Consider the situation:

  • A notable source posts an article including an incredible claim.
  • Someone links to the source as a notable claim, asking a question on Skeptics.
  • At some point in the future, the original source removes the claim from the article.

Does that retroactively make the claim off-topic for being not notable, or does the claim remain notable for having been made in a notable source at one point in the past, even if that source has withdrawn the claim?

Example post: Were there fewer first-home buyers in Australia in 2017 than seventh-home buyers?

  • 3
    The claim may well go viral even if the original claimant withdraws the claim.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 12:14
  • Related: an online text that is subject to subtle changes Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 2:08
  • 2
    For claims that were widely seen and regarded as notable in their original form, surely the best response is to edit an answer to add the fact that the claim has now been denied even by the source. That would be better for readers who have seen the original but don't recheck their sources when they see the claim repeated somewhere else. deleting the question here doesn't remove it from the internet.
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


I see two parts to balance.

The first is if the retraction means there is no evidence that the claim is widely believed, we should consider it no longer notable.

To give some extreme examples, I think both of these claims would be off-topic:

  • Warren Beatty claimed that La La Land was the winner of the 2017 Best Picture Oscar.

  • Joseph Priestley claimed that Oxygen was dephlogisticated air.

However, a retraction (or in the case of the example question, quiet editing of the article to throw the claim into the memory hole) may not get as widespread publicity as the original claim, leaving people continuing to believe the claim.

In that case, the question is still notable - many people believe it. It should be reasonably feasible to find more examples of the claim being promulgated by them. Multiple such examples should be plenty to show that the question is still notable even after it has been retracted.

[Disclosure: My question, with 10 up-votes at the time of writing, was given as the example, but given I am arguing it should be closed until it is edited to have more examples, I don't think there is a conflict of interest here.]

  • @Daniel: Gah, I thought the 1984 "memory hole" analogy was mine, but I now see you used it in your comment on the question first and probably primed me to think of it. Hat tip to you.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 12:37
  • Would it be reasonable to summarize this as "if you can find more notable examples, even if the original source no longer makes the claim, it is still notable"?
    – RToyo
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 17:50
  • 1
    Somewhat more interesting in this respect, some Chinese authors retracted a paper about the leak theory of Covid-19, but that theory is still widely believed elsewhere in the US now. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/47355/… Commented May 9, 2020 at 18:21

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