This was just my second downvote (though unintentional) but the person whose answer I downvoted came to know that I downvoted his answer. Here's the link : jQuery radio buttons not responding.

I searched so much to find out who upvoted or downvoted my questions and answers but all I found was that the votes are anonymous to all except the site admins. Then how did this person (Name: RASG) come to know that I downvoted him when This person never knows me, nor do I know him?

  • 7
    I think he just checked reputation changes of co-answerers. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:20
  • 8
    @Gert no, the "-1" for downvotes is visible only to you when viewing your own reputation. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:32
  • 1
    All he could see was that you have cast only 2 downvotes ever so he took a lucky guess. BTW did you get notification for @ahmedtabrez he used? Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:33
  • @ShaDowWizArd Oh is it? I never waste my time tracking downvoters. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:46
  • @ShaDowWizArd It is possible to infer downvotes based on existing info if the user activity is sufficiently low. Example given in answer below.
    – Shawn Chin
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:49
  • @ShawnChin smart trick with the graph, didn't think of that. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 8:54
  • 4
    The million dollar question is - how do you prevent such an analysis? Or does it even matter?
    – Shawn Chin
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 9:02
  • 1
    possible duplicate of Is it possible to know who voted me?
    – apaderno
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 10:05
  • 4
    The best way to stop users from using analysis is to make so only 1 of ever 5 votes count, and make so add 5 points. Make this random. Only update the number the users can see every 20 votes. I think Youtube work somewhat like that with votes for videos. A system like that may not work with SO, since having 1 or 2 votes is important.
    – Tei
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 10:58
  • Vote early, vote often.
    – user7116
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:16
  • My answer is at the bottom, if anyone would like to see. And ahmedtabrez, its all good. I believe you didnt mean to downvote - plus, you took it back :)
    – RASG
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:56

6 Answers 6


Votes are anonymous. However, if one is looking for someone to blame it is possible to make a guess based on existing information.

Looking at your activity list, you were active in only that one question over the last 20 hours (which was when the downvote occured). Looking at your rep graph, you had 591 rep the day before and 430 after. Taking into account other rep changes (591 - 180 + 10 + 10 = 431) one can assume you've cast a downvote which accounts for the missing -1 not listed in the rep changes.

RASG could have done such an analysis on co-answerersŧ and suspected it was you. He left an accusing comment as bait, and you bit.

What can be done?

  • Ignore such comments. If you feel they are offensive, flag it as such.
  • Be more active. This makes such analysis a lot harder.
  • Most importantly, continue upvoting good answers and downvoting bad ones. If you are happy to share the reason for downvote, leave a comment. If users respond with a justification or fix, you can choose to revoke the downvote if you see fit.

ŧ I checked. The other answerers did not cast any downvotes during that period.

  • 16
    What a waste of energy (not your answer, which I upvoted). I wish people would spend their time and energy to improve a post/answer when it is downvoted. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 9:10
  • 3
    Now, guess whether or not I downvoted that question. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 20:41
  • 4
    "co-answerersŧ" I thought it was a bug in my monitor
    – ajax333221
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 20:37
  • 1
    @GertArnold: with the unfortunately usual naked downvotes how one is supposed to know how to improve the answer?
    – Balog Pal
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 17:16
  • 1
    @BalogPal I totally agree, but when the downvoter is unknown, starting a man hunt is a waste of energy. A simple question "care to explain?" is about all you can do. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 19:21

Well, in my defense - and hopefully I won't get downvotes for defending myself :) - about my answer, there is nothing to improve (for me at least, each person has their own way of coding) and the user who asked the question took it as the right one because it fixed his problem.

Now ahmedtabrez explained it was not his intention to hurt me, meaning, I believe, it wasn't personal (or because his answer, despite being right, was not chosen by Muzammil).

But think about how many people hide behind the anonymity of the downvote system and use it just to boost their own answers up?
It's frustrating to see that my efforts are not only not being rewarded, but also being penalized.

How did I know it was ahmedtabrez who downvoted?

I like to browse around the site constantly, so I'm always online.
I noticed the reputation drop at the top bar and went to question page.
Then, I just checked who was online at the time.

enter image description here

That's it.

Now the next question is: will people downvote this answer because they think it's not constructive or because they believe what I did is not right?

  • 11
    Not going to downvote; two reasons: reached my vote limit, and, more importantly, I feel that it's commendable to put yourself under scrutiny like this. I'd suggest you stop doing this.. Instead, just add a comment "why the downvote &c". Someone or the other will reply, even if it isn't that user, and tell you what's wrong. Anyway, a user isn't pinged if you use @reply in a comment unless they (a) edited the post, (b) posted the post, (c) commented on that post. So its fruitless to add the @reply. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:05
  • 2
    Also: But think about how many people hide behind the anonymity of the downvote system and use it just to boost its own answers up? Well, if an answer is good, then the downvotes of the other people won't make a difference--you'll get enough upvotes. Just take the downvotes into stride, and remember that in terms of rep, 5 downvotes=1 upvote. In terms of visibility, it can be a problem, but usually, on SO, the best answer gets voted to the top anyway. Also, this is a necessary evil of the system--not much we can do about it. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:09
  • 1
    Agree! RASG, I'm glad you responded but at the same time I'd say: stop wasting your time when you get downvoted. It's part of the game. Improve your post instead, if possible. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:10
  • 1
    Hi RASG, thanks for dropping by. You are right. I too am victim of this attitude like in the answer stackoverflow.com/questions/9859751/… (where I have 0 votes but some others have more than one). But never thought someone would someday accuse me of this when I didn't do it purposely (The vote was locked when I wanted to revoke) Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:14
  • 1
    +1 for explaining yourself so clearly - this case can surely be example for others in the future. :) Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 12:32
  • 2
    This method of "determining" who downvoted your posts is totally unreliable. That question probably had over 100 views when you got the downvote (and they are unique). It could have anyone. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 13:54
  • Did you guess who downloaded this answer? It wasn't me ;)
    – Shawn Chin
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 14:57

He must have guessed, only the SE developers have access to detailed voting data. Even moderators cannot see who voted on which post, though they can see some aggregate voting statistics to determine if voting fraud has happened.

There are several ways by which you can guess who downvoted with a relatively high chance. If someone commented negatively on the post, for example. Or just by observing that the reputation of another user participating in the question dropped by -1 just around the time you were downvoted.

  • Just to note: The last suggestion is not ideal way to check who downvoted us. Because anyone can be active (can participate) on more than one question at a time.
    – Himanshu
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:12

Votes are anonymous.

I think only devs with access to the database (and too much time) can figure out the voteres.

But sometimes people leave traces:

  • A comment
  • You got serially downvoted and an account has exactly the same downvotes cast at the same time.
  • Each downvote is logged with the time in your profile. So this person got downvoted, and searched all competitors to find a match.

But it still is a guess.

If you think an answer is bad, use downvote. Don't use downvotes for revenge or personal gain.


It must be a wild guess because there is no method to know who downvoted you. So he guessed because there is only one who can easily blame for it in a sherlock holmes manner.


The user can have noticed your reputation dropped by 1 or 2 points, but cannot say which answer you down-voted. Not even moderators know who down-voted what; I am not sure how a normal user would know that.

The user though the down-voter was who edited his post because the down-vote happened right right after the edit, but it could be a user down-voted the answer right after your edit, and you down-voted a completely different answer.

On Stack Exchange 2.0 sites, where the reputation on the meta site is the reputation on the main site, I could know when the reputation of a user dropped of 1 or 2 points, as the reputation shown in the meta site is synchronized with the main site, and it could happen the meta site still show the old reputation. Still, I could not know which reputation has been down-voted.

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