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As evidenced by the discussion noted here, it appears that yes, there are times when it is appropriate to remove on topic content (Reasons courtesy of DVK-on-Ahch-To):

  • Content that is in violation of "be nice" policy (that can't be edited to remove violation)
  • Content that is in violation of other policies (spam, mostly)
  • NAA answers.
  • Answers that objectively add zero value (not simply low quality, but really can't be fixed). Note that this doesn't apply to questions - first, a question's objective value can be its answer; second, it's far easier for subject matter expert to judge if an answer adds value than a question, from my experience.
  • Content that is unambiguously trolling and thus has no redeeming value. As in, no reasonable user based on evidence would disagree that it's trolling.

There appears to be some support for this approach in the comments on an answer to the question (4 agreements, albeit there is no capability to downvote a comment)

If we can establish that yes, there are situations where it is appropriate to delete low-quality content, then perhaps we can get other discussions past the phase of "closing and deleting shouldn't be used as a 'super downvote'" objections and start working towards actual solutions. – Beofett Feb 21 at 22:51

So given that there do exist specific reasons to remove on topic content, should we establish guidelines for said deletion (i.e. an addition to the meta FAQ series), or should we just trust in the discretion of whatever high rep users/moderators existing at the time?

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    I'm not sure yet another meta question is a good idea here, but since this question exists right now, I like the idea of editing the help center to indicate that gratuitous and/or salacious questions about sexual content are off-topic.So appropriate questions about sex in GoT would more likely stand (not gratuitous) and ridiculous questions about sex in Harry Potter would have a documented reason to be closed. – Todd Wilcox Mar 13 '18 at 19:01
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    @ToddWilcox Current consensus is quite strongly against closing the type of questions you're thinking of - so no, calling them off-topic isn't going to be added to the help centre any time soon. (FTR, one of the upvotes on your comment is mine, because I upvoted it by accident and apparently can't undo that.) – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '18 at 20:03
  • @Randal'Thor I guess +19 to leave as is and +8 to change the rules (at time of writing this comment) seems less strong to me than to you, but of course the numbers are higher on the "don't close" side. What we don't know is how many people upvoted both answers. Plus there's the fact that the question has more votes than any answer, so people might be leaving answers unvoted on. Not the strongest consensus I've seen on SE by a long shot. – Todd Wilcox Mar 13 '18 at 20:08
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    To the question - my gut feeling is that "which on-topic content is low-quality enough to be deleted" is something which we probably can't, and certainly shouldn't, try to determine by some concrete framework of rigorous rules. Case-by-case judgement is very often needed; this is why sites are moderated by humans and not bots. (I want to think it over some more before posting an answer though.) – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '18 at 20:12
  • @ToddWilcox We do know how many people upvoted and downvoted both answers: click on the score of each answer to see a breakdown. (Right now: +22/-3 for "the rules are fine as-is", +14/-6 for "notability and good faith", +16/-10 for "on-topic, no ifs ands or buts", +12/-7 for "more than just the poster's speculation".) Also, I haven't voted on any of the answers yet; when I get around to closing up the discussion with an edit to the question, I'll probably cast votes in order to make the consensus clearer. Mods like clear consensuses :-) – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '18 at 20:15
  • Relevant previous meta. – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '18 at 20:19
  • @Randal'Thor Yeah, I know. I clicked. I guess if you're adding the first and third answers together it's weighted more towards "no changes". To me, consensus would look more like +33/-2 on a question that has a total score closer to 35. With all the downvotes, that seems like it's more of a controversy than consensus. – Todd Wilcox Mar 13 '18 at 20:21
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    @ToddWilcox It certainly was a controversy, but miraculously a consensus seems to have risen out of it :-) – Rand al'Thor Mar 13 '18 at 20:23
  • @Randal'Thor - you mean you're not a bot? faints in surprise – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 14 '18 at 3:13
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    @ToddWilcox - agreed. But I get to decide what is "gratuitous and/or salacious" (since you're fine with using subjective criteria, you shouldn't object to anyone's subjective viewpoint; and not assume yours is to be used). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 14 '18 at 3:14
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    @DVK Comment not recognised. Shutdown and restart. – Rand al'Thor Mar 14 '18 at 11:11
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To I'm ok with you deciding what is gratuitous and/or salacious. Especially since at least four others would have to agree with you in order for a question to be closed because of that. – Todd Wilcox Mar 14 '18 at 16:27
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Let's go through these a little more carefully:

  • Content that is in violation of "be nice" policy (that can't be edited to remove violation)
  • Content that is in violation of other policies (spam, mostly)

I think these are reasonably uncontroversial. Flag 'em with "rude and abusive" or "spam" as applicable.

Side note: The Smoke Detector folks would really like it if we did not spend deletion votes on spam, but that seems to be more controversial based on the upvoted answers. I would encourage 10/20k'ers to use their best judgment here. If you can't vote to delete, then obviously you should use spam flags (and not e.g. "very low quality" or NAA).

  • NAA answers.

We seem to get into fairly regular arguments over the definition of NAA. OTOH from my experience, that's a problem on just about every SE site.

It is pretty uncontroversial, across the entire network, that "thanks" and "me too" answers should be flagged NAA. As the link above shows, our SO friends have (or at least used to have) the policy of keeping just about everything else. However, our policy is different: An answer can be flagged if it is clearly and obviously irrelevant to the question (e.g. "Why didn't Voldemort do a better job of hiding his Horcruxes?" - "Because Sauron doesn't find Frodo when he puts the ring on.") or if it goes off on an irrelevant tangent without addressing the body of the question.

Answers that objectively add zero value (not simply low quality, but really can't be fixed).

You can't just put the word "objectively" in a sentence and magically make a subjective thing objective. Sure, there are a small number of really obvious cases, but most of those...

Note that this doesn't apply to questions - first, a question's objective value can be its answer; second, it's far easier for subject matter expert to judge if an answer adds value than a question, from my experience.

...also apply to questions (e.g. a question or answer consisting of pure gibberish can and should be flagged for something, and it's unhelpful to waste too much time hand-wringing about which flag option to choose).

The main exception that I can think of right now is an answer which is largely or entirely duplicative of another answer, and yes, those should absolutely be flagged and deleted. In contrast, we don't delete dupe questions because they are at least marginally useful as signposts (which dupe answers are not because they're already on the same page anyway).

There are other exceptions which I have missed. I am not going to exhaustively run them down because the users of this site have common sense and the ability to think for themselves. The important point is to think really hard before calling some particular case "objective." If you're not sure about something, take it to meta and we can talk about it.

  • Content that is unambiguously trolling and thus has no redeeming value. As in, no reasonable user based on evidence would disagree that it's trolling.

    Note that this does not include "some people dislike some types of questions while others don't think it's trolling" situation, which many of the incidents being discussed here fits.

Formatting in DVK's original answer.

This is also uncontroversial, but don't ignore the bolded parts. Don't call someone a troll just because you personally think they are trolling. Don't call someone a troll just because "it's obvious." Don't call someone a troll just because "some users on this site are really obstinate in recognizing trolling." None of those are OK.

Finally, a case that you missed: Lots of questions get automatically deleted and we can't turn that off. However, relatively little user discretion is involved here (aside from downvotes accelerating the process), so there's not much for us to do with these in any event.

There is a discussion in the comments of the question about whether adult content should be eligible for deletion as well, but consensus points to "no," and I see no reason to rehash that argument here.

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