I've been keeping an eye on two accounts that are pretty obviously sock puppets, and are farming (small amounts of) rep off of each other. I believe they are sock puppets because:

  • The accounts were created on the same day (although that alone isn't definitve)

  • They participate in an abnormal amount of each other's questions. This might be normal if it were one language, but they participate in a wide variety of language tags; almost seemingly at random. I noticed them originally in [clojure], and they've since moved onto [elm] and a few other places.

I flagged one of the questions, and a mod accepted the flag as helpful, but said that because they weren't voting on each other directly, it wasn't definitive enough to call at the time (which is fair).

It's like half a week later now, and it's still going on. One will ask a question (poorly researched and contrived looking; not of high quality), then the other will answer (also usually not that high of quality), then they'll accept it. Then they'll swap.

They seem to be attempting to be smart about it to not trigger any detection, and they really aren't accumulating that much in the way of rep (one account is at ~100).

Should I care? I'm only interested because honestly I like trying to spot sock puppets. I find it interesting. The amount of rep involved is petty, and they'll likely never accumulate enough to gain any permissions or anything significant. It's still "rep fraud" though.

Should I reflag? Should I just let the system catch them if they slip up?

Mods ended up taking action on them without any further flags from me.

  • Good chance those are two different people who know each other and decided to join together. Small chance they're not even aware such actions are forbidden. Should be punished of course, but still, not sure it's the same person. – ShaWiz Jun 18 at 6:27
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    @ShadowTheCurlyBracedWizard That was my backup explanation. That certainly makes the conversation that they had in the comments less weird. – Carcigenicate Jun 18 at 13:31

Vote fraud by accepting answers is something a moderator has tools available to handle. I doubt the automated tools would ever trigger on this, but I can't be sure as I don't know the exact details there.

If the user is accepting answers by their sock, they are voting on each other directly. This is against the rules and should generally end with the deletion of the sock and the suspension of the puppeteer.

I'd probably reflag with more context, or just contact SE especially if it's on a small site. Mods on sites like SO have plenty of experience dealing with sock puppets, mods on very small sites usually don't.

What also helps is waiting a bit if the sock is still active, as this kind of stuff gets vastly easier and clear when there is more data. If all you have are a handful of posts it can be impossible to distinguish from coincidence. And if the number of events is small, you might consider that you're actually just seeing a pattern in the noise. Especially if this is focused on some tag, it might just be random chance.

  • It's about 6-7 posts now, but I agree, letting them dig a deeper hole will make it more definitive. I'll wait a little longer, and flag a post with context if it's still continuing then. Thank you. – Carcigenicate Jun 17 at 21:06

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