If moderators can view and undelete comments, can we see comments we've deleted? We can see our deleted answers, but why not our deleted comments?

  • 14
    I agree it will help behavior. If I know what is being deleted I can adjust.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


Moderators need to be able to see deleted comments so that they can respond to complaints and reconstruct arguments / detect trolling/harassment/rage-quitting. Sadly, all of this is common enough that it required additional tooling to support.

Moderators don't actually need to be able to undelete comments... However, it makes comment moderation much, much faster - particularly when a handful of constructive comments are buried deep within a long, tangential or argumentative thread. Yup, that's right: it's often faster to delete everything and restore a handful of useful comments than it is to delete only the cruft.

For most intents and purposes, deleted comments are gone - you should try your best to put anything of value into an actual answer. As you note, you can view your own deleted answers, as well as their revision histories and such - if you need or want that functionality, use answers rather than comments.

  • 1
    I was planning to develop a trainer for quality/useful and deleted comments. But looks like the deleted comments are gone forever. Can they not be made available for research? Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 3:14
  • 2
    Some raw data here: blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/07/the-hunting-of-the-snark
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 4:21
  • I can see the examples, but the attachment is probably missing. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 5:24
  • @CloudCho not really, users still can't see deleted comments. Did you mean something else? Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 9:57
  • @ShadowWizardIsSadAndAngry, I couldn't see my comment related to your response. Did you post in wrong spot? I vaguely remember that some of my comments along with conversation with ... (somehow I couldn't see any of his post. He modified all posts in this question) were deleted at stackoverflow.com/a/72146265/5595995. If not a user, then a moderator?
    – Cloud Cho
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 17:22
  • 1
    @CloudCho ironically, your comment here was deleted, someone probably flagged it as "not needed" (not me). It was posted in 2022, I think, and asked if there are any updates, and something I don't remember exactly which confused me, hence the "did you mean something else". Anyway, the fact you got notification is proof enough you actually had a comment here, if you want to chat a bit about it, or something else, you can find me in the chat. :-) Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 18:18

Yes, I agree - This needs to be reviewed again. Users should be able to view all their deleted comments in their profile (just as we can view our own deleted questions and answers).

A good place to show this can be in Profile > Activity > All Actions > Comments (comments that have been deleted can be shown as 'deleted by so-and-so-mod' for 'so and so reason').

The argument I make for this is that:

  • it can increase fairness and transparency in moderation.
  • it can increase awareness about the acceptable guidelines.
  • it can inspire the user to expand the comment into an answer.

I am a frequent participant at Politics.SE, and due to the nature of the subject, there are often questions that are highly active and see a lot of user interactions. The answers also often tend to turn into discussions in comments. Often, many of these comments are rightly deleted, if they aren't pertinent to improving the answer. Though sometimes, I have suspected political bias to be a stronger reason behind the deletion of some comments. However, due to the inability to view a history of deleted comments, users can't really present a strong case (in Meta) that a mod abuse may be happening. (This may not necessarily be intentional - sometimes the political bias can be unconscious too, and a historical view of deleted comments of a user can reveal a pattern of this).

The second argument is that viewing a history of deleted comments can allow the user to learn the SE commenting guidelines better.

The third argument in favour of allowing the user to view deleted comments is that the info in it can sometimes help them expand the comments into an answer. As I pointed, despite SEs being a Q&A platform, Politics.SE sees a lot of discussions in comments. And sometimes, I have found that when I too post a comment critiquing or praising a question or answer, I sometimes post some good info that inspires me to write my own answer later. But if the comment is deleted by the time you decide that, it can be a bit frustrating to not be able to refer to it again.

In addition - sometimes you get feedbacks to your own questions and answer, and reply to some comment in your own question or answer. And you may wish to add that to the Q or A. Lack of access to deleted comments means you have to recall and rewrite everything again instead of simple copy - pasting and refining it. (Not everyone is good at expressing themselves well in written communication, and sometimes it is an effort.)

  • 5
    "deleted by so-and-so-mod" there's no precedent (as far as I know) for showing which mod deleted something.
    – starball
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 7:50
  • @starball When a Q or A is closed or deleted, I can see who voted to do it. I assumed that applies to mod deleted Q&A too? And thus maybe for comment too?
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:17
  • If the content of the comment can't be remembered, it's unlikely to be worth salvaging to an answer, and in any case, stop writing answers in comments, you'll solve the problem before it happens. That's the only reason I can see needing a deleted comment. If you suspect moderator privilege abuses, you go to the contact form and let them do it, and accept the result, regardless of whether you think it's political bias interfering or objective standards upkept.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:17
  • @Nij (1) Comments can link to resources too, and sometimes it is a pain to find those resources again later. Not everyone is a great writer - sometimes you express yourself well in a comment in a way that you may want to reuse. (2) Comments are not made with an intention to write an answer. But sometimes multiple comments in the nature of a discussion can be refined into a good independent answer. (3) That process isn't as transparent. Access to deleted resources allows you to make a better argument.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:22
  • 1
    You don't need an argument for a contact form request, staff can see literally everything.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:46
  • @Nij My point is that if we can see a history of the actions pertaining to our posts, we can ourselves fight our own biased perspective. For example, if a user doubts that one particular mod maybe deleting all his comment, a lookup of the history can easily disprove this and the user can correct their own views. Transparency helps increase user awareness, promotes good behaviour and can reduce complaints.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 8:55
  • 1
    "Transparency helps increase user awareness, promotes good behaviour and can reduce complaints." - the naivete of this statement is flooring. There are already attacks for people posting comments that explain a single downvote, and attacks on moderators for correctly deleting posts or purging comments. This isn't seeking transparency, it's asking for everybody to know everything that was thrown in the trashbin and by who.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 9:49
  • 1
    As for "For example, if a user doubts that one particular mod maybe deleting all his comment, a lookup of the history can easily disprove this" - the only appropriate response if you seriously believe you are subject to moderator privilege abuse is the contact form. Be honest here, a user who already thinks moderators are attacking them specifically instead of merely doing their job, who thinks they are above reproach instead of reflecting on feedback they will already be getting, is not a user who looks at deleted comments history and first seeks to change themselves.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 9:56
  • The correct solution to this problem is to get rid of politics.SE. Better yet, go back in time, and do not allow it to be created in the first place. Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 14:20
  • @Nij Yes, people misunderstand and / or overreact sometimes. You have to understand that has to do more with the nature of this mode of communication than users 'out to get you' - written communication lacks non-verbal cues and hence is prone to misinterpretation. All of us do a decent job here to remove unnecessary hostility and educate uncivil users. So user behaviour is above par in SE compared to other online communities. Second, you ignore that users with high enough points can already view who voted to close or delete the Q&A. What's the big deal if they can view it for comments too?
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 14:46
  • @Nij Be honest here ... - I am being honest here. I'd like to be sure before I make some allegations like that. I am old enough to know that we all make this kind of mistakes online.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 14:49
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    @KarlKnechtel Or simply recognize that SEs like Skeptics, History and Po.SE etc. face a particular issue in that many of the Q&A generate a lot of discussions in comment due to the nature of their subject. This also create particular moderation issues - for example, a controversial question is often voted to close or reopen many times over a period of time. I often leave a comment explaining why I VTC or not. If after a few months the Q comes back to the review queue, and my comment has been deleted, it just makes my job tougher trying to figure out if anything has changed.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 14:59
  • @sfxedit my argument is precisely: the fact that they face this issue, owing to the nature of the subject, directly explains that the subject is inappropriate for the SE format. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 19:31
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    @KarlKnechtel It just has different challenges which the platform needs to address - for example, I feel that in these SEs comments perhaps should be restricted to reviewers, moderators and the OP only to offer specific feedback. And the first comment should be an auto-generated link to a permanent SE chatroom for the specific Q where everyone else can go and discuss the subject in any manner they wish. The whole chat discussion can then be auto-purged every week as that would provide enough time for OP and / or other potential answers enough clarity to improve the Q and / or post answers.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 21:42

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