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A question ban is much worse than a temporary ban. One question per six months forever, versus just waiting a fixed time and coming back like nothing ever happened.

Only moderators can dish out temporary bans. But I am worried that if a serial downvoter somehow evades detection, they could single-handedly get a user question banned. This would be bad. (I think it has to do with the ratio of badly to well received questions.)

But is this really a possibility, and if so, how can it be fixed? I know the algorithm is not made public, but maybe a staff member can just confirm that I don't have to worry about single handed question bans by undetected serial downvoting incidents, if a user has a bunch of 0 score questions and they all become -1, but not closed, could they get question banned?

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    All questions contribute to your question ban status regardless of how many votes in either direction they have. Even 0 voted questions contribute to it. The key is just keeping your average up. Deleted questions count as well.
    – Kevin B
    Jun 26, 2023 at 20:30
  • @KevinB How so? Can a user with a bunch of 0 voted questions get question banned? Jun 26, 2023 at 20:30
  • Yes, a bunch of 0 voted questions can eventually lead to a ban (probably sooner than it should)
    – Kevin B
    Jun 26, 2023 at 20:31
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    @KevinB That doesn't make sense. 0 voted questions, unclosed questions aren't 'needs improvement' or 'out of scope for this site' as the Q-ban message states. Jun 26, 2023 at 20:32
  • I agree, but I don't make the rules, ;) questions that don't receive any upvotes are signaling to the system that they aren't good contributions. The whole point of the question ban is slowing down users who aren't producing good contributions.
    – Kevin B
    Jun 26, 2023 at 20:33
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    @KevinB that's unlikely. "What matters are poorly-received posts. That is, questions that are downvoted, closed, or flagged as inappropriate in some way..."
    – gnat
    Jun 26, 2023 at 20:40
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    The question ban algorithm is secret but I'd be surprised if only one user can cause someone to get banned. One's own behavior seems to be most decisive. Are you worried that you're in this situation? Jun 26, 2023 at 20:43
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    "One question per six months for ever," I thought once your questions are overall received well, it ends. That's not forever.
    – starball
    Jun 27, 2023 at 0:23
  • "versus just waiting a fixed time and coming back like nothing ever happened." unless that waiting time is 1 year or more... Jun 27, 2023 at 3:39
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    A leading theory is that a question ban almost always involves (a lot of) (self?) deleted questions. Check it on Software Engineering. Jun 27, 2023 at 10:01
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    @KevinB I'm pretty sure that even 100 questions with 0 score won't lead to suspension. However, deleting them is totally different case, and will most likely trigger the ban sooner or later. Jun 27, 2023 at 10:44
  • If you think there's serial downvoting going on, you can flag for a moderator. Even if we don't find something obvious, we often escalate to the community teams to confirm Jun 27, 2023 at 12:59
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    Frankly, if you can be put into a question ban by a few targeted downvotes, your questions must already be...pretty damn awful. Question bans generally kick in for seriously lost causes and the reaction is never "gheez, poor dude was so close to being a good contributor", rather than "phew, that problem's out of the way for now". Jun 27, 2023 at 14:08

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Serial voting is what you are describing, it's when a single user casts downvotes on multiple posts by the same user without cause outside of who posted it. The system already detects and reverses these on a daily basis.

It's certainly possible for someone to be question banned by a serial voter that wasn't caught by the system, but that's probably pretty rare. There's little reason for someone to target a random user that heavily. The fix, of course, is to raise a moderator flag if you suspect you are being serially downvoted and it hasn't been automagically reversed after 24-48 hours. They'll elevate it to the CM staff who can actually investigate it.

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    "The system already detects and reverses these on a daily basis." Not if the downvoter doesn't cast their votes too quickly: Be more proactive when a user continuously downvotes another user Jun 27, 2023 at 20:24
  • @FranckDernoncourt that's what the flag exception is for, as mentioned.
    – Kevin B
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:31
  • I disagree. The system should catch that automatically, because it's difficult for a user to flag such cases since votes are anonymous. Jun 27, 2023 at 20:33
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    It's too easy for an automated process looking at long-term trends to catch false positives when a user is extremely active in a tag
    – Kevin B
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:34
  • Why would that create a false positive? Jun 27, 2023 at 20:38
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    Because i can directly point out at least 8 users who've received hundreds of upvotes or downvotes from me simply because they frequently answer in the same tags I do.
    – Kevin B
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:40
  • At the end of the day, setting up some threshold to further detect these will at best detect a few positives and still require the same flag and investigation process that we currently have. Why waste mod time with auto-raising flags that apparently the user targeted doesn't care enough about to raise a flag themselves?
    – Kevin B
    Jun 27, 2023 at 20:41
  • Ok so you would need 1) a serial downvoting 2) both the downvoter and the author to focus on the same tag. 3) not many other people posting in that tag. Not that likely but if you are right, just consider tags before warning/banning. We need to automate that because it's difficult for the victim to realize that they are being serially downvoted by the same user. And mods typically won't investigate such flags. Jun 27, 2023 at 20:42
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    @FranckDernoncourt Your last statement of "And mods typically won't investigate such flags" is just bull crap, in my experience. It certainly deserves a [citation needed]. Moderators and staff take serial voting very seriously. Dismissing the process of raising a flag to report it as "mods typically won't investigate such flags" is, at best, disingenuous.
    – Makyen
    Jun 27, 2023 at 21:37
  • @Makyen I am citing myself based on my personal experiences. Some mods will decline such flags. Example from expatriates.stackexchange.com/users/flag-summary/164 "Declined - flags should only be used to make moderators aware of content that requires their intervention". You're only mod on SO, but there are ~185 other sites. Jun 27, 2023 at 21:39
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    @FranckDernoncourt While it's true that I am only a mod on SO, and it's certainly possible that any mod may have inappropriately declined a flag (and may or may not have appropriately investigated and/or may or may not have escalated the issue to CMs), it's also not unlikely that what you were flagging was a situation where there wasn't enough indication of actual serial voting for the moderator and/or CM to do anything and/or, perhaps, what you were reporting was obviously not serial voting. I don't know what the whole situation was, and it's unlikely that we would get that information here.
    – Makyen
    Jun 27, 2023 at 22:05
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    @FranckDernoncourt OTOH, looking quickly that the publicly available information in your reputation pages on that site, I suspect that there's been both serial downvoting and serial upvoting on your account. If your account was on SO and you raised a flag on it now (i.e. I have no idea when you raised the flag you have an issue with, which might have been before the potential issues I sess) and I handled the flag, it's very likely I would escalate both the potential serial downvoting and potential serial upvoting to the CMs. Again, that's based just on publicly available information.
    – Makyen
    Jun 27, 2023 at 22:05
  • @Makyen thanks, I feel it'd just be easier to handle the obvious serial downvote cases automatically. Over the years I've seen at least 5 cases of unpunished yet obvious serial downvoting on me (by serial I mean >10 votes), and I'm sure that be >10 cases if I could see the voter IDs (like an automated system would). I don't care about rep but it causes a few issues: downvotes attract downvotes, causes less interest (= lower likelihood of answer), triggers roomba, etc. Not a great way to thank a contributor. Jun 27, 2023 at 22:21
  • @FranckDernoncourt It is very much non-trivial to programmatically identify serial voting as distinct from normal voting patterns. Because the automatic detection also includes automatic reversal, it is set at a fairly high threshold with the intent to have a very low false detection rate. With anything like this, having a higher true-detection rate almost invariably increases the false detection rate. There is always a trade-off there. The portions which are not automatically detected are expected to be handled by humans, starting with a flag to bring it to moderator attention.
    – Makyen
    Jun 27, 2023 at 22:44
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    @FranckDernoncourt As always, if you have a problem with how moderators have handled something, then you can take the issue to the site meta and/or use the "contact"/"contact us" links at the bottom of every page. For serial voting, the issue should not be taken to a site meta, because there's nothing that regular users can do, and having a post on the site meta routinely results in other users acting inappropriately (e.g. serially downvoting the person they assume is the serial downvoter).
    – Makyen
    Jun 27, 2023 at 22:51

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