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Ask HN: Deleting HN comments
16 points by dewiz 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments
How’s that one cannot delete old comments? Wouldn’t it be more user friendly and privacy aware, allowing users to own their data?

There are web crawlers that retrieve the data and store it, then making it available to everyone. Once it's here it's in the world, and removing it only from here is pretty much irrelevant.

As the web currently stands, if you put something on it you have already lost control, so framing the question as one of "owning your own data" is misleading.

I've up-voted the question because I believe it's important and should see a discussion of how future systems might be able to handle this, not because I agree with the implicit sentiment. Personally it would be fascinating to see a real world implementation of the "Oubliette" as given in Hannu Rajaniemi's novel "The Quantum Thief."

I disagree with most of your answer, eg most crawlers discard old data in favor of the latest snapshot, but thanks for taking the time to provide your PoV and inviting to a discussion. Even if some piece of data remains around, one should be in control of his/her contributions and be allowed to delete, that’s far from irrelevant or misleading.

When you say that "one should be in control of his/her contributions"... you realize that you are "publishing" these contributions, right?

I understand where you're coming from in wanting that control, but I would encourage anyone who feels that they should be in control of what they put on the internet to meditate on the word "publish."

You would laugh at Stephen King if he suddenly demanded that everyone return their copies of the Dark Tower, right? At one point he made the decision to "pull the trigger" so to speak, and publish that work. Like any trigger with lasting consequences, once you pull it, they are there.

Generalizations aside though, you can have a comment removed from HN by the mods if the request is found to be reasonable (i.e. unintentionally disclosing medical history, etc).

Publishing something online doesn’t revoke your copyright rights of that content, especially if you weren’t asked to grant a non-exclusively license for posting it.

Sure, but let’s remember that copyright enforcement requires work. Are you going to be the one who goes from car to car, peeling off illegal images of Calvin and Hobbes? Out of the kindness of your heart? How’s that battle going to work out for you?

This is sortof true for search engines, but HN is hit by a myriad of bots and scrapers non stop. There is no telling what they will choose to do with the data. I still get hits on my domains for URL's that ceased to exist 20 years ago and that have no internet references to them.

Suppose you have a comment at a given URL, say XXXX, an the wayback machine crawls it. Later you delete it so it's gone. It will still be at the wayback machine. So while web crawlers may discard data from an earlier crawl of a specific URL, they are likely to keep the data for a URL that subsequently vanishes.

This isn't to say that one shouldn't be able to delete one's comments, but in an open and distributed system you'd need to track down all the copies, and it seems there is no way to know you've got them all. And if you can find a copy, there's no guarantee that the host will respect a request to delete it.

These are difficult questions, and I have no solutions. Having said that, I don't think that being able to delete comments here is really that important or desirable. I respect that others will disagree with that.

For what it's worth, you can email the wayback machine admins with a request to remove archived versions of a specific domain.

They will also respect DMCA notices for your content when served.

> There are web crawlers that retrieve the data and store it, then making it available to everyone.

I agree, but also people may quote your comment, repost it in another platform like facebook or tweeter, make a screenshot, print it in a newspaper, make a t-shirt, ... Once the comment is out there, deletion is only an illusion.

In practice it matters, I think, even if in principle you can't undelete something from the internet. If someone is not explicitly looking for it, or not looking very hard, then the fewer places it exists the less likely it is that they'll run into it.

Some random, not organized thoughts on the issue:

On HN, you have two hours in which to edit your comment or even delete it if no one has replied to it. If you aren't sure you want it to remain on the permanent record, you can remove it at that time.

People who think they can erase what they said at will tend to behave poorly. People who think they can change handles with impunity and fool everyone tend to behave poorly. They think they can get away with it.

There are valuable things said in comments that people often want to look back up.

Having a record helps prevent he-said-she-said style of arguments. People tend to remember things differently from what actually happened. A written record can show who actually said what.

If you say it once and someone is stalking you, they will remember it or even keep a record of it. If there is no record of your remarks for you to reference, you may well forget that x, y and z is out there.

> Wouldn’t it be more user friendly and privacy aware, allowing users to own their data?

Yes. It's a huge glaring oversight that a community so IT focused and that often complains about "Facebook" and privacy can't even see when it's happening.

But HN is not a utility like Facebook or Youtube, so you can argue, their site, their rules.

But the irony is what is annoying. The idea of dogfooding privacy and digital rights seems lost on HN.

PS Getting Shadowed banned will help stop getting yourself indexed at least.

PPS And the argument other sites might index HN anyway so it's ok to do is so flawed it's delusional.

PPPS The argument that the old info is of value is also "horder" style delusional. We need to stop this idea if absolutely everything is not kept (at the cost of privacy) it matters.

Thank you for the pleasantries gentleman. You've all responded in way to avoid any risk of possibly wanting to delete your comments in the future. How very diplomatic.

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