What "deleted" content should be visible to users?

SE has privileges which allow non-staff to view deleted content. There are ranges of thresholds from top to bottom:

  • Staff (database admins and authorized employees) - can see everything;
  • Community managers - can see almost as much as staff, presumably;
  • Moderators - the highest visibility threshold attainable by non-staff users;
  • Users with high reputation - gain extra privileges like view deleted posts, but not comments;
  • Regular users - can only see own deleted content (until extra privileges earned at rep thresholds);

Bonus tier for chat users:

  • Room owners - a granted permission in chat rooms, can see chat messages deleted by non-moderators;

These can be earned by:

  • Becoming an employee of the company (not a common route, but just for completeness sake);
  • Winning a moderator election;
  • Gaining enough reputation;
  • Creating a chat room or receiving privilege of room ownership from a moderator or another room owner;

What content do you think users should be able to see at different levels of trust?

Content removed for what reasons should never/always/sometimes be visible (and at which trust thresholds)?

What mechanisms of granting rights to view deleted content should we use?


If we solve the problem of useful content getting memory holed this becomes almost a moot question.

What do you mean by “memory holed”?

In George Orwell’s 1984 members of the Party put documents that are no longer politically convenient into slots called “memory holes” that are connected via chutes to incinerators.

One thing I find annoying about SO is that I sometimes google for something and it gives me a link to StackOverflow but when I click it, the page has been deleted. Is there anyway we can indicate to Google that it should no longer index a page?


StackExchange became significantly less useful when they stepped up their removals…

IMHO anything that has received referral traffic or user interaction beyond a certain threshold should at least get a 301 redirect for the search engines with the option for the users to view the various questions that redirect to the accepted canonical answer, if the canonical answer gets locked or removed the children should be restored to their original state as they are no longer the duplicate of a valid question, and if a question already had other questions linked to it as duplicate there should also be a much higher threshold to merge that question with another question, close or remove it.

Stackexchange only gets “duplicate” right 70-80% of the time and they have a bad habit of creating chains of merges that result in the user arriving at a question that has little to no relation to the problem they were searching for. The questions with the best answers often do not contain the words the average person will search for and details in many of the non-canonical answers in the closed duplicates end up being what you need if you are in the specific situation the author was in even if that is not the most common situation.

Storage is cheap and link-rot is the devil

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