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I've got strong suspicions that a particular user is regularly strategically down-voting competing answers that appear on questions he's answered (the answers in question are equal, if not always better than the one he's posted).

Is this abuse of the system, or should I accept that they're his downvotes, and he can do whatever he wants with them (if I'm right, he's clearly happy to take the -1 rep hit each time he does it)?

Furthermore, will this be hard (impossible?) for moderators to prove/ take action upon; they can't see who voted on what post can they?

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Fyi; I believe the term for this around here is "strategic down voting" – Andrew Barber Jun 19 '12 at 9:21
Sidenote: Mods can not see who voted onto what...Devs on the other hand can see if you've washed your hands on your way back from the toilette. And there are quite a few devs which are also active Mods on SO. – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 19 '12 at 9:24
@urist I, uhhh was in a hurry... I washed up at the kotchen sink... My pee is sterile! – Andrew Barber Jun 19 '12 at 9:28
@urist I took inspiration from your great "I sold this account on eBay" idea for an account change I had planned for a long time! Thanks. – Pëkka Jun 19 '12 at 9:41
@DiscountGucciHandbags: Awesome! :) I already thought about changing my name to "For Sale D 49.99" or something similar and setting up a honeypot address to see who shows up...but wasn't sure if the devs would appreciate that. ;) – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 19 '12 at 10:35
@DiscountGucciHandbags: And that actually raises some questions, e.g. if I flag you now for spam...and the mod does not look twice... *eg* – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 19 '12 at 10:37
Don't compete with answers then. It is the only way to not accrue downvotes. – user7116 Jun 19 '12 at 12:26
@sixlettervariables: I'm not bothered about the downvotes, I just wondered whether it's classed as "gaming the system". Furthermore, it's not just me who's been affected by it; I've seen other users commenting "Why the -1?" on posts I suspect he's strategically downvoted, and didn't see why they should be punished (albeit only -2, QQ etc...) for doing nothing wrong. – Matt Jun 19 '12 at 13:06
Since when are strategic downvotes against any rules? Jeff Atwood even asked a question publicizing/glorifying? the technique. And since downvotes are anonymous, don't require explanation, and other answers can be considered not-useful since MY answer is superior to yours (arrogant assumption) I don't see how it warrants a flag at all. Granted this is a very d!*kish thing to do but I don't see how it violates any rules, if anything this question borders on 'whining about downvotes' – Mike B Jun 19 '12 at 13:30
@MikeB: if anything this question borders on 'whining about downvotes', I fail to see where, during any part of this question, I have whined. In fact, I only suspected the user of downvoting my answer once, and I can happily cope with -2. However, after seeing other users wonder why their (very good) posts got randomly downvoted (on multiple questions on which the user in question has answered, and is downvote clean), I wondered (not whined) about whether anything a) should, and b) could be done about it... but regardless, thanks for the valued and educated input. – Matt Jun 19 '12 at 13:36
@MikeB: Your whole question revolves around the notion of unwarranted downvotes and how to reverse them.? I asked "Is this abuse of the system, or should I accept that they're his downvotes, and he can do whatever he wants with them" not "Oh noez, my awesome answer has been downvoted by this cheater, please ban him for life". – Matt Jun 19 '12 at 13:46
"Is this abuse of the system, or should I accept that they're his downvotes" - In that case your question is a dupe of Should everyone have to defend a down-vote? where my point is reinforced. Downvotes do not have to be explained and go un-checked unless a specific user is being targeted – Mike B Jun 19 '12 at 13:50
I couldn't find anything resembling a strategic downvote in your history. Link to answer in question please? – CodesInChaos Jun 19 '12 at 15:24
@CodeInChaos: I purposefully didn't mention the site this occurs on, or the user I'm suspicious of as this question isn't about whether it's a strategic downvote or not, it was supposed to be about strategic downvotes in the general sense. – Matt Jun 19 '12 at 15:27
If it's the case I suspect, we're talking about ca. 4 downvotes on competing answers total over the live of his account. That's certainly a bit early to talk about clear pattern. I'd probably just put a comment on one of his answers, asking him to explain his downvotes. – CodesInChaos Jun 19 '12 at 15:36
up vote 2 down vote accepted

If I've just tendered an answer, of course I think it is better than all the others (well, most of the time I do).

Do you see my point? "Which answer is better?" can be very subjective. The culprit can cast a single downvote per answer, but he cannot really influence the community, and if the question is attracting some attention then the community should even things out. People seldom throw around downvotes without reading and judging the merit of the answer, so the culprit's single downvote should have limited effect in the long term.

So if you report this and it gets examined by a dev, what is going to be the outcome? Can you prove that the guy was trying to game the system? Are you asking the devs to ajudicate whether some answers are better than the culprit's and they don't deserve the -2 rep he visited upon them? If it is a game that he is playing, he will learn after a while that good quality answers earn you more rep than downvoting your opponent's answers.

OTOH, if he is continually targetting the same user(s) then the anti fraud scripts should pick that up and trigger corrective action.

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People are free to cast their down votes ( or upvotes) any way they please. The system explicitly allows for voting on questions you have taken part in.

If this was a Bad Thing, then the voting system should be changed to not allow people to vote on other answers in a question they've answered. This is easy to do, but has not been done. Therefore, I think it is not appropriate to flag someone for that.

I also believe that it doesn't really affect anything when this happens, so before we get all bent out of shape about it, we should ask the dev team if they have data on how much this actually happens, and whether it has materially affected the community.

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I'm glad that I can vote on other answers to questions. Sometimes you've just got to admit that you've been 'outdone' – ThePower Jun 19 '12 at 14:37

The only reason why I am answering is so that I can downvote the other answers.

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