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I just noticed that I lost a bunch of points from my reputation score on Stack Overflow, and I used the "reputation" tab on my user profile page to try and track down the cause.

During my investigation, I noticed there was an unusual event of type "reversal". In the normal place of a question title, it says "voting corrected".

Yesterday, I lost 172 reputation points when "voting [was] corrected"

  • What does this mean, and what caused it?
  • Did I do something wrong?
  • Why did I lose all of that reputation? Is the system punishing me for leaving too many good answers?
  • Is there any way to earn it back?

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so you made up for the rep loss with a post that got 250+ upvotes :p. – tryingToGetProgrammingStraight Dec 8 '14 at 5:51
@tryingToGetProgrammingStraight - Nope. It got CW status on Mar 25 '12 according to the edit history. So, no points for the OP, but badges? yeah sure! – The Dark Side Apr 9 at 10:07
@tryingToGetProgrammingStraight Do you even get points for meta posts? – mikeazo Sep 8 at 12:12
@mikeazo: Yes, you do. You do get rep. points for up-votes meta posts. – Ébe Isaac Sep 25 at 5:42
What is this CW status? – Ébe Isaac Sep 25 at 5:42
@ÉbeIsaac Community Wiki – Matt Oct 6 at 18:25
@ÉbeIsaac You don't get points for Community Wiki upvotes. – HDE 226868 Oct 10 at 0:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 313 down vote accepted

What is voting fraud?

Voting fraud is the systematic voting against correct voting rationales. Fraud most often happens with a single user continually voting (up or down) on many of your posts within a short period of time. This is not considered normal behavior and the system will not allow it.

If mass voting continues to happen between two certain IP addresses (voting each other up) or from a single user, or looks just plain suspicious in general, moderators and/or developers may investigate the matter and disciplinary action may be taken against the users involved with the fraud.

When does serial upvoting occur?

Most often when you get unexpectedly serial upvoted, believe it or not, it's just a user trying to give you extra reputation. They saw a post of yours that was extraordinarily helpful to them and they feel that going through your posts systematically and upvoting them is the appropriate way of granting you additional reputation (apparently they've forgotten about the bounty system).

Occasionally, it also occurs between two users who have made an agreement to upvote each other, or between one user and a sock puppet account trying to game the system for extra reputation (which will often lead to suspension).

When does serial downvoting occur?

Pretty much any time serial downvoting occurs is when a user disagrees with something another user has posted, either as an answer or comment. The user then visits their profile and, like with serial upvoting, systematically visits their posts and downvotes them. Occasionally other reasons for this occurring will prevail, like a joke being played on the user.

What if I think I'm the victim of voting fraud?

If the voting fraud is in the progress of happening or just happened recently, don't worry about it. You should wait at least 24 hours after noticing before becoming concerned. The system should detect it and reverse it for you. Please do not try to get help on this issue on meta or by flagging for a moderator. All they will do is tell you to wait for the voting fraud script to run (they won't run it for you just this once).

If the 24 hours has already passed and the suspicious votes have not been reversed, you can then flag one of your posts and explain what happened so a moderator can look into it. It is generally preferred that you avoid asking about them on a site's Meta since details of the investigation cannot be divulged and you won't actually get any information that will be useful to other members of the community.

See also: What should you do if you're serial downvoted & it isn't automatically reversed within 24 hours?

How does the system detect voting fraud?

Every night around 03:00 UTC, a voting fraud detection script is run that looks for patterns such as these. It basically looks for users who have upvoted another user many times. The number is fairly low within a given amount of time (the exact mechanics are kept secret). When the system detects this pattern, all of the votes cast from that user to the user affected are reversed and it prints a "voting corrected" statement in the affected user's reputation history to indicate what has occurred.

The value of the reversal could be anything, as it is the combined amount of all the votes being reversed (up and down, although most serial voting occurs in one direction). If you had reached the reputation cap, the value may show up as blank if none of the votes being reversed actually affected your reputation on that day.

Does the system detect voting fraud on deleted posts?

Yes. If you serial vote on posts and one or more of them end up deleted at a later time, the script will still reverse those votes if they are detected.

A regular user may notice this "feature" when one runs across a spam post, checks the spammer's account, then discovers and downvotes a series of "answers" having the same canned spam content. Even if all the posts are flagged and further removed, some time later one can find a series of +1 undownvote entries in their reputation history marked by the time when the vote reversal script typically runs (example).

Why don't I get to keep the reputation?

The reputation was removed because it is not proper behavior and it is not allowed. The votes were completely invalidated by the system and thus the reputation gain from them was also invalidated. The only way you can gain this reputation back is to go post some more and get some legitimate upvotes on those posts.

Should I be concerned about reversal statements on my profile?

No, not at all. It's only an indication of reputation change. After all, we can't control the actions of other users. It's very rare where we'd run across a user who was committing the voting fraud themselves on their own account, and in most instances of that, they will have already been dealt with accordingly. You should in no way be concerned with reversal statements in your reputation history.

What else should I know about this subject?

  • Reversals trigger a reputation recalculation.

    Whenever serial voting gets reversed, all days involved in the serial voting will be recalculated as if the serial votes had never happened, and any reputation you might have lost due to those serial votes hitting the reputation cap will be given to you at that time. Serial voters will not prevent you from gaining reputation that you deserve.

  • The votes can be re-cast.

    Votes reversed by the detection script can be re-cast by the user at a later time, so long as the user does not again engage in serial voting which causes them to be reversed (yet again).

  • There is no automated punishment or notifications.

    Currently, serial voting reversals only reverse the votes. You can see what happened by viewing your reputation history, but that is about the extent of what the script does. There is no automated ban for users who engage in serial voting, nor do those users receive any form of notification that their votes were reversed.

    Continual abuse of the system which causes multiple reversals can lead to a suspension, but the review process for such a suspension is completely manual. No automated flags are ever generated for this behavior, though moderators do have access to some statistics that can help fight repeat offenders. If you find you are the victim of serial voting multiple times within a short time span, feel free to flag one of your posts for moderator attention and explain the situation so they can investigate further.

share|improve this answer
Can I see if I'm the victim of serial upvoting? I mean, I just had a dozen of my answers upvoted within the space of a minute, and I want to know if I can see if this is all by the same user. Or do I have to wait until tomorrow to see if the votes get reversed? – Mr Lister Mar 31 '14 at 17:48
consider editing to add a section clarifying that it is not possible to know who voted. That would make it more convenient to dupe-close questions like Can I know who have done serial voting to me? – gnat Aug 24 '14 at 9:14
What happens when I find a useful post and go through the other posts by the same person and upvote them if they are good after reading through them? – One Face Feb 23 at 16:15
@OneFace: SO hasn't properly implemented the MindReader interface yet. It should be done in 6 to 8 weeks. – Deduplicator Mar 24 at 1:44
@Deduplicator Very interesting. Would this be implemented in all SE sites? – One Face Mar 24 at 9:00
@Deduplicator, funny. :) But without recurring to mind reading, SE does have smarter checks than this for other abuse prevention systems. Things one could check are e.g. previous activity on the tag by the voter, previous voting activity, regularity of voting rate, helpfulness on the voted posts (e.g. edits, comments, votes on other answers and the question). Sure, in the end it's just a reputation change and moderators presumably do check such things for serious decisions like bans. – Nemo May 5 at 5:38
Well thought, but a notification would be likely. – Pugazh May 5 at 14:50
@OneFace, not that I have any insider data, but from a programmatic perspective that doesn't seem like that would be that hard to check for. The amount of time it takes to read an answer and upvote it based on merit (probably reading the question itself, and some other answers as well; sometimes voting up a different person's answer, maybe leaving a comment, sometimes not voting up the answer you clicked the link for) vs. the amount of time to just open a link and upvote, should be very different. – Wildcard Oct 18 at 5:41

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