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This recent edition to a high votes answer is interesting: What is the historical background of the current Ukraine crisis (2014)?

The most voted answer was edited by the user, saying:

"I re-read my answer to this question written in 2014, and concluded that the answer was WRONG. Therefore I replace it."

I wonder whether the correct thing is to edit the answer (like the user did in this case) or simply delete it and write a new one (but nobody wants to lose the votes). Because the votes where given to the original answer, not the edited one.

Probably this won't be a singular case. Many historical events (or events that are still in the territory of journalism) that get new information are going to suffer drastic changes while the time passes by.

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  • Good question, about a problem that actually comes up surprisingly often.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 14:25

1 Answer 1

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I've had that happen to me rather a lot actually. The biggest one I can think of off the top of my head was this answer about alternate Chinese writing systems. It was the accepted answer to the question for half a decade, with a score considerably north of 100.

Then I found out a couple of months ago, while researching another question, that the top line boldfaced conclusion/answer was in fact 180° wrong. Like super wrong. Not "I don't think the logic holds" wrong, but factually incorrect1.

That's seriously embarrassing. However, even more embarrassing once I know its wrong would be continuing to leave that highly voted answer I know is wrong up there, getting accolades and spreading its wrongness around. So there was nothing for it; it had to be fixed.

Fortunately in this case, most of the discourse in the answer still applied. So I could just edit the answer to feature the Phagpa Script, turn the conclusion logic around, and leave it be.

I know in some cases even a fix that drastic won't do, or in fairness the other text everyone voted for should probably remain up. In the past I've handled that by chucking in a horizontal line and some "update" text at the end with the new information. Like so:


Update:


I could also see a case for making yourself a new completely separate answer. The problem is the OQ years later isn't likely hanging out looking to revise their checkmark. Still, that's arguably morally superior to completely changing the text in an accepted answer, leaving accepted something that's nothing like what the OQ thought they were accepting.

There's also another principle that should probably be brought up here: I believe strongly that a poster should have the right to not have words they deem morally objectionable posted on this site with their name next to them. This has come up before in the context of removing a Muslim users' "PBUM" honorific around religious leaders.

It can also be relevant in cases where someone has posted what they later come to realize was genocide-encouraging propaganda (denying a state or a peoples' existence). That appears to be what happened here in this 2014 Ukraine answer.2 So in this case, yes I think the poster's right to not have words they find morally repulsive sitting there with their authorship tag on them trumps other considerations. If the rest of us think that turns the answer into some kind of problem, we can discuss that.

 

1 - The next highest answer had actually mentioned this script, but at the time I'd dismissed it as something used by only by Mongols, not something they were seriously trying to replace Hanzi with. My apologies to user lly.

2 - I have a similar answer about how Crimea came to be Ukranian that has been bugging me for years. Its still factually correct, so I can't justify changing it, but I'm not a fan of its implication that Ukraine somehow didn't earn Crimea. My fault I guess for answering with the naive mindset that borders are sacrosanct now, and it was just a historical curiosity.

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