, but it can be confusing.

For those who cannot see deleted posts:

  1. Could some warning be shown when this happens? If yes, then maybe even including the reason like on the recently enhanced 404 page? Such as:

    The answer you were linked to has been deleted for reasons of moderation.

  2. An alternative could be to show an actual 404 page. To ensure people can then still find the related question, that question should then be linked on that 404 page too.

I guess I'd rather keep the current behavior instead of a 404 page. I assume showing the question when an answer is deleted is very much on purpose, if only for search engines? I like it too.

Like for some time, following links to deleted answers from the global Inbox did show a 404. In that Inbox, links to answers actually use the URLs for questions. Like /questions/75129/whatever where 75129 really is the answer, not the question. For deleted answers this used to show a 404 for those with limited access rights. But nowadays it always redirects to the full URL, where the browser won't scroll for those who cannot see deleted answers. I like that better.

  • Fun fact: closing this this will then direct people to that new question, making them not see Jeff's official answer :-) And, oh, weird, I clicked a nice big button on top of my post to close it, but now it says Community closed it. Oh well, fun facts everywhere :-) And arrghh, @JasonC's comment, explaining why the new duplicate might be a better starting point, was deleted after closing. Oh well.
    – Arjan
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 7:59
  • 1
    Easy enough to resolve! I've voted to close this as a duplicate of the other one even though this is older because the other one has a generally better answer (IMO): a very helpful userscript that adds a form of this feature. In addition, I've flagged this requesting that the answers here be merged into the newer question; cross your fingers. :)
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 20:26
  • As for "Community" closing it that's actually what happens when you click that button, it's a little weird, but there is some discussion about it here if you are curious.
    – Jason C
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 20:28

3 Answers 3


I agree with this. Often I experience this when trying to flag spam posts from one of the bots on sites I don't have much reputation on. This is confusing to me every time again.

Jeff said it is an edge case, but I disagree. This happens often to me, and probably others too.

I suggest to show a message, in any form, I don't care much. One option could be to show a little banner at the end of the page, something like:

This question has deleted answers not visible to you.

And the script could point to that line if the answer is not found. Optionally it could point to the FAQ to explain why it is not visible to the user, why answers are deleted, etc.

  • 1
    Consider using my userscript that I created for this case.
    – rene
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 20:45

I agree with this as well and would like to see it revisited. I don't think it is currently an edge case (perhaps it was in the past). There are a lot of automated spam detection systems and stuff now (for example), and I am very frequently following links to deleted answers. It is guaranteed disorienting.

I see the following conversations happen a lot:

Bot: [link] looks like spam.

X: That's weird, I don't see a problem...

Y: Yeah me neither...

Y: Oh... it's a deleted answer now.

X: Ah I was looking at the question.

So I'd love to see some indication that the linked answer was deleted.

Also, as an option: If there's some UX issue where you don't want this to happen (e.g. for general users, or for when following broken external links), you could make it so that, say, only users with > some number of helpful flags or something saw the warning.


This seems like such an edge condition.

If you were interested in one answer to a question, certainly the other non-deleted answers to the question would also be of interest and should suffice?

Perhaps if all the answers were deleted, but now we've sailed beyond edge conditions off into the sea of insanity...

  • 4
    I guess this most often happens to me on MSO, following links to sources of all kinds of statements. But true: that is hardly a reason to change things. Still, just for the record: even some high reputation user can sometimes be confused, like in the 4th comment here. That said, I guess you can somehow tell from log files if this indeeds happens a lot (if at all) for external links?
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 10:51
  • (That 4th comment stating "the last question which you linked" while actually the link referred to a (deleted) answer.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Apr 23, 2011 at 10:53
  • 6
    One case where this matters is when an answer is linked in the chat for flagging. After the answer is (expectedly) deleted, people might incorrectly think the question was being called spam by the reporter. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 11:25

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