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I've had a few concerns over a new form of "spam" - that is, through voting.
A while back, I had seen some wild reputation increases to my account, amongst others, that seemingly felt weird - as I've barely participated in asking questions or providing answers. Earlier today, this sentiment was echoed by another user in chat:
and like 250 this month? it seems like someone is spam upvoting
This was another user that saw a 250 rep increase, but has been inactive for quite a while. For a site that hasn't seen more than 5 questions a day, that was really weird. To put things even more out of hand, it seems like each vote has been placed on a question.
I did some investigation of my own, and it seems like I've found a badge hunter. More of a... gold badge hunter. This user is among the top 3 voters of the site.
Looking into this user's profile, this user only has under 200 rep, and has posted a single question, which was received differently. One thing caught my eye:
all time by type 581 up 535 question 1 down 47 answer
Each vote is an up vote (with the exception of one), and there are 535 up votes on questions. There are 535 questions in the entire site.
Using reputation stats from user profiles, I came with the conclusion that these votes are...
- Done within a short period of time. 5 question votes within a couple of minutes
- Done in [near] perfect chronological order: The earlier the vote, the earlier the question was asked. As if the user had gone through the list of questions in order, and placed an up vote on each one.
I see this as incredibly problematic. First:
It dangerously inflates reputation.
Votes are not done based on their content, but simply for voting. Therefore, reputation loses it value as a way to measure expertise.
It's like serial up voting.
Generally, when we hear the term "serial up voting", we think of a voting ring, where one user continuously up votes another. This is negative for the targeted user. Well, here, we've got a voting ring with the site and this user. A user continuously up votes the site, causing negative damage for the site.
We mix good and bad content.
Since low quality questions are a victim of the voting spree, many get meddled with the rest of "good quality" questions, despite being closed as off-topic, too broad, or whatever the reason. We can no longer reliably sort questions by quality with the very system that was designed to help us.
... And the rest of voting fraud issues outlined in this meta post.
I've got a couple questions on this:
Is this comparable to serial voting? Should such votes be reversed? How should we determine whether or not to reverse them?
Should we stop this? Let it be? Is this really that big of a problem for sites? (I would argue that it's less of an issue for graduated sites that receive large amounts of content, but what about beta sites that rarely see more than a few questions a day)