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Related: Allow moderators to hide a revision

Current situation: after the revision-hiding silent-revision feature has been implemented, it takes two moderators to soft-hide a revision in silently redact a post.

It is a very welcome idea for cases of sensitive details being posted, although we must understand it will not deter organized hacker teams who can set up scraping bots and botnets, just ordinary rogue visitors (time necessary for a human mod's intervention is always greater than time interval between revisits of a sufficiently large botnet scraper).

However, for transparency and to prevent abuse of this feature, the general public may need an indicator in a post's timeline showing when the revision was hidden. I know it is a tricky proposition, thus I'd welcome the community's input on whether this feature is indeed desirable.

Hiding sensitive details is a normal use case. Yet this feature may be abused - e.g. when two mods collude to cover up something in the revision history, something that may be likely to influence the community's stance on e.g. an ongoing or looming election. (thanks to @hichris123 for insisting on further explanation).

As an alternative, a moderator's user profile page may include the number of revisions hidden silently redacted (a simple number for us mere mortals, yet a hyperlink to the list of revisions for other mods and for Community Managers).

Rationale: if crawler bots have indexed the revision or someone visited it (and e.g. taken a screenshot), the damage is already done. The person who posted sensitive data (like access credentials) would be advised to change the password ASAP. Having some indication of revision hiding that can be explained by the moderators is essential for the community's trust in them and the system in general.

Hat tip: @rene

An ancillary note: it would relieve some manual stress on the mods if the UI for a silent revision included a checked (by default) checkbox triggering a canned private e-mail/ping to the original poster/editor. In the normal use case (i.e. for security reasons) this ping would advise the OP to change all the passwords ASAP.

Some logging should definitely be done for the benefit of CMs, including the original text. - Already implemented as per Shog9's revision.

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    Speaking from my normal-user perspective, I'm really not sure when this would be useful. Your rational doesn't make much sense to me: what does advising someone to change their password have to do with transparency & trust? Perhaps this would be useful in understanding what happened to a post, but besides that... I can't think of any other reasons this would be useful. – hichris123 Feb 7 '16 at 18:13
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    @hichris123 - hiding sensitive details is a normal use case. Yet this feature may be abused - e.g. when two mods collude to cover up something in the revision history, something that may be likely to influence the community's stance on e.g. an ongoing or looming election. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 18:19
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    @hichris123: One important use would be to avoid the stream of support questions asking how a post changed its content without (apparently) having been edited, after the grace period. It’s unavoidable that sometimes, someone will already have seen the post before it got redacted. – chirlu Feb 7 '16 at 18:43
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    To clarify, moderators cannot hide a revision. That's not what the tool does. What happens is a moderator essentially suggests an edit to the revision and, if approved, the content of that particular revision is completely replaced with the new content. We do have an indicator in the revision history when a revision has been redacted, which gives the reason for the redaction in a tooltip. It's currently only visible to moderators, though I can't remember if there was any reason not to show it to all users. We may just make that visible to everyone. – animuson Feb 7 '16 at 19:12
  • @animuson - that'd be great. Could you please post this as an answer sometime during the week? – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 19:17
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    A public indicator might actually be problematic - if it becomes a searchable feature, it may be motivation for folks to specifically search, and then try and get the original revision from somewhere (say Google's cache) on the rationale that if there was something important enough for mods to edit, it might be sensitive information. Re two moderators colluding to "cover something up", I don't see how a public indicator that something was changed (with no information as to what) s a meaningful tool for the community to uncover such cover-ups. – Pëkka Feb 7 '16 at 20:18
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    @Pëkka - I post an innocuous post on meta. Two mods revise it to make it offensive. I get suspended. Re: Google cache trawling - exactly the reason for the second part of my suggestion. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 20:35
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    @Deer so you, the injured party, write to team@stackoverflow.com or raise a mod flag. The matter is investigated, surely the team and other mods can see mod edits to revisions, and the two colluding mods will likely be terminated the same day. How would a public indicator have made any difference? – Pëkka Feb 7 '16 at 20:36
  • @Pëkka - it really depends... A public indicator means it's not a he said she said situation. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 20:38
  • @DeerHunter But how so? If there's a public indicator and I claim it was a nefarious edit while in truth it was not, how does it become any less of a he said she said situation? And it isn't one anyway because team and mods can see all, no? – Pëkka Feb 7 '16 at 20:43
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    @Pëkka - there's another idea for traceability: make the indicator visible to registered users only, and accessible only through a specific URL. Thus, any time this feature is misused, the CMs have the ID and the IP of the offender. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 20:47
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    We could probably show this to non-mods without issue. However, I'm not sure we should show it to everyone; perhaps some reputation threshold should be required to help ensure that folks have the necessary background to understand what redaction means and why it might be necessary. – Shog9 Feb 7 '16 at 20:55
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    @Shog9 - agreed. 5K, perhaps (on graduated sites)? You were always inquiring about microprivileges, might be one of them. Additionally, you can also show the indicator with some delay. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 21:09
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Transparency is obviously a good thing. This feature request brings some extra transparency which is positive.

There is a concern though, as Pëkka already mentioned: security risks. If a moderator removes some credentials, you don't want anyone to go search for that post on the cache of Google for example.

Besides that, users that are not familiar with the site may frown upon such moderator actions if they don't fully understand what it is really about. They might think that moderators just redact posts for no reason.

Therefore the suggestion from Shog9 makes sense: only show this indicator to users with a reputation threshold, for example 10K or somewhere in that region.

  • After Shog9's suggestion I initially thought about 5K (to provide micro-privileges) but 10K may be equally acceptable. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 21:19
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    To me, reaching 10K was more a milestone than 5K. You can delete stuff, which is quite some responsibility. This privilege is a nice one in the trust category. – Patrick Hofman Feb 7 '16 at 21:21
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    I do not doubt, though, that there might be a Google's evil twin that does scan the first page of SO and sister sites. Making silent revisions is as good an indication as anything; and we are thus protecting against single users only, not against organized hackers. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 21:22
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    Indeed. But showing this to everyone makes it a little too easy in my opinion. – Patrick Hofman Feb 7 '16 at 21:23
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    Edited into the title of the question. – Deer Hunter Feb 7 '16 at 21:27

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