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If a comment is directed at a user (either through the @UN or in direct response to a question or answer) but then deleted, either by mods or by the commenter, can a copy of the comment be retained but marked "deleted by ___" for the person the comment was directed at?

I was recently in a situation where I was verbally harassed in a comment which was subsequently deleted. You might ask "then how did you know it ever existed"... and I would reply, fortunately, the iOS app notifications were on my iPhone screen when I woke up and allowed me to see the comments, though only in part.

Upon actually viewing the question, the comments were gone along with the on-site and in-app inbox notifications. I have no way of knowing if they were deleted by the poster or by mods.

If they'd been deleted by the commenter, that means that the mods didn't see the disgusting comments and they need reporting... but had I not had the app, I would have never known the comments existed.

I know that mods can still see deleted comments, which is great for this purpose but they're not necessarily going to review every deleted comment to check if any of them contained inappropriate content.

My point is, even if someone makes a disgusting comment and immediately deletes it, that doesn't make it any more acceptable than leaving it there until deleted by a mod and the person the comment is directed at should have the opportunity to see it and flag it if they feel it was inappropriate.

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    You can still flag the post and ask the mods to check the deleted comments for unacceptable behavior. – Won't May 21 '15 at 16:58
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If you see the comments, whether directly on the post or indirectly in a cached notification, then you are hurt by that and want to be sure the writer of the comments is held to account for them. Flag the post and say there were offensive comments there, and you're flagging just in case the offender is the one who deleted them.

If I see the comments, even though they are not directed at me, I will flag them, because I don't want that material on the site. This is one reason they might be gone by the time you follow the notification.

The case where the person regrets their wording and deletes the comment before anyone sees them is a less likely than other people flagging and moderators deleting. It might even be possible to believe that getting the person chastised isn't needed since they have removed the comment themselves. (You assume that having "got away with it" they will go on to do worse in the future. Consider the possibility that they regret it, recognize their mistake, and clean up their own mess.) Nevertheless, you can still flag and ask someone to make a note of the original offense, which may be useful in future if this user displays a pattern of bad behaviour.

If the person removes the comment before anyone sees it, how is any harm done? If you see it in your notifications, harm is done and you can flag. I am having trouble finding a problem you need to solve. I sure wouldn't want the side effect of every nasty comment ever directed to me sticking around for me to see repeatedly.

An important note for me is that the primary purpose of flagging objectionable material is to have that material removed from the site, not to have the posters of the material disciplined. Some users repeatedly step over the lines, and in that case having a record of previous offenses has some value. But the primary value is to remove the material. If I can see it still, that may support the secondary purpose of disciplining repeat offenders, but at the cost of the primary purpose -- I'm still seeing the mess, and that's not right. (I find it astonishing that you used the word "fortunately" to describe seeing an insulting and disgusting comment, deleted already, because of cached notifications. To my mind, that is anything but fortunate.)

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    How is any harm done? Because, regardless of if anyone sees it or not, it's unacceptable behavior and should not be tolerated. If they get away with it in this instance, their behavior is likely to escalate and get worse. When the comment is deleted, so are the notifications. The only reason I had any knowledge of the attack is because you can't delete lock-screen iOS notifications by deleting the comment. – Catija May 21 '15 at 18:56
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    @Catija I think you're focusing on a strange edge case. The vast majority of rude comments are not deleted by their authors, who want them to be seen, not just by the target but by others who may praise them for their funny and clever rudeness. If they are deleted by mods they are known about by mods. If mods never saw them, anyone who did see them in the past can cast an "Other" flag to alert mods. But keeping the comment around after deletion is counter productive. I don't want to see that stuff, I want it gone. – Kate Gregory May 21 '15 at 19:05
  • I didn't say it should be visible to everyone... and I didn't say that it shouldn't be deletable completely, just that it'd be nice to know what was actually said and to be able to flag it myself. You're missing the point that the mods may never see it if I can't flag it, so there's no way to create a history of bad behavior. – Catija May 21 '15 at 19:10
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    I assure you I am not missing your point. You think there is a significant number of nasty comments that are deleted before anyone sees them - I do not. You further feel that punishing those who self-delete nasty comments is more important than ensuring targets don't see the nasty comments -- I do not. You think something must be done about self-deleted nasty comments - I do not, primarily because your "cure" is (in my opinion) worse than the disease. – Kate Gregory May 21 '15 at 19:28
  • If someone was going behind your back and saying nasty things that people you know and respect can hear but that never got back to you, you would be OK with that? Really? You could be OK with interacting with that venomous person who hates you and calls you names when you're not there and then hides behind their knowledge of your innocence? Yes, I do consider it fortunate that I saw what he posted... I do want to know about the snake at my throat. – Catija May 21 '15 at 19:54
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    If nobody else sees it there is nothing to see or to want to know about. If others see it, and flag it, the record of bad behaviours is there. Only if you think the site is full of people who will read a nasty comment, think less of you for it, not flag it, and hold it against you rather than the person who posted it, and retain their negative opinion of you after the wily nasty-commenter has cleverly deleted the comments without punishment, would this be a problem. I don't think any SE sites are populated by people like that. Commenters leave their bile around and the rest of us flag. – Kate Gregory May 21 '15 at 20:18

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