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I initiated a close vote against a question on Stack Overflow based on a meta post (now deleted) by the same author.

Because I expected something to happen, I checked the original poster's profile, when they had 5 downvotes. The user now has 20 downvotes, and everyone but one user involved was serially downvoted.

So I flagged the question for moderator attention, asking for a cool-down period, since it's fairly easy to tell that the OP is downvoting the questions and answers of four of the five close-voters.

My flag was declined with "declined - We're not seeing a pattern of this."

How can there not be a pattern here, when fifteen downvotes were cast, all against users who close-voted?

I know these votes will most likely get rolled back, but shouldn't the user be given a cool-down period?

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    Let the vote fraud script do its thing first. If any suspicious downvotes are identified and reversed, a log entry will appear on the culprit's history and it'll be a lot easier for the moderators to act. – yannis Jun 6 '13 at 15:10
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Due to how the downvotes were cast, the pattern wasn't immediately obvious. Remember, moderators can't directly view anyone's votes - they rely on the system to expose patterns, and this one wasn't obvious.

The moderator handling the flag pinged me about it, and I dug in a bit further. The problem is being dealt with.

As Yannis noted, this stuff tends to become a lot more visible after the scripts run - that's why the guidance for dealing with serial voting is "wait at least 24 hours". Waiting to flag has one other advantage... It gives the voter time to finish his little tantrum and cool down a bit, potentially making him more receptive to guidance from the moderators.

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    As one of the, uh, "victims", I was going to wait until tomorrow to flag this, if the script wouldn't catch it first. The pattern was pretty obvious though. All possible targets, downvoted, at around the same time, a few minutes after the closure. Maybe this pattern occurs so often, without actual malice, that it can't be called a pattern though. I'm no expert, I freely admit. =) – J. Steen Jun 6 '13 at 15:13
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    It's really obvious if you're looking at the raw votes. But making that information widely available would be... asking for trouble. – Shog9 Jun 6 '13 at 15:17
  • There are good reasons votes are anonymous, agreed. =) – J. Steen Jun 6 '13 at 15:18
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    I personally do not want access to raw votes. I can already see patterns of votes against me (like here on meta, where the community is so small and active that even people I thought agreed with me have downvoted me quite a bit), and I can say that it's something that shouldn't be viewable to moderators in the raw. – George Stocker Jun 6 '13 at 15:20
  • @GeorgeStocker Why shouldn't moderators be able to see raw votes, but only on questions that aren't their owns. (If really needed that someone sees them, the moderator could flag it himself so that another mod can handle it?) – bwoebi Jun 6 '13 at 16:00
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    @bwoebi When you can see the physical interactions between users, votes, and posts, you start to realize that there are noble lies we tell ourselves to be able to sleep at night. And then you start to lose sleep. It's just a bad idea. – George Stocker Jun 6 '13 at 17:13
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I was wondering when you were going to bring this up to meta.

I declined your second flag, for the following reasons:

  • We can't see downvotes until they reach a certain threshold. In both cases, this user didn't downvote people enough to breach the threshold, so we couldn't see it.

  • For your first flag, I marked it as helpful, and contacted the community team about it.

  • For your second flag, you flagged it mere minutes after the first -- which still wouldn't show up because it didn't hit the threshold.

Even though you were relatively certain it was a user revenge downvoting, you could not know for certain. Heck, I can't even know for certain because I can't see anything but patterns of votes.

I've handled this issue in concert with the Community Team.

What to do when you think someone is revenge downvoting

Follow the steps outlined here.

In the future, the best way to handle this is to flag it, but recognize that we don't have the tools to see revenge downvoting until it reaches a certain point, so you may get a declined flag, even if we end up later doing something about it. This is because we have to communicate with the Community team and ask them to look into it, and they aren't always around when we're clearing flags.

No need to flag it more than once once it's marked as helpful.

What I could do better

Not decline the flag, even though no pattern has emerged (and I'm relatively certain the revenge downvote script would pick it up). Mark it as helpful and move on. If there's a case where someone is abusing custom flags to raise their 'helpful' flag count, then I could start declining them.

  • I was wondering when you were going to bring this up to meta. You know me so well :) I appreciate the detailed response, and will certainly keep this in mind. – LittleBobbyTables Jun 6 '13 at 15:14
  • @LBT You're a fairly active user, so I figured it was going to come up. I contacted the Community Team just after I handled the flags. Sometimes the desire to get to '0' flags outweighs the desire to make sure to mark the good ones as helpful. In this case, I was still a little flustered that you had just brought this issue up twice in such a short time frame. I'm sorry about that. – George Stocker Jun 6 '13 at 15:15
  • No worries, and sorry if I jumped the gun on posting this question. If this is just rehashing meta.stackexchange.com/questions/28756/…, and isn't adding anything to the site, please feel free to delete this question. – LittleBobbyTables Jun 6 '13 at 15:16

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