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Potentially a way to address Dealing with incorrect answers.

  1. Is it possible within the constraints of the SE system to have custom flags and delete reasons, like we have custom close reasons?
  2. If it can be demonstrated that an answer is wrong (for instance, an unsourced answer that says exactly the opposite of the Shulchan Aruch), should we have a flag and delete reason to that effect?
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    Inconsistency with the Shulchan Aruch is not equivalent to demonstrably wrong. There are plenty of points of Halacha upon which traditional authorities differ from the Shulchan Aruch. More generally, knowing solidly that an answer is wrong can require knowing all of the relevant literature well, which is not a moderation function. – Isaac Moses Feb 28 at 1:13
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    Do you really want me to delete answers that are wrong? I can list you many well-upvoted answers that would be the first to go. – Double AA Feb 28 at 1:19
  • @DoubleAA I don’t know. That’s why I’m posing it to the community. What do you think? – DonielF Feb 28 at 1:20
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    I'd personally love getting rid of the upvoted trash. I'm not sure that's what most people want. After all they upvoted it. – Double AA Feb 28 at 1:25
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    @DoubleAA do you maintain such a list (or remember the more egregious cases?) The community of users changes over time, so older posts might "benefit" from being resurfaced. At a minimum the group of active people who care might downvote enough of these posts to signal there's something wrong about them – mbloch Feb 28 at 4:10
  • Why was this question downvoted? – Al Berko Apr 20 at 21:02
  • @AlBerko Voting is different on Meta. Apparently the community doesn’t like this proposed policy, for the many reasons presented in the answers below. – DonielF Apr 22 at 1:38
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We definitely should not delete answers for being incorrect.

One of the main advantages of Stack Exchange over other parts of the internet is that we don't censor. Anyone can advocate whatever view they want as long as they do so respectfully. If we delete answers for being incorrect it can very easily lead to the censorship of certain viewpoints. While it doesn't happen very often, I've seen enough complaints about censorship already (i.e. even without deleting incorrect answers). Such complaints would only increase if we started deleting answers.

Additionally, how do we determine that something is objectively incorrect? You say it's objectively incorrect when it contradicts the Shulchan Aruch. I say it's not. You might say that a specific answer contradicts the Shulchan Aruch; I might say it doesn't. You might say that the Shulchan Aruch says XYZ; I might say that it doesn't. How do we resolve such disputes? No users inherently have more authority than others. Moderators are not specifically experts in the subject matter (though of course they often might be). High reputation also doesn't necessarily mean you have any authority. Perhaps you write very well, or perhaps you have a fanclub of upvoters.

The point is that for the most part there is no such thing as objectively incorrect. We have no way to measure this, and we have no way to adjudicate it or implement it. Remember that an answer only requires three votes to be deleted. Do we really want any three users with delete privileges to be able to decide that an answer is incorrect? Or a moderator to unilaterally decide that an answer is incorrect?

As I wrote in this post, deletion should be reserved for answers that do not address the question. In such a case we are not censoring any viewpoints, or arbitrarily deciding the correctness of any answers. We are only enforcing a policy of questions and answers rather than discussions.

Is it possible that incorrect answers will be posted? Certainly. But we have enough disclaimers about relying on things posted here that anyone who thinks that an answer is correct simply because it exists or has upvotes has no one to blame but themselves.

The above would be fitting for any Stack Exchange site. But all the more so for a site like this where we all know that there are many different factions, approaches, and methodologies within Judaism. For instance a kabbalah-based answer might be considered absolute truth by one user and absolute heresy by another user. The same holds true for rationalist answers, and various other categories as well.

If there is an answer which appears incorrect you can downvote, comment, and leave a better answer.

  • We need to define a clear scale for "incorrectness". As I progress in my study, less and fewer things appear incorrect in Judaism, but just as a different albeit legit approach. If I say "Rambam didn't think Moses was a prophet" hits about 99.9% of being wrong, while "It's permitted to drive on Shabbos" is probably 70%. – Al Berko Apr 22 at 8:34
  • @AlBerko A scale of incorrectness wouldn’t be relevant here, since correctness is not a factor on which answers get judged for deletion. But you are free to state how correct something is in a comment in a competing answer. – Alex Apr 22 at 15:54
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There is currently a flag dismissal reason for moderators like this:

flags should not be used to indicate technical inaccuracies, or an altogether wrong answer

Evaluating a post's accuracy has never been the job of elected moderators on Stack Exchange.

3

There aren't really delete reasons, beyond the comments built into the review queue that you can use to explain delete votes. We could develop a standard comment for people to use, and I suspect that somebody (who isn't me :-) ) could write a userscript to add it to that dialogue, but of course that would be up to each person to use.

I've never heard of a site being able to extend the flag reasons, but I've never seen anybody ask, either. (There's always "other".) We would still want handling such flags to leave a visible artifact, though, which leads me to:

Perhaps we should use post notices for such cases. There is one built in already that might meet our needs:

citation needed: Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

This post notice was developed for Skeptics, which requires sources for every answer. We do not require sources. But we could, in principle, develop a set of criteria to identify claims that especially need such support. We already implicitly follow a guideline of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary support", but we wing it. We haven't formalized it, and one person's obvious truth is another's heresy, so we'll need some guidelines before at least this moderator would be comfortable using this post notice more widely than we already do. (I'm pretty sure we have used it, on an "I know it when I see it" basis, but it's rare.) Moderators should not be asked to adjudicate arguments about the Chabad rebbe or heterodox sources or complicated/unclear passages that can be interpreted in contradictory ways. We need community-supported guidelines.

A final word: post notices are not meant to be bandaids over bad answers or badges of shame for their authors. The implicit contract for applying a post notice is: this problem is severe enough that if you don't fix it, we'll delete it. Post notices should be rare or they lose their meaning, and the criteria for applying them should be well-understood.

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