89

At present, truly rude or offensive comments can be deleted by the community with a single flag if they contain particular words or by a group of flags on the same comment. These comment deletions occur instantly, and don't involve a moderator.

In fact, moderators aren't even notified when such comments are deleted. This means that the most hateful, disgusting comments can be posted, deleted, and no action taken on the user responsible. For example, these comments were recently posted to an answer and one-by-one automatically deleted with a single flag (warning, language):

Hateful comments automatically deleted

No moderator saw any of these flags, or had any idea this exchange had happened. It was only hours later when we saw a custom flag calling attention to this that we were able to review the comment history, see this nasty exchange, and suspend the user responsible.

Terrible comments like this are posted regularly on Stack Overflow and quietly deleted. We can now see someone's history of flagged comments in their profile, but something else has to draw our attention to that. If an abusive user isn't pointed out to us in a custom flag or in other comment flags, they can keep posting ugly comments for a while.

Moderators need to know about deleted comments like this immediately so that we can deal with the user responsible. I propose that the system create an automatic moderator flag on non-moderator deletion of comments via flags, perhaps on the second such deletion of a comment. Automatic flags on deletion of a single comment might be too noisy, but if multiple comments are automatically deleted for a user we probably should know about that.

Such a flag might look like:

multiple rude comments (auto):

[You're an idiot](link1)

[You stink](link2)

with the above Markdown rendered inline as we see for the "possible vandalism: deletions (auto):" flag at present. The links would be to the deleted comment, to provide us context.

This request is possibly a duplicate of my older request here, but this is specifically focused on comment flags. This has become enough of a problem that I wanted to suggest something more specific for this particular problem.

  • 9
    Definitely. Some folks have started a coordinated effort to flag these (which is great!) but we have to limit how effective they can be because there's no way for moderators to track it. In this case, the system should adapt to the people. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Aug 30 '16 at 15:26
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    First thought here is that we need a mod flag for cases where a single author has had multiple comments flagged for rudeness and deleted, regardless of who deleted them. – Shog9 Aug 30 '16 at 15:39
  • 2
    In that case, a direct link to the page with all of a user's flagged comments might be the information to use in the flag, instead of a couple examples. – Brad Larson Aug 30 '16 at 15:44
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    @Shog9 Might want to exclude owner-deleted comments, and possibly look at a sliding window. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Aug 30 '16 at 15:47
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    Sliding window makes sense, @undo. Excluding owner-deleted seems pointless; if you're posting rude stuff and immediately deleting it... Repeatedly... That's still an issue. – Shog9 Aug 30 '16 at 17:14
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    True, if they're already flagged when they're owner-deleted they should still count. I misunderstood as "all comments deleted". Maybe I should take up coffee. – Undo - Reinstate Monica Aug 30 '16 at 17:15
  • Hm; just playing devil's advocate, aside from a general sense of retribution, does it matter? If the comment gets flagged and removed, nobody else sees it, problem solved. Even if the user continues, as their comments are flagged, problem solved. When it gets to the point where a custom flag is raised, that means the problem is no longer solving itself, and it makes sense to involve a moderator. But prior to that if the comments are just being removed it's basically the same, at the end of the day, as that user never having left the comment at all -- Same outcome as a mod flag. So, why? – Jason C Aug 30 '16 at 20:25
  • (Point being, how is the ultimate outcome of a mod action different than the ultimate outcome of the current system? Note "Mods can take action against these users" isn't an outcome, it's just a means to achieving the same goal that's currently being achieved: No visible offensive comments. Whether it's because the comments have been deleted vs. the user not entering them in both cases the result is lack of an offensive comment. So what would the difference be?) Fwiw I agree with Shog9's thought of flags after multiple offenses, but again, just playing the bad guy here: What does it change? – Jason C Aug 30 '16 at 20:26
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    @JasonC - The goal is the prevention of future abusive comments. By identifying those leaving problematic comments, we can educate or remove the user responsible and prevent others from being insulted. If their comments are just being silently deleted, they will most likely keep doing what they're doing. Moderators intervene to let them know that this is unacceptable, in a few different ways. It's one of the ways these sites remain as civil as they are. – Brad Larson Aug 30 '16 at 21:44
  • @Brad Ah, but, how is the outcome of preventing future abusive comments different from the outcome of the community silently deleting future abusive comments? – Jason C Aug 30 '16 at 22:32
  • @JasonC flags not catch all of them. If I see a bunch of offensive flags against the same user, I go look to see what else he's done. If I know about it. – Monica Cellio Aug 30 '16 at 22:33
  • @Monica Do you often find that, when you do that, you find other offensive comments left by the user that haven't been flagged yet? – Jason C Aug 30 '16 at 22:37
  • @JasonC about half the time, on average. More on some sites and less on others. – Monica Cellio Aug 30 '16 at 23:59
  • I'll pile on here and say, yes, please. We need this. – elixenide Sep 1 '16 at 18:30
  • 1
    Yes, please, this is annoying on smaller sites too and it would be super useful to see. We've had "wait, what?" moments with a user posting similar quantities of crappy comments. – enderland Sep 29 '16 at 20:47
44

Raising another flag for every instance where a comment gets auto-deleted would tend to get very, very noisy. In the past 7 days, there've been 789 flag-deleted comments on just Stack Overflow - 755 of them deleted with a single flag.

Now, most of those are obsolete comments; folks cleaning up crusty old "please accept" and "what have you tried" cruft. Only 41 were flagged as "rude or offensive", with an additional 26 "not constructive".

But this hints at another potential problem: even when multiple flaggers or moderators are responsible for cleaning these up, there's no obvious signal that someone's wandering around junking up the place with their comments. If you post a pile of crappy questions or answers, the system will warning you, raise flags, and ban you... But you can post insulting comments all day long. It's on the moderators to break out of their workflow and check your history to see if you've made a habit of it. If you post a dozen insulting comments and each one is deleted by a different moderator or group of flaggers, then chances are no one will notice, no one will warn you, and you'll go right on doing so.

So let's tackle the real problem here: persistently rude users.

Here are the automatic flags that'd have been generated over the past week on Stack Overflow if we only raised a flag when a comment is deleted and the author had at least 3 previous comments deleted after being flagged as rude or non-constructive during the past 7 days:

 - Aug 24 2016  1:01AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3  
 - Aug 24 2016  1:06AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 24 2016  8:41AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser8  
 - Aug 24 2016  9:05AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser8  
 - Aug 24 2016  9:06AM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser8  
 - Aug 24 2016 12:32PM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser8  
 - Aug 24 2016  1:08PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser13 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:06PM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4  
 - Aug 24 2016  2:10PM: 26 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:10PM: 27 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:10PM: 28 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:35PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser23 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:42PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser19 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:42PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser19 
 - Aug 24 2016  2:47PM: 29 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 24 2016  3:49PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser13 
 - Aug 24 2016  5:01PM: 11 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5 
 - Aug 24 2016  5:01PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 24 2016  5:01PM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5 
 - Aug 24 2016  5:01PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 24 2016  5:01PM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5 
 - Aug 24 2016  7:19PM: 30 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 24 2016  7:35PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser30 
 - Aug 25 2016  1:24AM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3  
 - Aug 25 2016  1:24AM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3  
 - Aug 25 2016  2:58AM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4  
 - Aug 25 2016  7:12AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser8  
 - Aug 25 2016  7:16AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3  
 - Aug 25 2016  7:16AM: 9 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3  
 - Aug 25 2016  7:45AM: 27 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 25 2016  7:45AM: 28 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 25 2016  7:45AM: 29 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 25 2016  8:22AM: 27 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 25 2016  8:22AM: 28 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser1 
 - Aug 25 2016  2:31PM: 10 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 25 2016  3:06PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 25 2016  3:08PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 25 2016  3:08PM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 25 2016  3:08PM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 25 2016  3:09PM: 9 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2  
 - Aug 25 2016  3:09PM: 10 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 25 2016  3:10PM: 11 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 25 2016  5:09PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser15 
 - Aug 25 2016  5:09PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser15 
 - Aug 25 2016  5:10PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser15 
 - Aug 25 2016  7:23PM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 25 2016  7:23PM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 25 2016  7:23PM: 14 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 25 2016 11:41PM: 15 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  3:10AM: 10 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  3:10AM: 11 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  3:44AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser16 
 - Aug 26 2016  3:46AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser16 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:22AM: 16 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:22AM: 17 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:22AM: 18 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:25AM: 19 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:25AM: 20 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:26AM: 21 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:26AM: 22 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:36AM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:39AM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:39AM: 14 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:39AM: 15 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:40AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5  
 - Aug 26 2016  4:40AM: 16 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 26 2016  4:51AM: 23 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser2 
 - Aug 26 2016  8:17AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser22 
 - Aug 26 2016  9:41AM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 26 2016  9:41AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5  
 - Aug 26 2016  9:50AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser18 
 - Aug 26 2016 10:39AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser25 
 - Aug 26 2016  1:03PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser11 
 - Aug 26 2016  5:07PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser17 
 - Aug 26 2016  5:07PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser17 
 - Aug 26 2016  5:07PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser17 
 - Aug 26 2016 10:03PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser20 
 - Aug 27 2016  2:18AM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 27 2016  2:21AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser13 
 - Aug 27 2016  7:02AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser16 
 - Aug 27 2016  8:40AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 27 2016  8:46AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 27 2016  8:48AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 27 2016 12:16PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 27 2016 12:16PM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 27 2016  3:47PM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 27 2016  3:49PM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4  
 - Aug 27 2016  3:49PM: 9 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4  
 - Aug 27 2016  3:49PM: 10 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 27 2016  3:57PM: 11 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 27 2016  3:57PM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 27 2016  4:15PM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 27 2016  5:59PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser12 
 - Aug 27 2016  7:11PM: 12 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser6 
 - Aug 27 2016  7:16PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser5  
 - Aug 27 2016  9:27PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser28 
 - Aug 28 2016  3:30AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser6  
 - Aug 28 2016  3:30AM: 9 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser6  
 - Aug 28 2016  3:39AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser14 
 - Aug 28 2016  3:52AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser11 
 - Aug 28 2016  8:07AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser14 
 - Aug 28 2016  8:37AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser24 
 - Aug 28 2016  9:57AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser14 
 - Aug 28 2016  2:20PM: 15 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser3 
 - Aug 28 2016  6:33PM: 14 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 28 2016  6:34PM: 15 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 28 2016 11:36PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser26 
 - Aug 29 2016  4:17AM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 29 2016  6:44AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 29 2016  3:34PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser11 
 - Aug 29 2016  4:44PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 29 2016  5:03PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser10 
 - Aug 29 2016  5:04PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser10 
 - Aug 29 2016  5:04PM: 5 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser10 
 - Aug 29 2016  5:04PM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser10 
 - Aug 29 2016  5:04PM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser10 
 - Aug 29 2016  5:08PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser21 
 - Aug 29 2016  6:10PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser27 
 - Aug 29 2016  6:10PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser29 
 - Aug 29 2016  8:36PM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 29 2016  9:34PM: 7 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 30 2016  5:59AM: 6 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser11 
 - Aug 30 2016  6:08AM: 9 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser7  
 - Aug 30 2016  6:08AM: 13 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser4 
 - Aug 30 2016  6:13AM: 8 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser9  
 - Aug 30 2016  7:19AM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser18 
 - Aug 30 2016  7:49AM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser18 
 - Aug 30 2016  3:39PM: 3 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser20 
 - Aug 30 2016  5:42PM: 4 rude/NC comments in past 7 days from rudeuser20

(user names anonymized to protect the guilty)

That's 129 flags, still not trivial but a whole lot more tolerable than 700+ and probably a lot more useful than the 60-something we'd get by only flagging rude/NC auto-deleted comments. And we could reduce this further, by:

  1. Contacting people who are persistently rude before they rack up dozens of deleted comments.
  2. Not raising more automatic flags when an existing auto-flag is still pending.
  • 9
    user names anonymized to protect the guilty, It'd be funny if someone's name was actually rudeuser1 ;) – Bhargav Rao Aug 30 '16 at 18:46
  • 1
    TravisJ passed this meta on my post Can the recidivism system be applied to comments? which is related – Petter Friberg Aug 30 '16 at 18:49
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    @BhargavRao: *changes name hastily* – Nathan Tuggy Sep 1 '16 at 5:30
  • 1
    So... I know that this was implemented. I don't suppose you could update with some info about what triggers the flag? – Catija Mar 27 '18 at 23:00
  • It's what I describe in the answer above, @Catija: 3 or more previous flags in the past 7 days, checked whenever a comment is deleted. The only interesting difference is that we reduce the number of spurious flags by requiring an additional 3 flags to be marked helpful after each auto flag before raising another auto flag. – Shog9 Mar 27 '18 at 23:08
  • Ah, OK. We'd been talking about it in the TL because it's not on the list of autoflags here on MSE and the wording of this being aspirational left us somewhat confused about what had been implemented. :D – Catija Mar 27 '18 at 23:12
  • 2
    Yeah... The subtle giveaway here is the "status-completed" tag on the question itself. – Shog9 Mar 27 '18 at 23:15
  • I'm against "protect the guilty" online. Let them feel the shame. – Redwolf GoFundMonica Programs May 3 at 21:59

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