In several different cases, I've encountered answers that were just... wrong. However, I don't know how to respond to this. Recently, I flagged a wrong answer, and it was declined and I was told not to do that in the future. How should we react to answers that simply aren't founded in fact?

Should they be:

  • Flagged
  • Downvoted

How should I react to a completely wrong answer?


2 Answers 2


I’ve done that before too:

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As the declined message states, don’t do this.

The site is first moderated by the community, not the moderators, so inaccurate content should be first moderated by the community in the form of downvotes. Usually, wrong answers are downvoted. But sometimes, they aren’t. When this happens, there are a few things you can do, depending on what issues the alleged wrong answer has.

  • Comment explaining your contention.

This is often all that is needed to swing a wrong answer’s trajectory, at least while the answer is new. People often revisit answers they’ve read recently, and newer content receives the most new views, so a comment politely explaining your contention could change how others vote on the answer. This could even cause the author to change their mind, and they may just delete the answer altogether. But again, be polite, and don’t carry on extended discussions about it.

  • Write a better answer.

This is my personal favorite response to questions with poor or wrong answers. Readers may see it your way and vote accordingly, and the question author may even change the green check.

  • Use a custom flag to suggest that an answer should annotated with the “needs citations” banner.

If your own downvoting, polite comments, and obviously superior answer don’t affect the upward trajectory of a poor answer, and you really believe the answer is so poor that it needs to be escalated to the moderation team, moderators have the ability to add a banner to answer posts asking that support or citations be added to the answer. This should be reserved for blatantly unsupported answers. I will flag answers like this every once in a while, but generally only for answers that have a clear lack of support or citation that appear to be receiving upvotes anyway. This is not for answers that provide support you disagree with. To be clear, I use this type of flag very sparingly. For answers that don’t even try to provide any evidence, and instead just blurt out an opinion with no discussion, the “Very Low Quality” flag can be used and the answer may get deleted in review (see this post for a detailed discussion of how I decide to delete VLQ posts).

And finally, we have the thing, besides downvoting, you should do most of the time when you encounter a wrong answer:

  • Do nothing.

Downvote however you want. But other than that, most of the time, there’s nothing else that needs to be done. It will be okay if nothing else happens. I have only one time ever come to meta to advocate for an answer to be deleted for being wrong, and it was because of external circumstances: Should we delete this -17 answer that appears as an answer snippet in google search? I have more often done some of the other things on this list, but I have most often downvoted and moved on.

Sometimes, a grossly negative score actually sends a helpful signal to readers. I’m going to guess that this answer is part of the reason you’ve asked this meta question, as you posted a related question around the same time. For that answer, a -19 score says something meaningful to readers. Answer scores that low are exceedingly rare on this site, and I think there’s value in telling future reads “hey this answer is one of the worst on this site”. The negative score is far more helpful than deleting that answer could ever be.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I had success with "[Citation Needed]", "Requires citation - add box?" as well as "citation box required \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 21 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ in one case, not just the box was added, but the answer also deleted because the controversial topic required stringent citation in the first place, and it took months and no addition or fix was made even as arguments and contradictions came in, resulting in the text there appearing as a strange, hateful fanfiction to a part of the setting that was nowhere founded in the text! \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented May 21 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the bullet points to titles format change was appropriate — the bullet points suggest these as options, where the titles imply them as simultaneously applicable headings. As for the addition of a title heading, not every meta post needs a big hero heading thing, it can literally just open with a normal sentence. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21 at 14:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There are delete votes for answers available at 20k reputation. These bridge the gap between simple "wrong" (where downvoting is available) and "not even answers"/"so bad it has to go now" (flagging). Content that is not urgent to be deleted but also should not stay indefinitely. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented May 21 at 17:11

1. Write a correct answer

If you can recognize what's wrong, you probably know what's right, so give the community a nice, right answer.

enter image description here

2. Downvote and move on

As Thomas Markov pointed out in his fine answer, this sends a signal to the answerer that something is wrong.

3. Downvote and leave a comment

As above, but if the comment identifies just what is wrong the answerer can improve their answer. This is possibly more helpful than option 2. Sometimes this may induce an argument, other times not.

4. Leave a comment

Does what option 3 offers. This may avoid ill will that a downvote sometimes brings, but if someone else downvotes it may leave the impression that you carried out option 3. Sometimes this may induce an argument, other times not.

5. Do nothing.

An option that doesn't help the general quality of content on the site, but it may be all you have time for today.

The choice, Willow, is yours. 😊

  • \$\begingroup\$ Option 4. isn't fool-proof. Any downvote might be attributed to whoever commented. Because (often it's new) users conflate "I can see somebody's activity on my answer" with "The user is responsible for all activity on my answer". Regardless of whether that's true. And especially regardless if who voted how is relevant. And it almost never is relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented May 21 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VLAZ Nothing is fool proof, but I think I can re word that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21 at 19:52

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