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Suppose an answer is blatantly incorrect. (E.g. it quotes a Talmudic passage to answer the question, but the passage in question actually says the exact opposite.)

I would assume that normally the best thing to do would be to downvote and leave a comment explaining that the answer is incorrect. Others can also downvote the answer and/or upvote the comment pointing out the error. However, this only really works for active questions.

What if you find an old answer that is blatantly incorrect? If you downvote and leave a comment, all that will happen is that there will be one downvote and one non-upvoted comment. That does not sufficiently alert future readers to be wary of the answer (as only one person criticized it). If, however, the question would get bumped to the homepage, it is likely that others will see it and downvote and/or upvote the comment, thus alerting future readers that there is a consensus that the answer is bad.

So in such a case, should you edit the answer to remove the incorrect part (even though it completely distorts the author's intent)? Or perhaps you should make a minor edit so that you don't fundamentally change someone else's work but it still gets bumped to the homepage? Flag the answer for deletion? Some other option?

(I imagine this question is related to this question which has no answers. I am especially interested in the difference between how to treat active questions vs old questions.)

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    Even if you bump it people need to still notice your comment, understand your criticism, and trust you. This seems like a general downside of crowdsourcing. See too meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/fastest-gun – Double AA May 15 '18 at 16:17
  • Why not just flag it for review? – DonielF May 16 '18 at 17:37
  • @DonielF I don't think it fits any of the review categories. – Alex May 16 '18 at 18:02
  • @Alex “Not an answer”? – DonielF May 16 '18 at 18:24
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    @DonielF "Not an answer" means that the post does not address the question. Especially on topics where it is hard to quantify an objective truth, I don't think that you can accuse something of not being an answer because you disagree with it. – Alex May 16 '18 at 18:40
  • @Alex Perhaps. But if it’s objectively wrong, that’s usually what ends up happening, at least in my experience with the queue. – DonielF May 16 '18 at 18:41
  • Spin-off question that may help in this thread: judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/q/4940 – DonielF Feb 28 at 0:30
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Edits that go against the author's intent are bad whether the post is an hour old or a year old, so please don't do that. Here are some things you can do instead:

  • Provide a better answer (if you can). This also bumps the question.

  • Bring it up in chat. While most people don't use chat, many active users do and they might have ideas about how to address the problem. (Also, if you can't provide a better answer but you suspect somebody else can, we might get a better answer that way.)

  • Make legitimate edits somewhere on the page. Please don't make trivial edits just to bump, but it's an old question. Are the tags right? Can you fix any broken links? Are any images missing descriptions? Are there untranslated Hebrew passages?

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    Perhaps this is a separate question, but is there a possibility that if you edit an answer to fix the tags, a reader will simply see your name associated with the answer and automatically give more credence to the answer without checking if your contribution was actually significant? – Alex May 15 '18 at 16:44
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    @Alex You would have to edit the question to edit the tags, so you wouldn't be putting your name near any answer. – magicker72 May 15 '18 at 17:17
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    @magicker72 Touche. But that was just an example. What about fixing a broken link in the answer? – Alex May 15 '18 at 17:23
  • No, this really doesnt addres the problem adequately. Someone says you dont really need a get to re-marry. Even if you agree with that, recognize that it can ruin somebody's life and the children as well if they ever decide to become orthodox. Such an answer has to come to down right away. – DrM Feb 26 at 23:24
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This is actually a very serious problem.

Here is an example from a question someone asked about having had a baby with a previous boy friend who was a Kohen.

In practice, this is a question for a Rav. It requires checking into several details and the stakes are high since it effects the child.

Here are the first few lines from the accepted (since unaccepted) and, highest voted answer:

100% Kosher

Because this woman is not psula Likh'huna. The only problem is if she was well known in relationship with a non-Jew man or other man who make her Chalala.

In the opening line he offers a strong blanket statement, as if it were a psak for all such cases.

Then in the third line, he writes that she can sleep with a gentile. and be kosher for a Kohen, as long as the z'nus with the gentile, is not well known!!!

Imagine that someone reads that, and acts on it. Or, imagine what happens when it is eventually found out. I am pretty sure that the Kohen would have to give her a get and the children, hallalim. Heaven forbid!

Leaving an answer like that in place, seems a little scary.

I feel that there has to be a strong rule against handing out piskei dinim and an easy mechanism for taking them down quickly.

  • To those who down voted this. Please consider the seriousness of the issue. – DrM Feb 27 at 18:24
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    @DrM We do indeed take not offering pesak very seriously. It's fundamental to how this community works that we don't pretend that the answers here are, in themselves, authoritative. If we were to make a policy of deleting incorrect answers, it could create an incorrect expectation that we actually warrant that the non-deleted answers are authoritative, which would be even more misleading. – Isaac Moses Feb 27 at 20:22
  • @IsaacMoses That's a well taken point. The linked policies focus on the reader, here the issue is the writer who posts it in the language of an authoritative psak. Notice "100% Kosher", in bold letters, and so forth. Moreover, you cannot say the forum is not responsible, because of our policy posted in small letters that no one takes notice of. – DrM Feb 27 at 22:56
  • @IsaacMoses In other words, delete it for posing as a psak din, if you dont want to get into who is right. Besides, if you already post "we are not responsible", then what's the difference if you delete a "psak" or advice that is manifestly hepach hatorah? Would you let someone post an answer to go join a church and have a ham sandwich while you're there? – DrM Feb 27 at 23:01
  • @DrM the question at hand is what to do with wrong answers, not what to do with the one you call out here as an example, and not answers that sound like pesak. The last of these, in particular, sounds like it's worth a Meta post of its own. / Do you really want to take responsibility for every extant answer on this site being 100% correct? / We won't delete an answer because we think it's incorrect, but we will if it appears to be from a point of view that denies the validity of Judaism or if it does not address the question. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 at 0:59
  • @IsaacMoses Okay, then what do we do with wrong answers? And, what do we do when the answer is so wrong, that it would lead someone to an issur duraita? In fact let's ratchet it up a notch, what do we do when an answer would lead someone to an issur keras? I think it is a good question for a Rav if it is allowed to leave something like that up if you have the authority to take it down. – DrM Feb 28 at 4:58
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    @DrM Nothing anyone posts here should lead anyone to do anything. We are not making and do not pretend to be making a body of authoritative pesakim. If we were, we would have to not only delete wrong answers, but also edit out wrong parts of answers, and also remove material that follows opinions or traditions that we pasken are not permissible to follow, and also remove anything that isn't written well enough to be very unlikely to be misread. Otherwise, anyone who makes the mistake of pretending that MY is their rabbi could be led to sin by any of the above remaining. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 at 9:17
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    ... or we could do everything we can to dissuade people from pretending that Mi Yodeya is their rabbi, including avoiding policies that require the community to pasken on the correctness of answers. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 at 9:40
  • @IsaacMoses Simply saying it is the reader's mistake does not get you out of it. The least that should be done, is make the notice that MY is not anyone's Rabbi, much more noticable, and much more clear. Or perhaps, just copy down a few of the shockers (particularly, the piskei dinim) and distribute them to Rabbonim and the Jewish Press and let nature take its course. But leaving up information that is so wrong (and with inadequate notice), does not seem like an option. – DrM Feb 28 at 12:09
  • @DrM If you have specific suggestions for improving the visibility or clarity of the disclaimer that we have at the top of every page (among other places), I recommend making a new Meta post. There's probably not a ton more we can do to make it noticeable, but it's certainly possible that its language could be improved. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 at 12:20
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    @IsaacMoses An idea came to me. IM"H, BL"N, I hope to post a proposal for a few rules/guidelines for answering questions in Halachah. There are a few things from learning how to answer shailos, that are well known, and that if followed here, even for students and amateurs (one might say, even more so), might make things a little better. But, I want to think it through, carefully. – DrM Feb 28 at 12:50
  • This answer is limud only. No one asked for Halacha lemaase. – kouty Apr 4 at 17:55
  • @kouty, that's not true "is his son a Kohen? ", and the respondence in large bold letters is "100% Kohen Kasher". Like it or not, it reads like a psak and someone reading it will take it like that. And it is not necessarily true. And, the bit about being kosher if the p'sul is not well known is not correct and should not be left on a public forum. – DrM Apr 4 at 18:07

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