I recently posted a well-received answer to a question about diversity in hiring. Unsurprisingly, this question has become mildly controversial among people who have different views on the value of diversity, and it's been tagged with the "Controversial Post" banner and protected so that users with less than 10 reputation can't add answers.

However, my answer received an anonymous suggested edit this morning, which changed the sentence "Reassess the criteria you're using to judge "success" in an interview" to "Move the goalposts", with the edit message "this is honestly hilarious". It seems clear to me that this is a bad-faith edit where an anonymous user rephrasing my advice into a phrasing with much more negative connotations as a challenge to my answer's premise.

Disappointingly, two users quickly approved this edit, and it was applied by the Community user until I noticed and rejected it. Is there anything that can be done about this, either in terms of the anonymous user who suggested it or the reviewers who approved it? I'm surprised that (what is to my eye) a clearly troll edit was able to be so quickly applied to a protected question.

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    Anonymous edits? I didn't realize that was a thing. I'm surprised that's permitted. Is there a rationale for why? Feb 9, 2019 at 18:46
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    @JoeStrazzere Same as regular edits, but I'm a lot more skeptical when I see them. I think this goes back to the early SO days when they were trying to get as many people they could, and part of the appeal was that you didn't need an account to contribute. Or maybe I'm wrong.
    – rath
    Feb 11, 2019 at 9:37
  • I'm one of those who takes a different view at the value of diversity, as you put it. However, I decided not to challenge your question on those grounds because it was answerable without that, and I'm not happy to see a large part of our community do that. Regardless, I think the question was useful in its own merit, and I hope this doesn't put you off from participating in the future.
    – rath
    Feb 11, 2019 at 10:33
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    Anonymous edits can come from members of other SE sites, and I've done it in the past. Sometimes I won't sign up to a site, but I'll see a HNQ where there are some grammer / spelling mistakes and I'll suggest and edit to fix it. Despite being a member of other sites, this shows as an anonymous edit, so they don't need to be random Googlers passing by.
    – Tas
    Feb 12, 2019 at 23:07
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    The reviewers look like they rubber stamp almost anything: J. Chris Compton has approved 65 edit suggestions and rejected 1 edit suggestions -- gazzz0x2z has approved 363 edit suggestions and rejected 3 edit suggestions and improved 0 edit suggestions Feb 16, 2019 at 1:34
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    @GregSchmit there are a lot of people like that. I think stack exchange should monitor their review records and at the very least send them an advisory message. Feb 16, 2019 at 19:50
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    @GregSchmit the statistics you quote omit one important quantity - the number of suggestions they viewed and skipped, because they didn't want to approve them but didn't have the time and/or inclination to improve them. Sometimes I can see that an edit isn't very good, but I don't have enough specialist knowledge to definitively make it better - so I just skip it.
    – alephzero
    Feb 19, 2019 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: can we give authors more visibility and time to react to potential bad faith edits to protect their reputation online from content from others that's still in their name?

Can we protect the author a bit more?

It seems like the problem here is that it's really easy for others to edit something I authored, to the point of putting potentially really offensive words in my mouth, but the uninitiated/busy/lazy reader will still see it as being my content since it's attributed to me on the main interface. I don't expect SO to provide full attribution front and center as that would clutter up the interface to the point of not being readable. But would there be anything wrong with slowing down the edit cycle a bit to give the author more visibility and more time to react to edits to their content? E.g. in OP's scenario, if the author of the post were notified when the bad faith edits were first proposed and later approved, and if there were a reasonable delay (e.g. 24 hours) between approval of those edits and when the edits went live, then OP could have appealed the bad faith edit to a mod or even deleted the post to prevent it from tarnishing their image online.

In response to the fact that malicious edits are rare

I'm not going to dispute the contention that malicious edits are rare. I've been an SO reader for years now, and I haven't seen many myself. That said, it doesn't change the fact that while rare, very real harm in the real world could happen through abuse of the edit system if changes aren't made. If we're going to put people's usernames on their posts, we need to at least give them a chance to respond preemptively to scenarios that have the potential to tarnish their real world image, especially since not all users have anonymous usernames.


Yes, I'd agree that the suggested edit had the intent of change what you wanted to say there.

It looks as though the reviewers only really read the sentence at hand (which is a bold heading) and didn't read the context around that or think about how the change would affect the meaning of the text underneath. As much as we'd like reviewers to see the whole context and act accordingly, they're human and sometimes you get two humans being wrong in the same way.

I don't believe that the edit approvals were done with the intention of damaging your post, it's just a couple of oversights.

You caught it, you rolled it back. Malicious edits are few in number.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. Totally understand that human error happens. I guess I was just surprised that it only took two reviews to apply a fully anonymous edit to a protected/controversial post. For some reason I thought there was a higher threshold for anonymous edits, but it looks like I was mistaken.
    – Sam Hanley
    Feb 8, 2019 at 14:42
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    @SamHanley the threshold is the same for anonymous and low-rep edits. If the threshold were higher for anonymous edits, I think we'd just see more throw-away accounts submitting edits. We rely on reviewers to catch bad edits, with the author as a fallback, but that's about all we can do right now. I'm sorry this happened to you. Feb 8, 2019 at 16:39
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    @MonicaCellio I guess that's true. Thanks! At the end of the day, the edit was only live for something like 17 minutes, so no harm, no foul. It's just a shame that some people seem to have so much time to spend on petty trolling, and that reviewers aren't being as thorough as would be ideal.
    – Sam Hanley
    Feb 8, 2019 at 17:18
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    I think this raises the question of attribution: is it even appropriate (ethically I mean) for others to be able to edit someone else' answer without very very clear indication of what changed? If I see that Mary posted an answer and John edited it, I don't think "John made substantial changes to the post". I think "Mary wrote the content and John tweaked the formatting". So the fact that John can substantially change Mary's content without clear attribution to that effect seems ethically wrong to me somehow.
    – bob
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:27
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    And it could lead to some really bad situations. Imagine a troll changes a controversial answer to appear flagrantly racist. The author discovers and fixes the problem, but not before Internet vigilantes expose author's real identity and begin to ruin his/her real life. Honestly I don't think this is a question of "if" but of "when" this will happen without a change in the way edits and attribution happen.
    – bob
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:30
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    @bob the attribution is in the revision history. When a post is edited, you'll see "asked/answered by" and "edited by" both, with the latter being the most recent editor. Feb 19, 2019 at 22:03
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    I'm not saying the information isn't there, I'm saying that it's not evident without some work exactly who authored which parts of the original text--the author or the editor. Unless I've overlooked it--is the detailed revision history displayed above the post front and center, or does the user have to click and link to view it?
    – bob
    Feb 19, 2019 at 22:36
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    @bob: It would be very disruptive and not conducive to reading if a long revision history was displayed before every single post with multiple edits. But if there's a clearly inappropriate edit, any semi-experienced SE member that sees it first is likely to check the revision history and immediately rollback the disruptive edit, possibly flagging it for moderator attention as well. Any post that's edited has a link to the revision history in the timestamp where it says, e.g., "edited Feb 8 at 15:34". It's not hard to find.
    – V2Blast
    Feb 20, 2019 at 5:00
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    I totally agree--not suggesting that, just using it to point out what I see as a future risk. Not a problem today, but with the growing trend toward Internet vigilante-ism, and with controversial posts popping up from time to time, it's not hard to imagine someday in the near future someone attacking in this way. I agree that the problem would be caught quickly, but in the example here, 17 minutes is long enough for the wrong user to decide to "make it right" by naming and shaming without first checking attribution. Of course that "wrong user" could easily be the user launching the attack.
    – bob
    Feb 20, 2019 at 13:34
  • @bob I agree with you. I especially was thinking that the user who added the malicious edit could be the same one launching the attack on the original author. Jan 18, 2022 at 2:03
  • @notmySOaccount Right. As much as OP's situation sounds like an issue with a single bad-faith user, in reality I think it's a problem with SO's edit/review system. In my opinion the problem is that it gives the primary author visible full credit for content that almost anyone can edit, with a community roll-back process that while fast, isn't fast enough to prevent the original author from losing face in a truly bad scenario. If we're going to the Wikipedia (community submitted, edited, and reviewed content), then we need to be more like Wikipedia: don't put other people's edits under my name.
    – bob
    Jan 18, 2022 at 14:43
  • ...and if we don't want to be Wikipedia (fully anonymous content with digging required to track down who submitted what), then we need to drastically limit edit powers and add more protections for authors (e.g. having mods review and approve all edits). The current system is the worst of both worlds IMHO and ripe for abuse, as OP's question proves.
    – bob
    Jan 18, 2022 at 14:45

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