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When I delete a comment, is it destroyed completely? Or does it still exist, perhaps visible to moderators? If the latter, can it be undeleted again?

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In old conversations here, moderators wrote that:

  • Comments are not destroyed.

  • The final posted edit of a deleted comment is accessible to moderators.

  • Some Stackexchange developers can access the complete revision history of every comment.

At that time it was impossible for moderators to undelete comments but that has changed. Since 2013 or so, moderators can undelete moderator-deleted comments and possibly some other categories, but not users' self-deleted comments.

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    $\begingroup$ Moderators cannot undelete comments deleted by their author. They can undo moderator deletions and I think they can undo flag deletions as well. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 4 '16 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: I believe for flags it depends: if a single flag sufficed they cannot, otherwise they can. For the former see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/220685/… for the latter I infer it from the distinction that is made there. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 4 '16 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @quid for providing the links to the meta.stackexchange.com threads on the "new" undeletion capability. It went more or less un-noticed on this meta for 2-3 years. $\endgroup$ – zyx Jan 4 '16 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx: I recall at least once when moderators deleted a discussion, and then restored it after things cooled down a bit. (Well, restored modulo a few deletion-worthy comments.) Don't ask me to find the link, because I don't recall, and there's no history to witness this publicly anyway. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jan 5 '16 at 9:27
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There is a dialog that moderators can open to reveal all of the comments on a thread, whether they are deleted or not, along with other information about the comments (who deleted the comment if it is deleted, who a comment is a reply to if it used an @reply, etc.)

There is (currently) no way to undelete a self-deleted comment (moderator-deleted comments can be undeleted, though), but a moderator can always repost a deleted comment with their own account if necessary.

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    $\begingroup$ It must be emphasized that nothing posted in an SE site is actually deleted. "Deleted" questions/answers can still be seen by mods and 10k+ users (including their edit history), and deleted comments/chat messages can still be seen by mods. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jul 8 '12 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, do you know if you can see comments that were deleted before diamond mods gained the ability to see deleted comments? $\endgroup$ – Isaac Jul 8 '12 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaac: IIRC the ability to see deleted comments came in 2011 (correct me if I am wrong). I just checked and mods can see comments which were deleted in July 2010, which would give a positive answer to your query. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 8 '12 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ @WillieWong: I don't know when exactly it was added, just that it was one of the many ♦ tools (such as internally contacting users and templates for doing so) added more recently than November 2010. $\endgroup$ – Isaac Jul 9 '12 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ Long ago a moderator told me, if I understood correctly, that deleted comments, including moderator-deleted, could not be restored by moderators. Has that changed? $\endgroup$ – zyx Jan 4 '16 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx such things are generally documented on Meta Stack Exchange. See for example a post on Moderators should be able to undelete comments It seems undel was introduced mid 2013, but I did not doubleckeck. There are still some corner cases/subtle points/bugs though related to deletions by flags etc see for example meta.stackexchange.com/questions/220685 The short is what is in the post: mods can undelete comments they deleted, they can not undelete comments self-deleted by a user. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 4 '16 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ To be clear (and as indicated in the edit summary): I am absolutely certain that moderators can undelete comments they deleted now, what I did not doublecheck is the history of the feature. $\endgroup$ – quid Jan 4 '16 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, since you did not leave a comment when updating Zev's answer, nor any words like "added (2016)" in the edited text, I thought it was Zev in 2012 saying that moderators could undelete. Now that it's clear that the statement came from an update today, there is no inconsistency with the information I posted from circa 2012 that a moderator said it was impossible. Thanks for the new information on the state of things. $\endgroup$ – zyx Jan 4 '16 at 23:15

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