The best way of handling posts deletion requests

Continuing the discussion from How to prevent community content from being used to train LLMs like ChatGPT?:

Maybe in theory, but in practice, I know many forums where users will have a hard time getting their posts actually deleted. I would even say it may be what will happen with most forums.

Is it legal to do so?
It might also depend on the jurisdiction. I know for example a French forum which tries to rely on some legal aspects of “collective creations” and say they can’t to refuse to delete because it would “denature” said creation. There is some logical basis to it, but they do use it a certain way. If all the participants of a topic were to agree, they still won’t do it. In reality, it is an effective way of grabbing the ownership of all content. At least of getting an illegitimate indefinite licence to use.

What would be the best way to handle deletion requests if one wants to act “correctly” towards users?

As @mattdm says this really isn’t the place for legal debate.

Please be very careful with language like the above. Many of the site operators here work with users populations where they are legally obligated to do precisely that.


There is no 'legal advice" expected. People can still have their understanding of things as non-lawyers. Correct or not. This is the premises of anything you read on a forum. At least it should be regarded that way, IMHO. But if we leave the law aside for one second, the funny thing with these answers is that it seems to come from a POV where forum owners want to appropriate user content and they know it isn’t totally right to do so. It does give a little this feeling.

One way to look at it is that deletion requests should be honored because it would be the right thing to do. Don’t for example Facebook delete? I believe they do, but I’m not sure. It does come with its problems for a forum.

If there is indeed a refusal to delete, shouldn’t it be clearly announced at the start? Again, even without “legality” concerns, because it would be the least to do. One argument is that users should be informed beforehand in a straightforward way.

Is murder legal? Well, I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer :laughing:

PS: By “correctly” at the end, I meant “being correct towards users”, not a “legal” way. The legal aspect came a bit from the posts I answered to. I was mainly seeking opinions :+1:

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The second word in the title of this topic is “legality”, the second paragraph of OP asks “Is it legal to do so?”. We definitely can’t answer either aspect here.


My apologies. I gave context just above, but without editing the initial post. It’s now done.

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I don’t really agree with this. I don’t think they should automatically be honoured because they will break the integrity of other discussions, which provide value.

I think it is fine to take them case by case. Often anonymisation may be enough.


Here’s what we do:

  1. We have a formal process for making a personal data request, which could include removing posts. This is outlined in our privacy statement.
  2. If someone asks for a post to be deleted, we point them to that, but also note that we prefer to anonymize accounts if possible because it preserves discussion and may help others, and offer to do that.

Most people are fine with the anon option.


For what it’s worth, and considering the fact that it only happened a few times in my instances, I have the same experience, which is great (for the information integrity).
If an anonymization is refused, I honor the demand and delete the account without further discussion, though.


this topic is discussing two different things IMO - deleting user accounts is not the same thing as deleting user posts. is the account the property of the user? why is anonymize not enough?


In some cases, aggregating posts’ content from an anonymized account can help identify or guess the poster’s identity.


i have thoughts on this i can’t express here.

so are we literally talking about permanent deletion of records? or soft deletion? permanent deletion of a user account?

let’s be very clear on what we are discussing with deleting content.


Deleting content can get very time-consuming, if a person’s posts have been requoted a lot (especially if not with attribution), and if they’ve been indexed by third-party sites they can show up in searches for a long time, and there’s not much the original site can do about that. I know companies that have been threatened with lawsuits over content that was reposted from their site without permission and was out of their control for removal.