An example: I noticed a user who received 90 points of votes in the space of 5 mins on 9 different answers. This looked suspicious as the user hasn't been very active and usually gets votes every few days or so. It was enough to jump this user several places in one particular category prompting me to check.

Should we report things like this if noticed and what is the correct way? Or should we just ignore it?

Note: Previously contained a link to the suspect account which some of the answers may refer to.

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There is automatic detection of inappropriate voting. That should be more than enough votes to trigger it. –  agf Oct 4 '11 at 19:12
Just downvote them all /jk –  Chichiray Oct 4 '11 at 19:43
Removed the link. Looking at his account it doesn't seem like he is engaged in any vote rigging. Only a few other users have voted him up more than five times, and each of them are high-ish rep users with the vast majority of their votes going to other users and none of them have a common IP with the suspected user. Time will tell if something is actually going on, but as of now he appears legit. –  Won't Oct 4 '11 at 19:51
@Won'tಠ_ಠ 9 upvotes on 9 different answers in 5 minutes certainly does seem suspicious though -- but more like reward voting that something rigged. –  agf Oct 4 '11 at 20:32
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6 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The system automatically detects suspicious voting patterns, but mods also have tools to help them look into it manually. You can flag one of the posts for mod attention and tell them what's up, and they'll check to see if it was the same user voting on all of them and if that user seems to be a sockpuppet

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This was a flag reply I got regarding a downvote rampage I recieved, from a user I named specifically: declined - Moderators cannot intervene in voting. The overnight fraud detector script may invalidate the downvotes. So perhaps a flag is not appropriate? Ironically, he felt bad afterwards and upvoted a bunch of stuff to "offset". All the upvotes were removed and most of the downvotes. –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 19:35
@Wesley Moderators can't modify votes, but they have several tools that can help identify fraudulent voting, and then they can merge accounts (in the case of sockpuppets) or report it to developers if the automated script isn't detecting it. I don't know why your flag was declined, but it shouldn't have been –  Michael Mrozek Oct 4 '11 at 19:41
In any case, the flag was deemed unhelpful, so that's why I questioned your advice to flag one of the posts. Perhaps keeping an eye on it and flagging after the vote fraud script has had a chance to run (24 hours?) is the way to go. –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 19:43
In my experience, serial downvoting is not typically associated with sock puppets. If you do raise such a flag, make it clear in the flag description what it is that you want the moderator to do (i.e. check for sock puppets, not invalidate votes). –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '11 at 19:45
So whether it's an up or down vote run is what makes the difference? Up votes - OK to flag, down votes - don't flag? –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 19:47
Mods can't do anything about upvotes either. –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '11 at 19:50
@RobertHarvey: So why does there seem to be support for flagging and emailing the SO team directly? However, as far as what mods can do to handle the flag, it doesn't mean the votes have to be removed manually, but a warning/suspension to the serial downvoter or merging of upvoter accounts seems like a valid course of action, is it not? –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 19:55
@Wesley: There is support for emailing The Team because they're the only ones who can do anything about fraudulent votes. Flaggers get their flags declined because they are not asking for something that is actionable. Most of these flags say "This guy downvoted a bunch of my posts," and there's really nothing a mod can do to fix that. If you think a user should be suspended for fraudulent voting, say so in your flag. –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '11 at 20:37
@RobertHarvey: So, the flag's usefulness is based on the action requested? I always assumed that the mod would just take whatever action is appropriate, and requesting a specific action was pointless (i.e. Close the post, lock, delete, ban user, etc.). In my case, the request was: Hopefully the downvotes can be removed and the user warned or something? so it was half-and-half I guess. In any case, I didn't realize we needed to instruct the moderators on what action to take. –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 20:43
@Wesley: Most actions that a moderator needs to take are implied: Not an Answer ==> Delete; Not a Real Question ==> Close. "This guy downvoted a bunch of my posts" is ambiguous. –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '11 at 20:56
@RobertHarvey: Understood, it's the "other" flag that I'm asking about. My impression was this: I present the problem, the moderator decides the resolution. In the case of "This guy downvoted a bunch of my posts", I'd assume the appropriate action would be a suspension or warning, depending on if the user has already been guilty of vote abuse or other undesirable behavior. Of course, I don't have access to that data (if it exists) so I can't say what is appropriate. We're getting a bit off target I suspect, so if you want to open a chat feel free, otherwise: thanks for the back-and-forth. –  Wesley Murch Oct 4 '11 at 20:59
@Wesley: For the record, I won't decline such flags unless the flagger is specifically asking for vote removal. –  Robert Harvey Oct 4 '11 at 21:04
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In this case, "serial upvoter" is me and this time, it took me about 2 minutes to re-check my votes listed in your link.

Most answers I upvoted are nothing special - simple and correct stuff - except for maybe this one which taught me a little bit I didn't know before.

gee it took me more time to compose my answer here than review those I upvoted

PS. in case if you wonder about who's that guy I upvoted, just search the web for something like "Java ME Giguere"

PPS. Given some of the comments, I would also like to make it perfectly clear that my primary purpose was to upvote the answers that look good to me, not to pass rep points to answerer.

  • I mean if, say, my upvotes would be somehow "dismissed" by the system then I'd probably complain and I'd do my best to justify the upvote. If, on the other hand, system would "eat" (some of) rep points from my upvotes, due to rep limit or somehow else, that wouldn't concern me much.
    Summing up, I am not going to workaround potential glitches of the bad-pattern-detection system by simulating "thorough mental activity" on Q/A that takes me half a minute to up/down-vote.
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Nice. Still: beware that such votes might be reverted. I don't know the internals of the fraud detection, but it might have a hard time telling legit "serial" upvoting from vote fraud. –  Arjan Oct 4 '11 at 20:57
@Arjan well as long as I feel I can justify my votes when needed (say, here at meta), I really don't care. Generally, I don't worry much about "false positives" of fraud detection mechanism since I know there are ways to handle detection error if it happens (mod flag, post on meta, mail to SO team). –  gnat Oct 4 '11 at 21:04
Sure, no need to worry. (Like: there won't be any penalty.) I was just trying to say that in the end 9 upvotes might become zero after a day or 36 hours, while 3 upvotes might last. (But: I don't know.) –  Arjan Oct 4 '11 at 21:07
Thanks for explaining, I gave the correct answer to Michael as I felt he best answered the procedural question where as you explained the cause in this instance. –  Alex Mathers Oct 5 '11 at 5:07
@Arjan understood. I added the PPS to clarify my perspective on rep points in this case –  gnat Oct 5 '11 at 7:15
I can't upvote twice, @gnat ;-) As an aside: nice to see that the upvotes have not (yet!) been reverted by some script. But maybe it has not done its job yet. –  Arjan Oct 5 '11 at 22:23
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I've had runs of upvotes like this a time or 3

  • My last x answers
  • A bunch of answers that all had similar rep (eg from my reputation tab, sorted by rep)
  • Similar theme (where I've linked or could be found by search)

It is a bit odd but it could well be legitimate.

I just reckon it is a very grateful user who feels one vote isn't enough, especially if they've been banging their head against a wall for a week...

It'll be picked up if it's wrong or some sock puppetry

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Let me know next time this happens so I can post some balancing downvotes for you. :) –  JNK Oct 10 '11 at 20:18
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Often if I am trying to understand a topic, I will skim all the answers/questions from a user that has provided a good answer on that topic, opening the interesting ones in a new tab. As I go along I will close the tabs that don’t have useful content in them.

I may then go back to the tabs I learned from and up vote the contents there.

So lots of up votes at about the same time, does not mean I read the content at the same time.

Also when searching for information on how to use a API, often 1 user will have provided a lot of the answers, so that one use will get lots of up votes from me if the answers are good. It could then take many weeks until someone else searches for answers about the same API.

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Ian were you standing behind my back when I did the discussed upvotes? :) –  gnat Oct 5 '11 at 18:11
@IanRingrose I understand your process, but I don't understand what you are gaining by allocating the votes at the end instead of while you are reading each question and answer. Also by closing the tabs of non-useful questions does that mean you never allocate downvotes? –  Alex Mathers Oct 6 '11 at 4:36
This is how I do it. +1 –  jcolebrand Oct 6 '11 at 4:53
@Alex, "not useful to me" is not the the same as "unhelpful to anyone" - content has to be very bad to get a downvote from me. I sometimes wait until the end to upvote, as I don't know enough until then to know what is "correct". –  Ian Ringrose Oct 6 '11 at 9:49
This matches what I've seen with my occasional upvote patterns –  gbn Oct 6 '11 at 19:20
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Should we and how can we report suspected vote rigging?

Yes - fire an E-Mail at

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or flag one of the suspected user's posts and ask a moderator to take a look, since we can look into that kind of thing. –  studiohack Oct 5 '11 at 1:31
@Pekka Thanks for your answer. I went with the majority favoring the flagging system over email. –  Alex Mathers Oct 5 '11 at 5:21
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Here is another alternative : The Regulator Headquarters chat room on meta.

Moderators drop by once in a while, so you can report your suspicions there. I've reported a lot of evil on there and action has been taken on every one of them.

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Alternately the tavern on the meta often has people in there if you just want a second pair of eyes. –  jcolebrand Oct 6 '11 at 4:54
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