Should posts of departing users be deleted?

Does Discourse software have an option to retain the posts of members who delete their accounts? If so, I would prefer that their posts be kept. When posts are removed from a technical forum, the deletion shrinks the body of knowledge and also makes many of the contributions of others incomprehensible. Maybe accounts of departing members can be suspended, as discussed here? People could be notified when joining the forum that their posts will be retained. Deletions could be made by moderators for a good reason.

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I would very much be for retaining posts also. There is a feature “anonymize” that makes the user anonymous, but keeps the posts. In addition I believe users can delete their posts on their own, which is also unfortunate, because it makes the discussion nonsensical (people replying to a non-existent post).

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I agree with both, though a user that wants to delete their contributions should be allowed to do it.

To add complexity, note that although the user’s messages are deleted, the quotations of those messages seem to stay, for example here:
https://fortran-lang.discourse.group/t/what-is-the-superiority-of-fortran-over-alternative-languages-like-chapel-or-julia/1090/25

Actually, I’m not sure that it’s even possible to delete a Discourse account. (If so, how?)

It is possible if you are administrator, see:
https://fortran-lang.discourse.group/t/simple-hash-table-implementation/844/32
That’s why this discussion happens.

Yes, administrators apparently can delete accounts (it was not easy, but there was a way to do it). @Beliavsky started a discussion that maybe we should not do that even if people ask.

It is probably a legal question. In the European GPDR we find:

I don’t know if messages in a forum are concerned (what is “personal data”?). But that is something to consider.

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Yes, that’s because once you quote something, that content is part of your post, not theirs.

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Right, and I think in practice it is infrequent, so if somebody truly wants to be erased from Discourse, I think we can do it, that seems the safest legally also.

But when you send an email to a mailinglist, I assumed it is typically there for good — although I think Google Groups allow you to go online and erase it from archives. So maybe the principle is similar.

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I assume there is some concept of an “archive” that could own postings of deleted members. If someone specifically asks to be removed from the list of members, they should be asked if their old posts should go to the archive or be deleted. If they are being deleted because they no longer have network access or an email address, and hence cannot answer a question about archiving, then I suspect the safest action is to delete their postings, or at least put them somewhere that is unreadable by non-admin users.

There is a meta Discourse thread Best practices for deceased community members. Account status can be changed to tribute, but I don’t think posts should be deleted. Comp.lang.fortran has the wisdom (and also the nonsense) of some Fortranners who have died. One would not want their messages to disappear.

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If I see this correctly, most of the platforms with accounts will change the users name to “deleted” or similar. E.g. if you want to deactivate your Reddit account and delete all your posts, you have to delete your posts first. I think this is a fair deal, if you are well informed about this.

As some have already written I suggest to add to the welcome post that:

  • you can delete your account by contacting an admin
  • this will move all posts to an anonymous user / anonymize the user
  • to delete your posts you have to do this beforehand
  • quotes of your posts cannot be deleted

Additionally, if someone contacts an admin and explicitly asks to delete all posts, I think we should respect that and delete the posts for this person.

I don’t know much about the legal questions, but for my understanding by stating in the welcome message, that all content is published under MIT by default, anonymizing users should be enough.

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Indeed, if Discourse did not support account deletion, it would almost certainly be a GDPR violation. As a soon-to-be-resident of the EU, I am excited to assert my GDPR rights across the internet :smiley:

To conclude this thread, it seems the best course forward is to allow people to delete their posts and their accounts. That is what I’ve already been doing if somebody asks me (after double checking that is what they want to do). So I will continue doing that.

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