12

So... I've had multiple users turn up on my blog, asking why posts were deleted - which is linked on my SU profile. Some are a little abusive. Another just threatened to hack my blog. I'm not engaging, not replying and figuring they'll go away. It's happened a few times already though.

I'm guessing they're seeing "deleted by Journeyman Geek" (Presumably in the post - though you can also see these in the revisions and timeline views) - going to my profile and decided that my blog was an appropriate place to vent. It's not.

While I can, in theory remove my blog from my profile, it seems a little unfair to subject mods to potential abuse.

Now, I love most of my community and am happy to be accountable to some of them. At the third or 4th troll comment related to my actions as a moderator though, I'm not in the best state of mind.

Could we give our mods and delete voters a little extra safety, and hide from users who deleted their posts?

A few additional points to address comments

  • users could only see their own deleted posts since 2013. Admittedly this might be a less common problem but before this there was no way a poster could see who deleted it, and there was an audit trail, but not global visibility.

  • I'm fine with a subset of users seeing it, even a large subset

  • closures have never been an issue for folks at the moment and have always been public

  • the goal here isn't to hide who deleted things completely - it's to keep them shielded from folks who think it's fine to try to bully or otherwise abuse them. Admittedly this seems to happen a fair bit to me for some reason :(

  • I do realise this makes mods 'less accountable' but many of the suggested solutions handle that by adding a reputation barrier for viewing who deleted a post. I also feel that experienced users need a certain measure of safety as much as new users, and a experienced user or mod who abuses deletions can be handled with existing processes.

  • There's very little to be done after the fact - I'm of the opinion there's very little SE can do for stuff offsite and reporting it gets very little other than sympathy.

  • Deleting the user might work, since that deletes their posts as community but I do like to give folks the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

  • 1
    Being a devils advocate, where would this information be displayed, but it's safe to say nobody likes their question/answer removed. So it's important to make sure, whom ever is hitting the button to remove it, is accountable to somebody. – Ramhound Apr 14 '18 at 15:05
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    Mods and CMs can/should be able to see it. Its kind of how you don't see who sent a mod message any more for the same reasons. I probably wouldn't care if I hadn't had multiple people try to abuse me over my personal blog. That is to say, I'd love to have this logged. I just don't want people following me around, getting mad at a justified deletion. – Journeyman Geek Apr 14 '18 at 15:08
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    @Ramhound I believe it's enough to tell the OP, that at least X moderators (users) agreed to delete their post. Everything beyond is irrelevant information for them. – πάντα ῥεῖ Apr 14 '18 at 15:56
  • @πάνταῥεῖ - Yes, I also agree, that just telling the user if a community moderator and/or the community (multiple users) had all agreed their contribution should be removed, but it should be still displayed to a subset of the community (to keep everyone honest) – Ramhound Apr 14 '18 at 16:00
  • @Ramhound They could be linked to an anonymous list of moderators and regular users holding this privilege. – πάντα ῥεῖ Apr 14 '18 at 16:02
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    I'm actually curious why "closure" is excluded here when both (well actually, all except up/downvoting) moderation tools should be accountable. – Meta Andrew T. Apr 14 '18 at 16:12
  • Quite frankly? Because it's not been an issue yet and I would rather not suggest tweaks to core site functionality. And while I should just ignore it, this sort of thing is upsetting sometimes. – Journeyman Geek Apr 14 '18 at 23:44
  • How would we show users that their posts were deleted by the Community user? Community is a moderator, so technically it would fall under the proposed "don't show which mod deleted this post" rule. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 14 '18 at 23:54
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    You can't send abusive messages to community. Even if you did, user -1 dosen't care. Also we already do this for spam deleted posts – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 0:07
  • According to Shog9, it's important that users who have their posts Roomba'd know exactly which critera resulted in their post being deleted. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 15 '18 at 15:11
  • But this has nothing to do with that - this is about manual deletions. – Journeyman Geek Apr 16 '18 at 0:01
  • I'd like to know why deleters can't appear only in the revision history of the deleted post. Afterall, when a post is undeleted, the undeleters appear only in the revision history. Similarly with closers vs. reopeners. Sometimes those who reopen or vote to undelete (often the answerers and the asker of the deleted post) should be held accountable, too. – Namaste Apr 16 '18 at 23:06
  • @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog Users who get their post "Roomba'd" are only given this : stackoverflow.com/help/deleted-answers to figure out what happened. It just happened to me, I checked the profile of the moderator to figure a way to contact him/her because I don't understand the deletion, but stackexchange doesn't have that. I then noticed links to personal website and twitter and thought of using that, but then I put myself in the shoes of the moderator, and realized that they probably wouldn't like it, so I didn't. – Alef Jul 4 '18 at 14:49
  • Depending on the site, flags, meta posts and even in site chat are all appropriate ways to contact a mod – Journeyman Geek Jul 4 '18 at 15:00
  • @JourneymanGeek I'm not a big user of Stackexchange, so I'm probably using it wrong. I found the chat profile of the moderator from his personal blog, not from his Stackoverflow profile. He wasn't online, so I couldn't reach him anyway, but if he was, was I supposed to go into a random chat room and ask him openly about it ? For the flags, now that you tell me about it, I can see that they give an option to call for a moderator intervention, but before I was just assuming it was the usual "flag as spam". I wish that there would be a comment section to discuss with the mod. – Alef Jul 4 '18 at 15:14
19

I am mostly in favour of keeping the status quo and transparently displaying the responsible users, but I see how this got a problem in the situation described in the question.

So maybe we should find a compromise and bind it to reputation? Users with a decent reputation level should have been around long enough to know that such issues should not be taken personal and/or off site. For users above X points on the specific site, keep the current, detailed message. Below that, you could replace it with something like e.g. one of these:

  • 3 users with a reputation score of 10k or more voted to delete this post.
  • A moderator deleted this post.
  • The Community user deleted this post ([reason here]).

Additionally, I'd propose adding links to help articles explaining reasons for posts getting deleted and the voting procedure, as well as telling them how and whom to contact to object against the deletion (probably by raising a moderator flag).

Regarding the reputation threshold below which the anonymised banner shall be shown, I'd personally find something in the range 100-3000 reasonable. It could be appended to one of these milestones, where 250 would probably make most sense:

  • 100: this would include people with the association bonus (200+ on any other site)
  • 250: "view close votes on own questions"
  • 1000: "established user / see vote counts"
  • 2000: "access review queues / edit posts"
  • 3000: "cast close and reopen votes"
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    I'd be ok with this - would require a minimum engagement on the site so no folks signing up just to troll – Journeyman Geek Apr 14 '18 at 23:11
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    i think "Established user" makes the most sense here, given that that's already tied to seeing the vote count breakdown instead of just the aggregate score. – goldPseudo Apr 14 '18 at 23:47
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    What happens when it’s a high rep user’s post that’s deleted? – Charlie Brumbaugh Apr 16 '18 at 0:31
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh Or when a low rep user gains rep and returns to the post. This is proposing a perseverance test. The greatest success it could achieve would be to make it harder for less determined stalkers to stalk. That would still be worthwhile, but the other, harmful consequences outweigh it. Victims of stalking and abuse often use SE sites. They may know or suspect their abuser has deletion privileges. If we take away their ability to know who deleted their posts, we force them always to wonder if their abuser has extended their abuse in a new way. We make them less safe overall. – Eliah Kagan Apr 16 '18 at 13:31
6

I disagree with this idea.

Removing the user names associated with deletion removes some accountability, and that's not great. Transparency is a part of why community moderation works. Removing that transparency will likely add to some of the squabbles that we already see about deleted posts and will likely open a door to some abuse of the system.

Think about the noise we already hear about anonymous downvotes and then apply that to delete votes, and I think you'll see what I'm talking about.

What may be a better solution is removing the link to your blog (easy, but not ideal) or adding explicit instructions on the appropriate paths to questioning your moderation actions. Something like a short blurb about taking questions and complaints to meta, or using the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page.

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    So the handful of individuals that think it is okay to stalk someone on to their own blog and make threats become winners here and we have to isolate ourselves because of the backlash. Not ideal either. – rene Apr 14 '18 at 19:54
  • @rene That's why the "include a short blurb..." bit was included. There isn't a great solution here, stalkers are probably going to stalk regardless. But removing transparency adds additional problems and when no name is listed, people tend to assume "moderators" – apaul Apr 14 '18 at 19:58
  • On the other hand, they don't know which mod. I do seem to think for some reason I get, or at least have been complaining about such incidents, both in private and in public a little more often. I'd rather not remove my blog cause someone felt that the solution to having his badly written posts or trolls deleted was to troll a mod. An alternative is to just delete the user and be done with it, but I really do like to give folks the benefit of the doubt. – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 4:38
  • @apaul I don't really agree with the sentiment that "stalkers are probably going to stalk regardless," because what powers we give stalkers is also important. But I think that this cuts enormously in favor of your overall position, and against proposals to decrease the accountability of people who already wield substantial power. – Eliah Kagan Apr 15 '18 at 13:10
6

Two types of users can see deleted posts:

  • users with the "access moderation tools" privilege (10k on graduated sites, and moderators)

  • post authors

Already the information that's displayed is different between these two groups: post authors see text like "why was your answer deleted?" with a link to relevant help. So we're already checking for this information when loading the page.

Because we already make a distinction anyway, and because the grief you and other moderators have experienced comes from disgruntled post authors, I suggest the following:

  • users with the "access moderation tools" privilege continue to see the deleting users, as they do now

  • if a post was deleted from review, we continue to do what we do now -- report it as "deleted from review" without the names

  • for other deletions, post authors see only the "why was your post deleted?", without the names, and we review the linked text to make sure it addresses all types of deletions

The high-rep users are the ones who already audit deletions, and this wouldn't change what they see. For post authors, the emphasis would move from "these three people (or this one mod) deleted your post" to "there was a big problem here; what do you need to know?".

  • You'd need to special-case the Community user, for Roomba deletions. According to Shog9, it's important that users know which specific criterion their question was deleted under. Also, users are shown who deleted their post from review (it's shown on the post itself to reviewers, and even if it's not shown to the author there, they can see it by going to the revision history and following the link to the review task). – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Apr 15 '18 at 3:56
  • @SonicWizard I was thinking that the linked text could clearly explain the different types of deletions, including Roomba. The "deleted from review" special case is already there and seems valuable as a way to communicate "people were asked to look at this and found it wanting". But if the CMs think it's important to special-case the Roomba deletions, I've no objection. – Monica Cellio Apr 15 '18 at 4:02
1

Could we give our mods and delete voters a little extra safety, and hide from users who deleted their posts?

I totally agree, and support your request.

I think,- similar as done with voting and flagging -, users who actively participate in moderation of SE sites' quality should be kept (more) anonymous.

Even with simple close votes you'll receive all kinds of complaints from the OPs occasionally. Many of them accusing users to do things for rep farming or other kinds of misconceptions.

Since for the affected OP it's mostly irrelevant who really closed/deleted their post, it should be enough to link them with a list of users who are currently holding that privilege for closure or deletion of questions in the manner of

X out of Y users listed here decided to close / delete your question for the following reasons
...

For the same reasons that -1 voting comments are frowned upon, the feature to disclose the users who decided to close / delete a question defeats that spirit a bit IMO, and discourages users to participate more with their privileges gained at the site.

Duplicate closures (especially single handed closed dupes from a mjölnir holder), might be an a bit different thing.

1

I am sorry some users have contacted you inappropriately. It is precisely because of the need to take stalking and abuse seriously that I very strongly disagree with this proposal. I similarly disagree with other proposals to impose a rep requirement for viewing who has deleted one's own posts.

You have written your proposal from your perspective as a moderator, and it is is both reasonable and appropriate for you to have done so. However, in this answer I have chosen to focus on moderation actions carried out by high-rep users. After all, SE sites are community-moderated. I think most of my concerns do actually apply, to varying degrees--sometimes less, sometimes much more--to actions taken by moderators. But since most of the people who would be able to operate without adequate accountability under your proposal are not moderators, I have chosen not to focus on moderators.

You have acknowledged that accountability is potentially an issue. But there is one thing I don't think your proposal does, or can, address. High-rep users can also stalk people, and they can use their site privileges, such as the privilege of casting delete votes (which are far more powerful in their effect than downvotes or Recommend Deletion reviews), as part of a pattern of targeted abuse and harassment that extends from the physical world into the virtual world. By anonymizing their actions even partially -- such as by making their victims unable to know that they were involved -- we would be actively supporting abuse. Although neither of these options is ideal, I'd rather

  • be less effective at stopping stalking of high-rep users and moderators who understand how the system works and are more likely to be able to successfully reach out to other members of the community for social support, than
  • directly hand a valuable gift to stalkers and abusers whom we have already been inadvertently assisting.

It is unfortunate that people have chosen to contact you, in at least some cases inappropriately, and in one case to threaten to hack your blog, based on the moderation actions you have taken. However, this does not change that the power conferred by site privileges is in many cases real power over people's lives in the real world, and that, with greater secrecy, this power becomes less accountable and easier to misuse.

It is true that, right now, some actions by privileged users do not show who did them to the people most directly affected by them. But this is in no way an argument for enormously deepening the degree to which the Stack Exchange system disadvantages users who are less experienced with the system and have less power within it. Most of the people who are allowed to perform the most dangerous moderation actions, including the ability to cast delete votes, have that ability because of their reputation score.

I also think it is worthwhile to take a moment to consider the situation from a structural perspective. In each individual case, there is no way to know, from a user's reputation, much of anything about the user's life, and it would be silly and harmful to guess. Overall, however, the people with the most reputation are the people who have time to put into a site to get it. In aggregate, it would be quite profoundly extraordinary if reputation did not measure something about people's real lives, and their social position, and what resources they have access to. (I think that, in aggregate, that is what it primarily measures.) Users who, for the same reasons, are often most vulnerable to abuse are also the users who, more often that not, will have a harder time gaining reputation and the abilities it confers.

I know that some of you will read this and think, "Unless they are moderators, high rep users cannot act unilaterally, so what's the problem?" I don't necessarily want to dismiss all arguments of this form before I see them. But I would strongly encourage anyone who is thinking of making such an argument to consider: is what you are about to say something that has already been disgraced by a history of being used to support abuse and oppose accountability? Abusers and stalkers often come across as responsible members of the community, and are respected by their peers. They can often convince their peers to disregard problem behaviors and even to contribute to them. The Stack Exchange system should not be made to allow them to operate far more clandestinely than they already can.

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    The first time this happened, I went to check if my website had my personal information on whois - cause I was worried that they might escalate further. I reported the first instance to a CM, the second was tame, and the third resulted in this post. While I'm a moderator and someone who a certain degree of influence on the network, and a certain set of skills... I didn't feel safe. While there's never been a swatting in my country... these things happen. Or less dangerous pranks like ordering tons of pizza or porn mags to an address. – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 13:55
  • Other folks might freak out more. If we're talking hypotheticals, what could happen here- as an extension of what I've talked about the consequences would be far more than a deleted post on a website. And while I have no desire to hit back, in theory an abuser in this situation has far more power than I do, outside any obscurity I can create about my personal information – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 13:58
  • At this point, I'd note the 'safest' option is to nuke accounts in 2 of the 3 situations where I went "eh, maybe its not too bad" or just figured it wasn't worth the effort at the time. Which is, in theory far more destructive and harder to fix if someone messed up, unintentionally or otherwise. I do do it as needed but I like the option of not throwing someone's account into a shredder unless its obvious – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 14:02
  • @JourneymanGeek I don't know what you say to your first 2 comments, which entirely ignore my concerns (and which seem to apply equally against any kind of accountability for anyone ever). My objection is that high-rep users (and mods) can themselves be abusers. I am not suggesting that this is what's going on in the cases you described in your question. I am saying that the policy you are advocating would be irresponsible due to the major dangers it would introduce. As for your 3rd comment, I don't see how nuking someone's account would keep them from still knowing you deleted their post. – Eliah Kagan Apr 15 '18 at 14:22
  • And I've spelled out potential major dangers. If someone's account is deleted, its not his post any more, and he can't see who deleted it. I'd like to not have that as the preferred option. – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 14:24
  • @JourneymanGeek You have spelled out what you see as the major dangers to you, from people who know you have done (or perhaps said) something they don't approve of. You have ignored the dangers to people who, unlike the people I think you are presently (quite understandably!) most concerned about, would be disempowered and made more subject to harassment than abuse than they already are. ...Perhaps I have misunderstood you on deletion. Are you saying you are actually contemplating deleting users' accounts every time you delete one of their posts? – Eliah Kagan Apr 15 '18 at 14:27
  • Oh, god no. But I totally could have avoided this if I did in some of these cases. I'd rather not delete any but the most blatant trolls and spammers. The preferred option so far is to deal with the posts first, then check the user and decide. I'd also note there's a degree of precedent for this - since mod messages were made anonymous for many of the same reasons. – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 14:41
  • Also, its worth remembering - I'm writing this from the viewpoint of a community moderator who's had several cases of folks doing this sort of thing. I'd consider this abuse - and while I suppose I can deal with it, not all folks who have this happen might. – Journeyman Geek Apr 15 '18 at 14:43
  • @JourneymanGeek Yes, the behavior you've described is abuse--certainly from the person who threatened to hack your blog and likely in some or all of the other cases. And you're right to point out that many mods are less able protect themselves than you, and that we must consider risks to them too. But we must also consider risks to the many users who are far less able to protect themselves, which is why I posted. That so many mod actions are anonymous does make me uneasy, but it's high-rep users who exercise hardly vetted power and your proposal would empower abusers among us high-rep users. – Eliah Kagan Apr 15 '18 at 14:52

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