Hide rather than delete comments (curators)

As previously suggested on the Google Group, I would prefer curators only be able to hide comments, rather than have the ability to delete them.

The only case where I can see it being useful to delete comments outright is to clean up obvious spam.

I’m all for this and I think most of the team is already, so I’m not sure it’s worth anyone spending votes on it. We just need to write up a spec for the feature. I guess I’m more interested in some thoughts on details for implementation.

  • I imagine you would like curators to have the ability to see hidden comments?
  • Would you be OK with staff deleting obscene, defamatory, racist, etc. posts?
  • Any other details folks would like to add?

Yep, at least visible to curators who want to bother dealing with these types of issues.

I don’t see a reason for it beyond maybe legal liability reasons? at which point the comment “shell” could be retained—username, date, position in comment thread—but the content changed to [comment deleted by staff]. Obfuscation makes dealing with serially problematic users more difficult.


I’m thinking of content that would result in outright and likely permanent suspension, eg posting pornography, a racist image, etc.


Those are not really comments though, although perhaps there are examples of text that would qualify.

I do think there needs to be some way to see that a user has had multiple comments hidden or removed, as otherwise determining a user is showing a pattern of behaviour is difficult / time consuming. Maybe it links into this https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/user-notes-for-curators-section/423/3

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I guess I still don’t understand what the purpose is to delete in those cases rather than just hide. To shield the potentially offensive content from curators?


Definitely agree! Also think hiding a comment should require entry of a reason, and should automatically notify the comment’s author of the action. Maybe also leave a “hidden comment under review” notice where it would normally appear in the obs (or other object), with a link to general information on why a comment might be hidden and what someone can do about it.

All of this in the name of transparency, to minimize chances for abuse of the feature. Abuse as measured against clear guidelines for when a curator should take this step, and when they should do something less drastic.

To answer @tiwane’s other questions, yes, I think hidden comments should be visible to curators, maybe via the “placeholder” link suggested above so they can still see what the screen looks like to non-curators.

And yes, I am OK with staff deleting clearly over-the-top comments, as they can already do for other content. Hopefully you will have some kind of internal tool for staff to easily see recently hidden comments and take appropriate action. And I would assume you would be permanently suspending authors of such content as part of that.

I agree with @cmcheatle also, that tools to more easily detect patterns of bad behavior would be helpful, at least to staff and maybe for curators too. But in conjunction with that, I think we need to seriously consider the related suggestions to re-think the curator system and keep the curator group from getting too big and diffuse.


One possible reason not to delete even obviously horrible posts, just hide them, is so that new curators (and new staff) can find a few examples to compare to when making decisions about new comments. When the really bad stuff just disappears, but curators and/or staff are given power to delete things, sometimes the threshold for deletion starts creeping downward (or upward, not sure what the correct metaphor is), as people new to their powers look around for things to exercise them on, as part of the normal learning process. Something like that once happened on Wikipedia with the deletion of “non-notable” articles, leading to the loss of a lot of content because people with deletion powers had different, independent ideas about what should be deleted. If people with deletion powers can see what has been deleted in the past, they won’t be so quick to delete things that past curators and staff would have considered borderline cases, worthy of deliberation and discussion.

Another reason is to make it easier for curators/staff to fix mistakes - in a large community there will inevitably be some mistaken deletions, and it will be a lot easier for everyone if the comments are just hidden and can be re-instated if necessary. Being able to review other curators’ decisions will likely also be necessary as the community grows.


i think there may be some cases where outright deletion is appropriate, for instance harassment including ‘doxxing’ or posting of unwanted personal information about another user, we may not want the 100+ curators to all be able to see that. It’s rare though, can’t say i’ve seen it on iNat, but i am sure it will happen at some point if it hasn’t yet. Another similar example may be content related to accessing sensitive organisms for poaching.


Maybe another thing for the curator roles system: make hidden things visible only to those who had the power to hide them and those who have the power to re-instate them. So a curator who deals with taxon flags won’t be able to see any hidden comments, and only staff would be able to see things they’ve hidden, e.g. comments intended to harm an innocent user. That kind of thing should be kept around as evidence, at least, but spreading it to a large enough group of curators would be almost as harmful as spreading it to a large enough group of users.


it’s been mentioned in another thread, but the admins are looking at dividing up some of the curator duties for that reason, which i also think is a good idea


I like the idea of being able to hide unappropriate comments, but also think we need to be able to “roll back” if valid explanations shed light on them being valid. I think the deletion should only be in extreme cases, and perhaps be referred to iNat staffers to handle, because if they are that bad, then perhaps staffers need to know it is happening!


closing, since the hide comments feature is now available and curators can no longer delete other users’ commsnts


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