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The context is the following post:

Hooke's Law and Bungee Jumping

and the revision history can be viewed here.

As one can see from the revision history, the post owner himself/herself vandalized the post, removing the entire content, and replacing it with a stream of "aaaaaa...".

Then, this edit was suggested by another user, which merely reverted to an earlier version of the question. I was one of the two people who reviewed this, and instinctively, went for the approve button (as did the other reviewer), since the edit was setting right, what was messed up.

However, thinking about it afterwards, this edit was clearly in conflict with the OP's intentions, which were, ummm... deliberately destructive.

This raises two questions -

1) Does being the post owner entitle you to self-destruct your posts?

2) In the event of suggested edits like these, as a reviewer, am I supposed to:

  • Approve it, because it cures self-vandalism?

  • Reject it, because it conflicts with the OP's intentions?

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    $\begingroup$ The question appears to have been copied verbatim from a homework or exam question. The vandalism was likely the OP's attempt to prevent his teacher from being able to find the post. $\endgroup$ – John1024 Aug 14 '15 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ It was me who provided the full answer to the OP's question. I was unaware at the time of the forum's (good) rules on answering homework questions. I am now and apologise for any problems answering the question may have caused. $\endgroup$ – Gert Aug 15 '15 at 17:40
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Note that you can't delete a question that has an accepted or upvoted answer, as per this Mother Meta FAQ. In this particular case, then, the post owner seems to have tried to delete the question and, when that failed, they vandalized the post. This is supported by a detailed breakdown in the question timeline: The question is already upvoted when the OP comments "Don't worry, I solved it :)" and vandalizes the post four minutes later.

More generally, being the post owner does not entitle you to vandalize your posts.

  • From a legal perspective, you have granted a CC-CY-SA license to the site to display any and all the versions you post. While the site generally respects the OP's wishes as to which version will be displayed, by posting you do cede a measure of control over your posts.

  • From a moral perspective, if you post you are soliciting work from others in the community, and if you receive an answer then you are receiving work from community members. This is freely given, with the payback being shiny internet points and having their content up. By deleting a question, you deprive the people who worked to give you an answer of the chance to have their content displayed, and to gain more shiny internet points in the future. This is why you can't delete questions that have upvoted answers, and it works exactly the same for vandalism.

If you encounter a self-vandalized post, you should roll it back to the last working version. If you see edit suggestions that cure self-vandalism, you should approve them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Makes sense. Thanks :) $\endgroup$ – 299792458 Aug 14 '15 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the license of the site to use the question superceded by the fact that the OP never really had the right (legal or moral) to post the question in the first place, the question being "[apparently] copied verbatim from a homework or exam question" according to @Gert 's comment? $\endgroup$ – Don Hatch Sep 23 '15 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Don Yes, but if copyright (or similar moral) considerations dictate that a post should be removed, the appropriate course of action is to delete the question instead of vandalizing it. The (rare) cases where a question should be deleted but can't (through e.g. upvoted answers) can and should be dealt with through moderator action, whose attention should be raised via a custom flag. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 23 '15 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty okay... so this was one of those cases. Putting myself in the OP's shoes, it seems I'm wrong no matter how I proceed, and if I judge it's really important to remove the post, I'd remove it, which is what the OP did, by the means they had available. Given that, it's then up to us to support the OP in what seems to me a sensible decision, or not (framing it as vandalism doesn't seem like supporting them). I'd prefer the OP be supported in a case like that as they try to make things right as best they can in a bad situation. $\endgroup$ – Don Hatch Sep 25 '15 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ @DonHatch If reverting a vandalizing edit restores infringing content, then one can either (a) revert the edit and flag, or (b) flag directly. In this particular case the it's not clear the OP tried to delete the post to hide his tracks (cf. his "Don't worry, I solved it :)" comment), so there was really no indication that that was the case. In general, we purposefully don't make it too easy to remove that sort of content - it shouldn't be posted in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Sep 25 '15 at 9:49
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I don't quite understand why the OP would vandalize his/her own post. If his intention is to eliminate the question, he can delete it instead of self-vandalizing it.

Remember that the aim of this site is to help anyone who have the same question, not only the OP. Therefore, in my opinion the rollback is the best option for the whole community. Maybe you should also a comment to the OP explaining the situation.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I was equally clueless regarding the intention, but as Emilio points out in his answer, turns out that the OP could not have deleted it because of the upvote it had obtained. That's why he/she took to vandalizing. The rest of your answer makes perfect sense :) $\endgroup$ – 299792458 Aug 14 '15 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ Odds are good that if the user's first/only question was about homework, and they tried to delete the post once it was solved, that person won't even be around to read a comment left behind, and may not care anyway. It can't hurt to do so, but I also wouldn't get my hopes up that it has any impact at all. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Aug 14 '15 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ He can't delete it if there are (upvoted?) answers. $\endgroup$ – Peter Mortensen Aug 23 '15 at 16:32

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