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I have been reviewing a lot of older posts (~10 years old) and there are quite a few with links that are either dead or links that point to sites that no longer contain the relevant information that the link was originally referring to.

In one case, I found a comparable site that contained the result the dead link cited and replaced the link in an edit. But in a lot of cases where someone is not citing a specific result, this is sometimes not possible.

Should the 10-year-old question be edited to remove the dead link? Is there any policy on the process to take when deciding on what to do with a dead or stale link? Surprisingly, I couldn't find an existing discussion on this. There is a small sub-discussion on this topic in this question:

What to do with links to arXiv front end?

As an example of what I encountered, this posting:

edges minus vertices

has a link to a pdf document at:

http://www.mathunion.org/ICM/ICM1994.2/Main/icm1994.2.1375.1383.ocr.pdf

and while the link is not dead (it still goes to the ICM Math Union website) it does not find this pdf file it tried to cite. The question could potentially have this extra tidbit of information removed without affecting the message quality of the question.

Should there be a policy? Could I propose an edit that I feel makes the most sense? I wouldn't know if my decision is breaking any rules (written or unwritten) around editing.

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I guess I usually act as follows:

a) If I know how to fix the link (typically, link points to an identifiable paper), I either edit accordingly, or add the link as a comment (I might even provide 2 links, e.g., link to journal, often behind paywall, ideally using DOI, along with arXiv link); also I might add the journal reference when it wasn't initially.

b) If I don't know how to fix the link, I'll post a comment such as "the link is broken", with the hope that OP, if still active on MO, might fix the link. If not, still one can hope some other user knows how to fix/replace the link. At worst, it's useful that the reader is warned that the link is broken.

Anticipating on this, it's useful to check links and fix them before they become broken, for instance adding information that make them identifiable/retrievable, adding reference info, DOI. Also in case of external link to a picture, to embed the picture.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, even just adding text giving a journal reference is preferable to link text that just says "this", with an opaque journal/publisher-specific url filled with numbers and letters. $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Sep 17 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ Just out of curiosity, what's your policy for when to edit vs. when to add a comment? I try to stick with a comment for questions that aren't already on the front page, but then that's only useful for people who think to check the comments on a years-old dead link. $\endgroup$ – LSpice Sep 24 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice not sure of a very rational answer, but I'd take into account: whether there are other improvements to make to the post (e.g. formatting), whether the post is already bumped, and if not, whether I believe it's worth being bumped (i.e., of interest to readers), whether I already recently bumped posts; possibly also the fact adding a link in a comment will be more or less visible according to whether there are already many comments. (I don't think I often bumped a question just to update a link.) $\endgroup$ – YCor Sep 24 at 0:23

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