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Last month (Jan 31 to be precise), I observed that 8 of my answers on Unix & Linux were upvoted within a couple of minutes. It seemed like serial upvoting but I decided upon waiting to see if it gets reversed.

Four weeks have passed by without any reversal. While I don't have any conclusive evidence, but prima facie it looks like serial upvoting.

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Do the scripts intended for detecting voting anomalies really work? Do those run on all sites? I have doubts.

  • @LowerClassOverflowian Maybe those scripts don't run on other sites (this wasn't SO)? – devnull Feb 28 '14 at 6:52
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    if your upvoter voted on 5-6 different users that day (do you recall WinterBash voting hat requirements), this would likely shut down serial detection scripts. Once upon a time I upvoted 9 posts of a particular guy in 5 minutes and it wasn't reverted, because back then I was generally voting like crazy, using all 40 votes up to the limit at multiple other posts / users. – gnat Feb 28 '14 at 9:08
  • @gnat It suggests that serial voting would be detected only if one user was voted one a given day. Is that correct? If so, it needs to be looked into. – devnull Feb 28 '14 at 9:40
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    well I would not go as far as to say only one - remember, voting hat required five users at least. It's unlikely that script is that dumb so as to skip if abuser gives 1-2 votes to "insurance" target user(s) and flushes all the rest to the real target... – gnat Feb 28 '14 at 9:48
  • It's rather downvoting in general. – Quidam May 24 '17 at 11:34
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The scripts run on all sites. And yes, they work. They have occasionally broken in the past, but we try to keep a sharp eye on them and folks do tend to notice and let us know when they fall apart.

The purpose of the script is to identify patterns of fraud: one account being used purely to inflate or deflate another account's reputation. It isn't intended to stop someone from gaining reputation too quickly: there are other (less dramatic) limits in place for this purpose.

What usually trips folks up is the assumption that what they're seeing on their profile is an accurate reflection of what is happening on the site. But of course, you only see the votes that affect your account - you don't see who is casting them or where they're coming from or what else the voters are doing.

I've found that I tend to collect a lot of upvotes on days when I'm particularly visible: on Stack Overflow that tends to mean a featured meta post, but on smaller sites it can be something as simple as posting a well-received answer that sits on the front page for a bit: suddenly, folks are aware that you exist and know something - and some of them will go looking to see if you know anything else of interest to them.

The exact workings of the voting fraud detection scripts are kept secret to discourage abuse. Serial voting is one of the criteria, but not the only one - and while false positive/negative results are always possible, in general the behavior is not so naive as folks commonly make it out to be. If you're concerned that someone is voting for you blindly or maliciously (up-votes or down-votes), feel free to flag one of the posts involved and ask a moderator to check up on it - but normally, you shouldn't need to be concerned about this either way.

  • Thanks for your answer. Do I need to flag one of the posts in the snapshot above for you to investigate a possible serial upvote? – devnull Mar 10 '14 at 18:51
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    No; I already checked into this and found nothing to worry about. I included that advice for future readers. – Shog9 Mar 10 '14 at 18:52

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