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This question started with some paranoid thoughts, but evolved into a more sane question.

I just noticed one of my comments on SO that I'd swear has been edited to be just slightly but significantly different, except of course that it hasn't. Obviously this is what I get for writing comments when I'm tired and distracted.

But it did make me curious - is there anyone who can (and would) edit comments? Apart from the author, in the first few minutes after making that comment, of course. And can anyone other than me delete my comments?

I'm guessing that the answer is no - that that is one huge mass of data that no-one would even think of trying to moderate in general - but might there be some exceptions?

For example, if there was a legal complaint about racist or otherwise offensive remarks in comments, what would the procedure be? In a question or answer, I doubt anything like that would last very long before "the community" intervened (though editing history might still be a legal issue) - but a comment is a bit different.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Moderators can edit comments of any user at any time.

The little pencil marker appears if you edit someone else’s comment that hasn’t already been edited. Of course if it’s already been edited, it continues appearing but there is no other notification that anything changed.

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Though they generally don't (and shouldn't) except in extreme cases. Other users cannot edit comments. (edit by BtL) –  Gnome Oct 2 '10 at 0:40
    
OK - does the ! marker appear when a moderator has edited a comment? - back to being paranoid again ;-) Is there a way for me to check whether a comment of mine has been edited, and compare back with what I originally said? Without having to waste other peoples time and cut through a load of red tape etc, of course. –  Steve314 Oct 2 '10 at 0:43
    
@Steve314: Though I don't know, if you're being paranoid, then assume they can control that too! :) Really, it should be extremely rare, though I remember reading about a fluffle (perhaps still on Meta?) around a well-known moderator changing comments in a way that several considered an abuse of power. Should be so rare, in fact, that'd I'd rather a moderator delete the problem comment and re-post their own comment with any information that was worth keeping. –  Gnome Oct 2 '10 at 0:59
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@Steve314: I edited @Roger's comment above just to check, and yes it does look like the pencil appears on a moderator edit. Just FYI, moderators can't remove the pencil, but I imagine a developer easily could with access to the db. Also, this is only the second time I can remember editing another user's comment. The first was an otherwise very helpful comment that contained a word too foul to leave on SO. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 2 '10 at 1:14
    
@Roger - I never thought of that! The relevant comment has no pencil on it, so that must be it - "they" are controlling that too! Who could have this much power? Apple? Google? The government? No - can't be. OMG - it must be ALIENS!!! –  Steve314 Oct 2 '10 at 2:16
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@Bill: That must have been Belgium. –  Gnome Oct 2 '10 at 2:36

I will edit comments if they are flagged, usually because they contain something cruel or rude.

Flagged comments can usually be salvaged through judicious editing; the alternative is deletion.

Only moderators can edit (or delete) other people's comments.

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For example, if there was a legal complaint about racist or otherwise offensive remarks in comments, what would the procedure be? In a question or answer, I doubt anything like that would last very long before "the community" intervened (though editing history might still be a legal issue) – but a comment is a bit different.

Comments can be flagged. Especially rude or offensive comments tend to quickly accumulate votes and be removed.

screenshot of comment-flag icon

If you see a horrible comment that isn't removed—particularly on an old question—you can flag the question or answer (to which the comment applies) for moderator attention, detailing why.

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Sorry - had to choose an answer to accept and nohats was first + most upvoted, though yours is roughly as useful. –  Steve314 Oct 2 '10 at 2:06
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@Steve314: you shouldn't decide which answer to accept based on other users upvotes but only on the fact which answer was helpful for you! –  Tobias Kienzler Oct 4 '10 at 10:49

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