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As the title suggests, my question is: Should website users be able to delete their content?

What are the pros and cons of giving the users the option to delete their own comments and content (for example forum topics) on the website?

One of the downsides I see is the SEO impact of links that point to non-existent pages if the user removes their content. On the good side, users are able to remove accidental posts.

Similar topics have already been discussed here, but I was not able to find a question and answer that would directly address this issue.

EDIT: I am talking about regular forum system with topics and replies (comments) or cases of blogs where users can post comments under a blog post.

  • That's very much going to depend on the site in question, and what terms and conditions are required for it. For instance here on Stack Exchange, when you post a piece of content it becomes cc by-sa 3.0 - meaning you've licensed the content to the community and it's no longer exclusively 'yours'. – JonW Aug 10 '18 at 13:32
  • What type of website and what type of content is it? For example comments and content are very different things. – UIO Aug 10 '18 at 14:39
  • One potential danger of allowing unchecked deletion is that it can be used to troll: post something slightly inflammatory, let a few users start arguing over it, then delete the original comment and (as a troll) sit back and watch the flame-war erupt. At a minimum, deleted comments should probably be retained for post mortem examination. – TripeHound Aug 10 '18 at 15:21
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    @Pylo what about allowing them to delete, but only for a short period of time from the initial creation of the post? – yitzih Aug 10 '18 at 15:42
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Here a legal perspective should overrule UX related pros and cons.
With the current GDPR regulation a user (at least for EU citizen) should have the right to delete his comments if he/she would desire to do so*.
Unless: If you only serve non-EU citizen OR the EU commenters are anonymized (AND don't/can't leave PII in the comment itself) this probably won't be necessary.

  • I should say I have not been able to find anything explicitly stating this with regard to comments and the right to delete them in GDPR documentation, but believe it follows from or falls under the more broad right 'right to erasure': https://gdpr-info.eu/chapter-3/

// Also interesting and relevant is this discussion on HackerNews about not being able to delete comments on HN and the (back then) upcoming GDPR regulation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16751656

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