|This page in a nutshell: RevisionDelete is a MediaWiki function used to redact grossly improper posts and log entries. It is available to administrators in accordance with the criteria for use. It can also be used in "Suppression" mode by oversighters to remove certain defamatory content and privacy breaches from public and administrator view.|
RevisionDelete (also known as RevDel or RevDelete) is a feature that allows administrators to remove individual entries in a page history or log from public view. It is used for "selective deletion", largely replacing the prior method (delete and partial undelete) which should no longer be used except for history merges and occasional other technical cases where it is needed. Revision deletion should only be used in accordance with the criteria for redaction.
RevisionDelete can hide the text of a revision, the username that made the edit or action, or the edit summary or log summary. On the English Wikipedia, criteria exist to govern the use of RevisionDelete, which are outlined below. Use of RevisionDelete by oversighters in "Suppression" mode is covered separately by the Oversight or Suppression policy.
Any administrator may handle RevisionDelete requests made by users, but Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to handle RevisionDelete requests lists administrators who have declared a particular willingness to handle such requests. Users who have concerns about any particular use of RevisionDelete may ask any administrator to review the matter, but again administrators listed in that category may be particularly well placed to do so. When contacting editors about sensitive material, email is preferred to talk page messages, to avoid exposing information to more readers.
Overview of RevisionDelete
RevisionDelete allows selective redaction of posts and log entries by administrators, as well as peer review by any administrator of the correct use of the tool. Entries still appear in redacted form on the public wiki, and any user may request that an administrator review a RevisionDelete action, to determine whether its removal was reasonable.
As a deletion tool, RevisionDelete is capable of removing material from the wider community's view. Because of this, the tool should only be used within strict guidelines.
In time-sensitive situations where breach of WMF oversight policy (broadly covering privacy breach and legal defamation) is a concern, an administrator may redact first, then immediately bring the matter to the attention of oversighters. (See below.)
RevisionDelete was introduced for administrators in 2010. The community's endorsement of the tool included a very strong consensus that its potential to be abused should be strictly barred, prevented by the community, and written into the policy. Especially, RevisionDelete does not exist to remove "ordinary" offensive comments and incivility, or unwise choices of wording between users, nor to redact block log entries.
Material must be grossly offensive, with little likelihood of significant dissent about its removal. Otherwise it must not be removed. Administrators should consult as usual if uncertain that a revision would be appropriate to redact.
Criteria for redaction
The inappropriate or disruptive posting of some members is normal within a large community. In general, only material that meets at least one of the criteria below should be deleted. Users should consider whether simply reverting or ignoring would be sufficient in the circumstances. If deletion is needed, only redact what is necessary (i.e. leave non-harmful fields visible), and give a clear reason for the removal.
The community's decision[when?] was that RevisionDelete must not be used without prior clear consensus for "ordinary" incivility, attacks, or claims of editorial misconduct. The wider community may need to fully review these at the time and in future, even if offensive.
- Blatant violations of the copyright policy that can be redacted without removing attribution to non-infringing contributors. If redacting a revision would remove any contributor's attribution, this criterion cannot be used. Best practices for copyrighted text removal can be found at WP:Copyright problems and should take precedence over this criterion.
- Grossly insulting, degrading, or offensive material that has little to no encyclopedic or project value, or violates our biographies of living people policy. This includes slurs, smears, and grossly offensive material of little or no encyclopedic value. However, this does not include mere factual statements or "ordinary" incivility, personal attacks or conduct accusations. When pages with grossly improper titles are in question, the page names may also be removed from the page creation, move, and delete logs.
- Purely disruptive material that is of little or no relevance or merit to the project. This includes allegations, harassment, grossly inappropriate threats or attacks, browser-crashing or malicious HTML or CSS, shock pages, phishing pages, known virus proliferating pages, and links to web pages that disparage or threaten some person or entity and serve no other valid purpose, links to any of these. However, this does not include mere spam links.
- Oversightable information – see separate section below for criteria.
- Valid deletion under deletion policy, executed using RevisionDelete. With the exception of history merges and fixing cut-and-paste moves, if selective deletion is required, RevisionDelete is usually preferable (see "RevisionDelete compared to traditional selective deletion," 1), and should be used instead of the old method of "delete and then partial undelete". It is important that the underlying reason for deletion be made clear in the log summary.
- Non-contentious housekeeping including correction of clear and obvious unintended mistakes in previous redactions, changes to redaction based upon communal discussion and clear consensus, adding information to the delete logs, and converting traditional selective deleted edits to RevisionDelete. (The action must not be likely to be contentious or controversial; consult if needed)
|AC.||Deletion mandated by decision of the Arbitration Committee. At times the Arbitration Committee may determine that a logged item was sufficiently improper that the record should be formally deleted in the public log. The deletion reason should clearly link to the decision. Deletions under this criterion are considered to be Arbitration Enforcement matters and should not be overturned improperly; however, they may be appealed.|
Log redaction (outside of the limited scope of RD#2 for the creation, move, and delete logs) is only allowed for grossly improper content; it is not permitted for ordinary matters as the community needs to be able to review users' block logs and other logs, whether or not proper. Use of the RevisionDelete tool to redact block logs (whether the block log entry is justified or not) or to hide unfavorable actions, posts or criticisms, in a manner not covered by these criteria or without the required consensus or ArbCom agreement, will usually be treated as abuse of the tool.
Hiding oversightable material prior to Oversight
Personal information includes almost any material that is (or looks like it might be) actual claims, facts, hints, or allusions to non-public, personal, or private information (see WP:Oversight and WP:OUTING).
It does not matter whether the privacy-breaching material was posted by the user themselves or by a third party, whether in good or bad faith, recently or in the past, whether accurate, whether the target is identifiable to the administrator, nor whether it is a statement, pointed speculation, or implied.
RevisionDelete can be used to hide any privacy-breaching or defamatory posts while waiting for Oversight. Since Oversight is not immediate, an administrator may provisionally delete the information from public view to minimize harm, then promptly contact an oversighter.
Even if the material is ultimately found not to be suppressible, administrators are allowed to err on the side of caution, even in cases with an apparent conflict of interest, provided it is in good faith and they quickly seek oversighter review. If the oversighter decides suppression was not appropriate, the material will be restored or RevisionDeleted instead.
Administrators should be aware that delete logs are public and scrutinized. Deletion may lead to extra attention at times. Only administrators can see the material when it is RevisionDeleted (and before oversight), but even so it may sometimes be more discreet to contact oversighters directly, and not use RevDelete first. A lot depends on the material itself. If RevisionDelete is used, avoid obvious suggestive terms in the reason (e.g. don't use "RD4", "oversight", "private material", "hiding IP of logged out user", etc.).
When hiding personally identifiable information related to an individual who can be contacted by email, it may be considered good manners to notify them that the information was deleted and hidden from public view. Providing such notice is at the administrator's discretion.
Notes on use
It does not matter if the target is identifiable, just that it appears to have a target:
- It is not necessary that the target be identifiable. It is sufficient that it appears to refer to some real person, organization, or group, or could be intended to suggest a specific target to the right reader. For example, a smear could target a person known locally by a nickname or other allusion that no Wikipedia administrator has heard of, but that is recognizable to people in that school, town, or social community. It is therefore not necessary the target(s) be identifiable, to treat the situation as if a target exists.
Username hiding (copyright attribution issues):
- Wikipedia's licenses require that accessible edits be linked to the user who performed them, so it is generally a problem to hide the username from a revision while leaving their edited changes to the page in public view. Cases where it is acceptable are those where the revision contains no valid information copyrightable to the user who posted it (i.e. plagiarism, gibberish, vandalism, adding categories, no copyrightable change made to revision text, etc), where all changes will be reverted, or where the user accidentally posted while being "logged out" and the aim is protection of privacy at the request of the user.
- If redaction may be required on a busy page it can sometimes be worth an edit to take care of problematic text. If redaction is eventually required, fewer revisions will be affected.
RevisionDelete is mainly intended for simple use and fairly recent material. Text that exists in numerous revisions (e.g. on busy pages) or which has been the subject of many others' comments may not be practical to redact. Redaction of such material should take into account how practical and effective redaction will be, how disruptive it would be (e.g. to others' valid posts), and whether redaction will itself draw attention to the issue. No hard line exists; judgment is required.
Administrators in this situation may wish to initially edit the page to revert or remove the grossly improper material, and then consult.
How to request Revision Deletion
To avoid the Streisand effect, there is no dedicated on-wiki forum for requesting revision deletion under other circumstances. You can send a message to any administrator in Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to handle RevisionDelete requests either at their talk page or by email, especially if privacy is a concern.
You can also request revision deletion on IRC using #wikipedia-en-revdel connect. Only use this for requests that are urgent and should not be handled publicly (RD2, RD3, and RD4). In this channel, only administrators will be able to see your request.
Keep in mind that if the revision you're reporting could be subject to oversight, follow the procedures at WP:Requests for oversight or email oversight-en-wpwikipedia.org.
Appeal and discussion of actions
Actions performed using this tool remain visible in the public logs. They are subject to review by other administrators (who can see redacted material), and to reversal upon clear, wider consensus. Such a review should take place at the Administrators' Noticeboard. As with other administrative tools, good judgment and appropriate use are expected; improper use can lead to sanctions or desysopping.
On the English Wikipedia, the revision deletion feature is available in administrator mode to administrators and in administrator and suppression mode to Oversighters (all of whom are currently also administrators).
Page histories and logs have a button for administrators and oversighters that allows multiple entries to be redacted by selecting them from the list with checkboxes. On page histories, the button is Change visibility of selected revisions; on logs it is Change visibility of selected log entries.
When a revision or log entry is hidden from view in its entirety, it is displayed as shown to the right, with the elements hidden from view stricken and greyed out. The struck-out elements cannot be viewed by any usergroup which does not have the deleterevision right. A user who cannot access the relevant revisions and who tries to compare the revision with other revisions or access its &oldid= page will receive an error stating that the revision has been removed from the public archives. Similarly, looking up log entries or contributions by username will not show log entries where the username has been redacted.
The button can usually be clicked by an administrator to view selected redacted entries. It will appear in bold if suppression has been applied, in which case both the redacted material and its deletion settings cannot be accessed by administrators or users who lack access to the oversight tool.
Revision deletion actions are retained even when the revision or page is deleted in the traditional manner. If a page is later undeleted, data that was deleted with RevisionDelete will still remain deleted.
When redacting the log entry of a page move, note that it will also have been recorded as an edit summary in that page's history; it will need to be redacted as well.
Limitations and issues
- The revision text of the most recent edit on a page cannot be redacted. This is intentional. The content must be reverted first, to be redacted. Other fields (username and edit summary) can be redacted even on the most recent edit.
- Revision links change when a revision is traditionally deleted or undeleted. If a revision's visibility is modified using RevisionDelete, and the revision is later deleted or undeleted, the links in the delete log and elsewhere may break. It will be necessary to look at the page history/deleted page history/page logs to work out what revision was being referred to. (This has been reported but is not simple to fix.)
- If the edit to be revdel'd was not reverted in the edit immediately following it, all edits between it and its revert will contain the content of the edit. In this case, all of the intermediate edits must be deleted or manually redacted by database administrator to fully hide the edit's contents.
Revisions stored by third parties
While a RevisionDelete is generally effective at removing sensitive information from the public eye, it does not impact third parties. Third parties may:
- Capture revisions from the recent changes stream before a RevisionDelete occurs
- Detect RevisionDeletes, even those made in "suppression" mode, by comparing revisions logged from the recent changes stream against the standard database snapshot
Changing visibility settings
To hide or unhide a revision or a log entry, select the relevant revision[s] or log entry/entries that you wish to show or hide with the checkbox[es] to its/their left, and click Change visibility of selected revisions or Change visibility of selected log entries as appropriate. Depending on your permissions, there may be either three or four options to choose from:
- Delete revision text
- Delete edit comment
- Delete editor's username or IP
- Suppress data from administrators as well as others (only available to users with the suppressrevision right, namely oversighters)
In the visibility restrictions option area, tick the checkboxes next to each restriction you wish to apply to the selection, and provide a reason for the setting from the Reason dropdown menu. Optionally, enter further information into the text field. Once this information has been filled in, click Apply to selected revision to apply the change. If this has been done correctly, a success message should be displayed.
Unhiding a revision or log entry follows the same procedure. Untick the checkboxes that you wish to unset in the visibility restriction options section, and provide a reason for the change.
Hiding of a username or IP should only be used where that username or IP has a reason in and of itself to be hidden, such as accidentally editing logged out or an attack username. Hiding a username will remove the contribution completely from the user's contributions list (except from administrators, who will see a warning indicating it is invisible to users), rather than a crossed out entry for deleted edits without hidden username. This will cause issues with users trying to review actions taken on the user, as well as potential copyright violation risks.
RevisionDelete's own log entries
Use of RevisionDelete produces an entry in the public deletion log, or the private suppression log if used by an oversighter and "Suppress data from administrators as well as others" is checked. Log entries created in the public deletion log look like those displayed to the right, for page revision and log entries visibilities respectively. The options (diff | change visibility) provide an easy link to view or redact the underlying page revision to which the log entry refers.
The older method of selective undeletion (i.e. delete the entire page then selectively restore revisions) as a method of deleting revisions is deprecated in favor of this system. While selective undeletion does still have a few valid uses (such as complex history merges), it should not be used to remove revisions from the page history, due to its relative lack of transparency and poor efficiency.
- WP:Revision deletion/Statistics
- Examples of what can and cannot be RevDeleted
- Academic paper on RevDel usage, statistics, and impact (presented at WikiSym'11)
- Category:Wikipedia administrators willing to handle RevisionDelete requests
- Wikipedia talk:Oversight/Archive 3#Usage of RevisionDeleted (2009) – Stats on current oversight usage of the function.
- MediaWiki:Revdelete-reason-dropdown – Configuration page for the RevDelete dropdown box.
- WP:Revision deletion/Noticeboard (failed proposal, see "How to request Revision Deletion")
- mw:Help:RevisionDelete – MediaWiki Help page.
- mw:Manual:RevisionDelete – Technical page discussing the function.
- mw:Bitfields for rev deleted – Largely outdated technical discussion.
- User:Enterprisey/cv-revdel – Script to aid in tagging articles for revision deletion.