Topic deleted by author

Could we forbid deleting topics by the topic starter (at least for non-core developer)? This deletes not only messages written by the author, but messages written by other participants. Even if the original idea was rejected and the author has been convinced that it is silly, the discussion itself has value for other readers.

I think that message should not be deleted, unless it is spam, insulting, or was posted by mistake. And only moderators should be able to delete messages of other users.

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I am not sure what you are referring to, but could it be that the author was embarrassed by their question once the received a response? That sometimes happens.

I wonder (probably this would be a new feature) if it could be made possible to hide the identity of the author, at their request? I sympathize with the author in some cases.

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Thank you Serhiy!


There vere several cases when a user asks a question or propose an idea removes the topic after receiving answers. This puts other users that came with the same question or idea at disadvantage. You also can’t just refer to a past discussion or quote it if it’s deleted. Deleting a discussion is disrespectful to other users.

It may be so. In any case it harms other users.

I agree it is not helpful for the community. But probably EU law (“right to be forgotten”) requires this feature.


Does it include the right to make others forgotten?

Right to be forgotten doesn’t give people the right to disappear other people’s contribution to the thread.

In any case, I don’t think that EU law applies to forums run by the PSF, which is based in Delaware (if I recall correctly).

EU law may apply if the website is visited from the EU (in which case content would need to be blocked in the EU to ensure compliance) or if the author is an EU citizen (in which case user data may need to be deleted, see Privacy Shield and the new Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework). This doesn’t necessarily mean that posts should be individually deletable, but I don’t know.

GDPR can protect EU citizens and residents’ data outside the EU too.

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It should be possible to move a topic to a hidden (or otherwise protected) category, to make it invisible to the general public while still leaving the content available, in case someone wants to make use of it in a new topic.

I don’t know whether this changes the topic top post author field, but it is also possible to change ownership of a topic, according to the moderation guide. Perhaps that could be used to “remove” the association with the author instead of deleting the content.

All that said, there’s no such thing as a stupid question – at the end of the day, someone will learn something, and that’s better than not asking in the first place, leaving uncertainty. So removing such content is not helpful, but, of course, it would be good to allow the author to anonymize him- or herself after the fact.


A user can be permanently anonymised (at least using Discourses standard software features) without needing to delete posts: Anonymizing Users in Discourse - announcements - Discourse Meta

I have seen other Discourse forums take manual requests from users, with the assumptions this is helping comply with GDPR.

More info about other GDPR topics here: GDPR in my Discourse site - #2 by awesomerobot - support - Discourse Meta

EU law may apply if the website is visited from the EU, but that
doesn’t mean that EU authorities have the ability to force a site
hosted outside the EU to comply with such a law. If the EU is
serious about enforcing laws for sites hosted outside their
jurisdiction, then their options for recourse include negotiating it
as part of some international treaty, obligating Internet service
providers within the EU to block their users from reaching such
foreign sites, or banning the organization in control of the site
from doing business in EU member countries (and it’s this last one
which is most likely to apply to PSF).

I’m in favor of a lot of the protections in GDPR and voluntarily
complying with related user requests, but if the EU could
unilaterally force any site hosted in and run by any entity in the
World to do those things, then certainly every government in the
World could similarly require the site to censor information they
consider subversive, perverse, or otherwise harmful to control they
exert over their own citizens. To restate, EU laws may apply outside
the EU, to the extent that the laws of any country apply outside
their own borders.

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I also agree that such situation might not be helpful to others, but we should respect the individual’s choice. If the OP wants to delete their own old posts for whatever reasons, they should be able to do it. So -1 on restricting this ability to only moderators.

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The problem seems to be that the OP can delete others’ posts as well.

I’ve seen a fair number of cases in #users where a user posts something, but then (perhaps realizing they made a mistake) they swiftly delete it, which doesn’t really do much harm (and perhaps saves others time reading and replying).

However, the fact that it deletes others’ posts not only allows authors to wipe out the effort of others in a discussion, perhaps hours or days worth, with just a click, but given its seemingly non-obvious that this is the resulting effect, it seems authors may actually do this without fully understanding the consequences, thinking they are only deleting their own post. In fact, this actually very nearly happened to me somewhat recently on a fairly lengthy thread when I considered doing so on my own posts due to requests that I retract my initial proposal, but fortunately quickly dismissed that course of action.

Ideally, Discourse should ensure the OP is removed with the message [topic deleted by author] if the OP deletes it, but not the rest of the thread (except for if there are no replies). This still allows authors to delete their own content, just without the harm (intentional or not) to others.

Otherwise, limiting thread deletion to at least TL4+ (Leader) and above would seem to be an acceptable solution if that’s possible. If users did want to remove their own thread OPs, they could either edit it to make it blank, anonymize their name, or ask any admin/mod/TL4+ user to remove it for them; mods could delete no-reply threads directly, edit the post to wipe it, or even split the thread to a new one on the first reply. Also, a ≈1 hour period after creating a thread in which it can still be deleted would handle the most common (legitimate) case of such.

The primary discussed application of the “right to be forgotten” per GDPR Article 17 concerns removal from search engines, and requires filling out a fairly detailed form, which is then assessed by humans and eventually action either taken or not taken on the basis of that. As such, its hard to see how having to ask a mod to remove OPs in certain cases is more burdensome than that, even assuming it isn’t possible to fix Discourse to just wipe the OP and not the thread.

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That is unfortunate. Authors of responses ought to be afforded some degree of consideration.

That is probably about the best achievable solution. It is not perfect, of course. Some of the context that led to the response gets lost. Also, since responses often contain embedded quotes, the original poster might not achieve a thorough erasure of the post of concern. But, realistically, and for better or for worse, there are always limits to how effectively history can be erased.

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To be fair, the situation is presumably no different for deleting any other post that isn’t a topic OP. And I haven’t tested (maybe you have), but Discourse could theoretically remove/blank quotes using the standard bbcode quote syntax, since they have the post id associated with them, though that would have to balance being more thorough with removing much more context from the discussion and implicitly modifying at least the presentation of other users’ posts.

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I haven’t actually tested this, however I do vaguely recall some consideration of the possibility of leaving embedded quotes intact, but anonymizing them. The original poster might not be entirely comforted by that, but it does seem a reasonable balance between the needs of the original poster who wishes to backtrack and the replier who wishes to leave a carefully crafted response intact.

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As you point out, there is no legal requirement to delete the actual content. “Right to be forgotten” applies only to search engines.

Nor is there any moral or ethical requirement to remove questions just to avoid the poster’s embarrassment over asking a “silly question”.

On other forums, I’ve seen people remove useful, insightful questions once they got an answer “to save space”, or for no reason at all. I asked one person privately why they removed their post and the only reason they gave was “I always do that”.

If people want to delete their own posts, I think that it is an anti-feature that allows anti-social rudeness, but apparently Discourse is okay with that. But they shouldn’t be permitted to delete posts of other people.


I just want to correct that: The “Right to be forgotten” goes far beyond just search engines and, yes, it does include forums, journals, news sites, etc. unless there is a legitimate public interest in keeping the information online. You can find the full details on this page.

Any organization processing personal information of EU citizens must comply with the GDPR, regardless of where it’s based. Whether the EU can sanction misbehavior is a different story, though. For organizations doing business in the EU, this is straight forward. In other cases, the story is more complex.

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