Below is the standard SE Help Center text for why answers may be deleted:

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are:

  • commentary on the question or other answers
  • asking another, different question
  • “thanks!” or “me too!” responses
  • exact duplicates of other answers
  • barely more than a link to an external site
  • not even a partial answer to the actual question

Sadly, our Help Center entry on this subject is not one of the editable ones. This is an issue, because (based on flags and user deletion votes), we are also deleting answers for having insufficient sourcing.

I asked the collective minds in the teacher's lounge, and was told that's OK, as long as its a well-established site policy. So we need to establish what site policy is in this matter.

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    Answers other than mine (particularly counter to mine) encouraged.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 17:55
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    If I understand correctly, you're asking two closely related questions (1) Does this list represent the site policy on why answers may be deleted - the policy, the whole policy and nothing but the policy. and (2) Is this the right site policy? Should there be other reasons why we delete answers? Should there be fewer reasons?
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 12:42
  • I'm struggling to provide constructive input, but this is not a trivial question. Thanks for raising it.
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 12:42

2 Answers 2


The following describes our site policy, in practice:

In addition to what is listed on the Help Center for answer deletion reasons (see above), there is one additional bullet:

- contains inadequte references for its non-trivial assertions.

Personal site mod addendum

As a moderator, I will step in and delete answers personally under the following conditions:

  • The answer is patently offensive or garbage*.
  • The answer is a reposting of a deleted answer.
  • The answer is flagged for moderator attention as not being a real answer and it fits one of the criteria listed above as "not a real answer" and one of the following is true
    • It has been utterly rejected by the users, as evidenced by a very negative score (generally -4 or less)
    • It has been badly received (a moderately negative score) and has user deletion votes.
    • It is indisputably a comment rather than an answer, but I can save it by moving it to a comment. (I won't do this for users who don't have privs to make a comment).

Technically I believe it would be kosher to get rid of the last 3 bullets and just delete all such posts, but I'm trying to not delete content that users find valuable in spite of technically violating the rules.

* - A "garbage" post is a post that is making no good-faith effort whatsoever to participate in the topic of the question or even this website. This often includes (but is not limited to) spam, gibberish, unrelated incoherent screeds / drunken ramblings, personal statements, and promotion of completely unrelated religious or conspiracy-based belief systems.

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    I should also note that, as per the advice I got from other mods, any accounts created with the sole intention of posting offensive matter or garbage are subject to destruction. Not deletion ... destruction.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 21:26
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    With regard to lack of references, do we need to pin down what is meant by "non-trivial" in this context? Or perhaps phrase it as "contains no references for assertions that underpin the question"
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 15:47
  • "nonsense" vice "garbage" ?
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 16:48
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    @MarkC.Wallace - I'd equate "nonsense" with "gibberish".
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 17:41

I'd like to bring up a specific post, give my own opinion, and ask what others think.

This is a post by @TylerDurden in response to the question: Does Chinese history really span the past 5000 years?

I down voted this question because it is complete nonsense for anyone who has read Chinese History. It also has no sources at all; a non-trivial assertion like "China didn't have writing until the Tang Dynasty" should certainly have a source that refutes the commonly portrayed history of Chinese writing.

Nonetheless, I don't think it should be deleted; it contains valuable information in that we have downvoted it, and provided refutation in the comments. If we delete it, we loose both. And the reputation of SE should remain high enough that our votes will matter to those who care, and those who like crackpot theories won't pay attention either way. Someone who might be enticed by the crazy theories, but sees that it is down voted, might decide to view the other answers as well.

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    I don't know how I feel about leaving around incorrect answers with no sources. If it had sources, I would agree with you. Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 18:11
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    The problem with relying on "refutation in the comments" is that those comments are not guaranteed to persist, especially if a discussion starts in the comments and they're moved wholesale to chat or removed en mass. If the downvoting continues then the poster may very well decide to delete their own answer anyway.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 10:07
  • I have mixed feelings about this. To add to @SteveBird 's point, while moderators can apply prudece and selectively preserve comments in a purge, most people do not read the comments anyway, and google only tracks the main text of the answer. In this case the voting and the other answers proved it was an utterly false answer. But what if it is a more obscure topic and no one more knowledgeable was immediately at hand to correct the misinformation? The reality is that a well worded answer, even if false, can accumulate many upvotes if not challenged sufficiently early.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 9:34
  • @Semaphore So can we delete that horrible answer? Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:38
  • @axsvl77 I'm not entirely sure I should be the one to do so since I posted a competing answer, but it's deleted now.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 12:52
  • @Semaphore Thanks. Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 13:06

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