The Euler quote question "Why are people hanged if they talked" has been deleted by a moderator. I have the impression this is a new practice (correct me if I'm wrong), that deletions of off-topic questions are performed by a moderator rather than by users, and I wonder whether that is the way to go.

I appreciate that moderators routinely delete spammy or offensive questions, but this particular one was merely off-topic. (Although MO has had similar curiosity questions about famous mathematicians in the past, and some might feel that they offer a not unwelcome diversion from more serious stuff.)

My concern is that deletion by users is based on a community model, it requires 3 users, more if the question is popular, and it can be reversed if users so decide at a point in the future. A moderator deletion is an instananeous single-person action that cannot be reversed.

Somehow I feel that moderators should step in when something goes wrong with the site, something that regular users cannot handle in a timely manner. To quote from our help center: "Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those exceptional conditions that could otherwise disrupt the community."

Q: Shouldn't we, as users, handle the deletions of non-spammy, off-topic questions ourselves?

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    $\begingroup$ From the message in chat, it seems that in this case the request to delete might quite likely come from the OP. (They asked about that in chat - moderators can confirm whether the OP indeed flagged the question asking for deletion.) As a side note, this reminded me of an old quid's post: Should we try to re-start manual deletions or is the situation fine anyway? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ If we look at the 2020 stats, that post says that there were 354 deletions by the mods and 8027 deletions by the MO users. (The footnote says that these numbers do not include auto-deleted posts.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ Since you said that "moderators routinely delete spammy or offensive questions" I will just point out that this seems to be a misconception. Deleting spam and rude/abusive posts is one of the things which regular users can (and should) do, they do not actually need involvement of a moderator. More details can be found here: What should I do when I see a spam post on MO? (Of course, occasionally a moderator can spot such post before there are enough flags - but we cannot expect the mods to be here 24/7.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ While I agree that the question is not suitable for MO, it could be suggested to the OP to repost it at one of the History sites on SE. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ In some cases, quick deletion (which moderators can accelerate) has the advantage of avoiding other users posting answers to such (clearly) off-topic question. In this case, deletion occurred too late anyway. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


There's no clear-cut controversy here: five users closed this as not suitable for this site, then the OP asked to have it deleted, and this was done via two votes (Stefan Kohl being the second).

The only debate might be whether it should have been closed, and we have a Reopen thread for that. I don't have a dog in that race. There wasn't much (any?) math content in the post.

No comments were deleted. There were three flags on the post.


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