8
$\begingroup$

This message showed up in my inbox. I had to do a little research even to know what it meant. As far as I understand it, this means that someone went through and systematically up-voted a big stack of my answers to various questions, and it happened in rapid enough succession that the script caught it as suspicious, then reversed it.

When I was looking all this up, I found that the usual worry with this sort of thing is not so much that someone is up-voting on the basis of personalities rather than content (a bad thing, to be sure), but rather that people sometimes create fake accounts to give themselves extra reputation.

My questions:

  1. Is my understanding of what "serial voting reversed" means correct?

  2. Was this reversal entirely automatic or was there moderator oversight involved?

  3. Is there any way to know who was doing this? (It sure as heck wasn't me.) I don't need (or want) to know, but does some actual human being in what passes for authority 'round these parts know?

  4. Has this user been addressed by the moderators in some appropriate fashion?

  5. Is there anything I can or should do to reassure this SE group that I had nothing to do with it?

  6. Is there anything I can or should do to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen?

  7. Does this kind of thing happen often here at WB/SE?

  8. If this is not the first instance, should we make some kind of definite statement here in Meta about what "serial voting" is and why it's bad? (Here I mean the form that is well-intentioned but misses the point by focusing on personality/name instead of content.)

||||||
$\endgroup$
9
$\begingroup$

Serial voting is explained briefly in the Help Center. It can happen with upvotes or downvotes cast in rapid succession on posts from the same user. Sometimes this happens for benign reasons -- somebody sees a great post from you, looks to see what else you've posted by walking through your profile, and votes on several. Sometimes it happens for, err, nefarious reasons. These are either people knowingly voting on friends (or enemies), or people actually creating additional accounts (sock puppets) to vote for themselves. An automatic script invalidates these votes, whether innocent or not, without human intervention.

This happens occasionally on Worldbuilding, and while moderators can't see individual votes, we can see patterns of voting that might suggest that something is going amiss. We don't, unfortunately, get alerted when serial voting is automatically reversed, so we might not always notice.

Sometimes we discover a pattern of voting that the scripts didn't catch but is nonetheless clear. We can, in those cases, request manual invalidation of the votes, but in those cases the users involved will typically hear about it by other means. Voting fraud is a serious matter that can lead to account suspensions.

Not all serial voting is caused by fraud, of course; that benign case I mentioned isn't that uncommon among users new to Stack Exchange. If this happens to you it obviously wasn't under your control. Generally speaking, if you see an occasional "voting reversed" event and you don't hear from the moderators by other means, you have nothing to worry about. It wasn't you; it was some other guy. If we think you're doing something you oughtn't be doing, you'll hear from us.

By the way, your message here led me to discover a different case of probable voting fraud, one having nothing to do with you. So thanks for that; we'll look into it.

||||||
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks -- that's helpful and clear. To follow up one point, though: suppose this happens again some time. Since it's normally automatic, and the mods don't know about it, it seems like I should probably let someone know. As you've just demonstrated, simply knowing about it can lead to uncovering nasty stuff going on. But presumably posting a big question on Meta isn't the right way. What should I do? Post a note to chat, or is there a system to email the mods as a broad group, or what? $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 10 '16 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Oh -- I think I just found the answer to my question: post a note in Chat, calling moderator attention to something weird and disconcerting. [See the Help section, following from Moderators > "what if I see something evil" > "other"] $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 10 '16 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Chat is always a good idea. But meta isn't bad either. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 10 '16 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa sorry, I meant to answer all your questions but missed one. Feel free to bring it up in chat (best to ping a moderator to make sure we don't miss it in our active chat room), or you can use a custom flag on one of your posts to let us know privately if you prefer. If you do it in chat or on meta then, if it's also happening to other people, they might mention it too. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Mar 10 '16 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Got it. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 10 '16 at 15:26
5
$\begingroup$

Whoa, those are a lot of questions... But

  1. Is my understanding of what "serial voting reversed" means correct?

Essentially yes. It is one user who up/down voted suspiciously. Typically going to a single user up or downvoting all their answers and questions. Normally it should go with a large change in your reputation (recovering from the up or downvotes).

  1. Was this reversal entirely automatic or was there moderator oversight involved?

No way for me to know. It's often automatic. Especially if you did not raise the alarm yourself.

  1. Is there any way to know who was doing this? (It sure as heck wasn't me.) I don't need (or want) to know, but does some actual human being in what passes for authority 'round these parts know?

Again, not for normal users. And normally, AFAIK, the mods aren't allowed to tell it either.

  1. Has this user been addressed by the moderators in some appropriate fashion?

The user will have been notified that their voting was reversed. If it's a first offence, I'd expect that nothing more will be done. Especially if it was automatic.

  1. Is there anything I can or should do to reassure this SE group that I had nothing to do with it?

From this, I gather it was a serial upvoting ;-) As I wrote before, if it was a first offence, I don't think anything else will happen at that point. Moderators and staffs can check IPs and so on. And if the situation arise again, you'd be contacted, I expect. So, no, nothing to be done and either way nothing you can do.

  1. Is there anything I can or should do to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen?

It might be worth making sure that it wasn't a good willing friend of yours (IRL) who did it. But if it was someone random, not much.

  1. Does this kind of thing happen often here at WB/SE?

I have never heard of that here on WB. But I read about it on other SE site. How often it happens? I don't know. I expect most of the time it is reversed, and no one needs to hear about it. So it's not unheard of.

  1. If this is not the first instance, should we make some kind of definite statement here in Meta about what "serial voting" is and why it's bad? (Here I mean the form that is well-intentioned but misses the point by focusing on personality/name instead of content.)

There are many information about it on meta. But there is an automatic system to remove it directly. So I don't think we should do much more. If the situation arises again, there might be some investigation, but as this is not a usual behaviour... we should all be aware that serial voting is bad and that people should vote on posts, not users. More than that would probably be too much.

Disclaimer I am not a mod, neither here nor anywhere else.

||||||
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. This is very clear and helpful. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 10 '16 at 14:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It happens occasionally, not super-frequently though. It's automatic and mods don't even get a notification if it's just a simple automated reversal. However we do have tools to spot suspicious voting patterns and when using them we do know the accounts involved. To preserve voting anonymity even there we can't see individual votes, just the suspicious patterns. To see more than that we need to get a Community Manager involved but we've never needed to do that so far. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 10 '16 at 16:39
1
$\begingroup$

I don't think this was nefarious, I had a handful of old answers get up-votes overnight as well (4 or 5). Nothing was triggered but it seems someone was sifting through old answers.

||||||
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Not that I have any actual information, of course, but if your up-voter was the same, that sounds like a newcomer to SE getting over-enthusiastic. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Mar 10 '16 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ @CAgrippa that's kind of what I was thinking. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 10 '16 at 15:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .