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Referencing This App in particular. (Update: the app post has now been removed. You need 10K on Stack Apps to see the deleted post.)

It's an App that allows you to auto-downvote every downvote-able thing on any SE page.

I have 2 questions.

  1. Does that app actually violate the SE Terms of Service?
  2. If it does not, should it be banned anyway for "encouraging unwanted behaviour" (or similar)?

Personally, I think it is a problem that is adequately dealt with via current mechanisms (the pile of downvotes it's received) and that anybody who chooses to use it will be similarly dealt with via current mechanisms (vote-reversal etc.).

IMO, it's unlikely to cause an increase in serial downvoting (serial downvoters have never needed an app to do what they do) and it's (almost certainly) intended as a joke/parody. It's a tool. A joke tool at that. Just because it *could* be used for unwanted purposes is not a reason to ban it.

What do you think?

  • 7
    No. Downvoting every post isn't bannable and moderators don't have tools to allow them to know, as it should be. Dowvoting all posts is not serial downvoting. There is nothing wrong with the app staying, voting on it is enough. – bjb568 Jun 15 '16 at 11:09
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    Downvoting all posts, indiscriminately of content, as soon as you open the question list is not serial downvoting? sure, it isn't hounding a specific user, but I would argue that is definitely serial downvoting. – Dan Pantry Jun 15 '16 at 11:11
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    @Dan Serial downvoting is specific to a single user. – bjb568 Jun 15 '16 at 11:12
  • @bjb568isnotapebble or a tag. or a website. or a community. – Ave Jun 15 '16 at 11:13
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    @bjb568isnotapebble sure, the definition of it on the meta is that it is downvoting a single user, that's not something I will debate. But that definition either should, IMO, be expanded, or a new term created for this behavior. Either way, I don't think it should be allowed. Downvoting is used to judge the content of a question or an answer, not for "the lulz". – Dan Pantry Jun 15 '16 at 11:14
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    @BJB IIRC auto-flagging and auto-voting are banned. (auto- meaning, in any way other than a human doing it manually) – M.A.R. Jun 15 '16 at 11:14
  • No, @ardaozkal. Users may vote as they like, with the exception of serial downvoting and sock puppets. Almost all cases of serial downvoting are caught by an automated script that looks specifically for voting a certain direction on a single user's post. SE's definition of serial voting is only that which is targeted at a single user. – bjb568 Jun 15 '16 at 11:15
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    @bjb568isnotapebble no, the script the OP has linked downvotes questions/answers immediately as soon as you go on the question before you have a chance to read it, and is currently bugged such that you cannot undo the vote. – Dan Pantry Jun 15 '16 at 11:18
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    Current behavior by the script hurts the community and especially new users. You ask a new question? Instant multiple downvotes out of the blue. You answer? Again random downvotes. If I was a new user, I'd stop using the site. If I was a long time user, I'd stop using the site after some while. – Ave Jun 15 '16 at 11:20
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    1) This effect is theoretical and won't happen, 2) that's the fault of users who install it, 3) doing bad things is different from breaking the rules for voting which are pretty clear. – bjb568 Jun 15 '16 at 11:23
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    I'm pretty sure there's a rule against Stack Apps that flag without good reason. Note that that is for flags, not for votes; probably because flags increase the workload of the moderators. – S.L. Barth Jun 15 '16 at 11:24
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    I don't support this app because it denies me the pleasure of downvoting each post in an off topic question. – Won't Jun 15 '16 at 13:30
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    @bjb568isnotapebble I disagree. Hardware Recommendations has its own policy that technical support questions are off-topic; we made that as a community, without staff input, and we enforce it as a community. – ArtOfCode Jun 15 '16 at 13:49
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    The sad part about this app is that the downvotes will probably be appropriate most of the time on SO. – Mysticial Jun 15 '16 at 18:24
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    Worth to mention, the user who submitted this got himself a network wide suspension. I hope it will become permanent suspension, we don't need that kind of people around. – ShaWiz Jun 18 '16 at 16:50
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  1. Does that app actually violate the SE Terms of Service?
  2. If it does not, should it be banned anyway for "encouraging unwanted behaviour" (or similar)?

TOS

No, this script does not violate the Terms of Service[IANAL]. There is nothing in the TOS about how you may or may not vote; in fact, votes are deliberately left out of almost every help page there is. The major things you're not allowed to do are to use multiple accounts to manipulate votes or to serially vote on another user's content; other than that, votes are private, personal, and you can do pretty much whatever you want with them.

Unwanted behaviour

Indiscriminate voting on every post has been discussed before:

In the case of a user who is not contributing positively to a site but is just systematically upvoting every question or answer, a suspension seems like it could be a justified as a response

D.W., ""Spam Voting" - Should we stop it?"

This is from an upvoted, accepted, bountied answer, so it's fairly obvious that this behaviour is unwanted, detrimental, and could potentially be suspension-worthy.

Removing Apps

In my opinion, apps that encourage or enable behaviour that goes against the community rules and standards, such as the above, should be treated as this one has and subsequently deleted.

Letting the app remain for a while so that it can be downvoted and gently mocked is good because it sends a signal:

  • to the author that this is not something we want
  • to anyone watching that this behaviour is not going to be popular

However, once we're done with that, there's no reason to keep it around - anyone using it is probably going to get themselves into trouble, especially on smaller sites, so we shouldn't encourage this by leaving the app around. The community should delete it if possible; if not, then enough flags would provide basis for moderator action.

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    There doesn't seem to be a specific close vote reason on StackApps for Apps or scripts that encourage or enable behaviour that goes against the community rules and standards, right? – rene Jun 15 '16 at 11:36
  • @rene Not a close reason, no - I don't know if closing is even a thing on SA, but in any case closing would be the wrong thing to do. – ArtOfCode Jun 15 '16 at 11:37
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    My point is (also in reaction on your comment on my answer) that this can be community handled. Maybe helped a bit by a mod (by casting the last close vote for example) but not unilateral – rene Jun 15 '16 at 11:42
  • @rene yeah, understood. If the community can do it, that's preferable (I'll edit that in) - I'm just not sure of the moderation tools on SA. – ArtOfCode Jun 15 '16 at 11:43
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    There is a lack of close voters (by rep that is) and I'm not even close to 3K there. – rene Jun 15 '16 at 11:44
  • @rene, I voted to close using a custom reason. I don't know if you can see/use that via the flag menu. – Awesome Poodles Jun 15 '16 at 20:11
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The app is distasteful but it is still the responsibility for users who install the script to understand the consequences.

The script helps you in assisting a particular usage pattern on the sites. Some voting patterns do ring bells and I expect this particular one is detectable, when needed. Once detected it can be addressed by moderators with their current tooling.

The app shouldn't be banned, the inventor/creator shouldn't be warned. I can't find anything in the Terms of Service that make the posting of the script breach that legal agreement.
The users that install and use the script are liable for any harm that is done by that script.

It goes without saying that we can't stress enough that the script is a bad joke and better shouldn't be considered for actual use.

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    The particular author is a trouble maker - I've flagged several of his or her posts and comments before. I think they're just trying to be a troll and see what they can get away with. – Tim Malone Jun 15 '16 at 11:24
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    @TimMalone they are probably a sockpuppet too. Most their questions/posts are answered by the same person. – Ave Jun 15 '16 at 11:27
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    @TimMalone I don't care about users, their past or future, that is for moderators to sort out. The question I answered is about the posting of an app that can be possible harmful when used by others. – rene Jun 15 '16 at 11:31
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    I tend to agree with many of your answers, but this one I can't really agree with given that this behaviour is bannable. If an app is encouraging suspension-worthy behaviour and nothing else, is there really a reason to keep it around? – ArtOfCode Jun 15 '16 at 11:34
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    @ArtOfCode Oh, let's hope it is moderated into hell by the community and deleted. I'm not much in favor of unilateral moderation by SE or a diamond just because it leverages something that is possible. If you don't want that to happen, fix that. – rene Jun 15 '16 at 11:40
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    @rene That's fair. I suggested Tim Stone do it because I don't know about deletion on SA, either. – ArtOfCode Jun 15 '16 at 11:41
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I feel that the script should be banned and the author warned (at the very least). The script encourages behaviour that would require moderator intervention at best (Especially with their planned auto-flag feature) due to serial downvoting.

Allowing scripts that would allow for its user to be banned simply for using it does not add any value to the SE community, nor does indiscriminately serial downvoting posts with this script.

My POV is that even if it is not against the ToS, it is not really adding anything to the site and has more potential to harm than do good.

8

I'd argue that it goes against the social contract of the site - as per the why is voting important page - it in no way reflects the quality of lack of it in an answer, and attempts to break the voting system.

Lets see what the [help] says about it.

Voting is central to our model of providing quality questions and answers; it is how …

  • good content rises to the top
  • incorrect content falls to the bottom
  • users who consistently provide useful content accrue reputation and are granted more privileges on the site

Such a script does none of those things.

IANAL, but use of a script like this feels like it could be interpreted as going against parts of the TOS - specifically

(e) contains a virus, trojan horse, worm, time bomb or other computer programming routine or engine that is intended to damage, detrimentally interfere with, surreptitiously intercept or expropriate any system, data or information

Since auto-downvoting posts could result in the same problems that a regular downvote would cause. or result in sympathy upvoting and such for a post that didn't necessarily deserve a downvote. Its potentially damaging to the voting dynamic.

Not to mention it might push a slightly borderline post to the point where it may get roombaed - it would push an upvoted question to zero score. It might also confuse newbies (into self deleting?). I suppose people who're on the edge of a question/answer ban or new users with few posts would be affected dispropotionately too.

It pretty much isn't a nice script to have around.

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