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We recently received several reports about serial downvoting.

Please stop it!

  • It is harmful to the site as a whole. The voting score of a post should indicate the usefulness of the post, not the popularity of its author.
  • It is useless. Stackexchange runs a script which detects serial downvoting and reverses it.
  • It is an abuse of the voting system, a violation of the terms of service (harassment) and you can be suspended for doing it.

What is serial downvoting? Serial downvoting is when a user systematically downvotes posts of another user. Usually because of a personal disagreement. Yes, we have users on this website with all kinds of different political views. I know that it isn't always easy to deal with people who have a completely different world-view than you have and are eager to spread it, even though we don't want personal opinions on this website. And yes, there are people who are not always as polite as they should be when they provide criticism. But abusing the voting system is the wrong way to deal with these people. If you feel that someone doesn't behave the way they should, use the flagging system to flag their posts, so the moderators can deal with it.

Always remember that when you vote on a question or answer, you are voting on the post. You are not voting on the author.

For more information check the following questions on the general stackexchange meta site:

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    Well, people will do this no matter what you post here. I've seen people get angry about the silliest of things. However, on this site the problem may be worse, and I suspect this may merely be a symptom which plagues some sections of this site: incessant and annoying partisan bickering, lack of tolerance for those who disagree, etc. This is not a new observation either. I don't have any solutions for this at the ready, but it seems to me we should try to focus on fixing that instead. – user11249 Jan 23 '17 at 10:05
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    This post would reach its target audience if it were flagged for "Hot Meta Posts" frame or so. I think those who need to know this post are neither active participants on Meta. – bytebuster for Long Usernames Jan 23 '17 at 19:18
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    @bytebuster "hot meta posts" selection is fully automatic. I am not really sure how the algorithm works. If you think that this should be there, you could try to upvote it. – Philipp Jan 23 '17 at 23:47
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    @Philipp featured then? (on Meta) – bytebuster for Long Usernames Jan 24 '17 at 0:00
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    Yeah. Voting for personal vendetta is asinine and childish....not to mention likely a violation of the Be Nice policy. Personally I feel the only reason to down vote is for disagreements with the content of an answer, and if you down vote, there should be a required, not optional comment to coincide with the vote. – NZKshatriya Jan 25 '17 at 2:28
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    How does the system differentiate between serial down voting and the continual posting of objectively bad content, whether due to obvious bias, partisan hackery, or simply wrong? – Drunk Cynic Jan 25 '17 at 15:21
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    @DrunkCynic Stackexchange keeps the details of the algorithm secret. But I would assume that it is partly based on timing. When you downvote a lot of posts by the same user (and only that user) within a very short timespan (especially if shorter than it would take you to actually read all these posts), it flags you as a serial downvoter. But that's just my personal hypothesis. – Philipp Jan 25 '17 at 15:37
  • I think Hot Meta is driven by votes, especially on answers. But that's a theory with no data to back up. – user4012 Jan 25 '17 at 19:20
  • @DrunkCynic When you cast 3 downvotes on answers from the same user within 10 seconds of each other, it's pretty reasonable to assume you weren't actually evaluating the contents of the answers and voting based on that. – reirab Jan 26 '17 at 23:51
  • @reirab Is that statement accusatory or a scenario of the possible? – Drunk Cynic Jan 27 '17 at 0:51
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    @DrunkCynic Oh, sorry, imprecise language. I should have said 'one,' not 'you.' I'm certainly not accusing you of doing that, though some on this Stack have indeed done that. No offense meant to you. I just meant that it's reasonable for the system to assume that people who do that aren't casting legitimate votes. – reirab Jan 27 '17 at 5:46
  • @Philipp Apparently someone needs to downvote you at least 5 times for anyone to care. If they do it 3 times within a few minutes, then not even the mods seem to care that much even if you provide screenshots and will decline flags. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Source: happened to me on another SE. – SurpriseDog Aug 16 at 1:35
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Cum grano salis...

A (radical) way to prevent serial downvoting against an author would be to alter SE to a sort of secret ballot authorship, in which answers and questions would be shown, but never authors. Only the author (and the SE servers and higher ups) would know which posts that author wrote.

To preserve the current comment/discussion mechanics, perhaps temporary names might be automatically assigned on an ad hoc per question basis. The names would not outlast the comment area.

All sorts of unexpected side-effects might ensue from using such a method. Whether the bad would outweigh the good is unclear.

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    Related: 1, 2 (possibly more). – user11249 Jan 26 '17 at 11:05
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    For some people I can quite accurately guess the author when I read the answer. – gerrit Mar 10 '17 at 14:23
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    @gerrit you might lose that ability fairly quickly if authorship were to become unknown. – phoog Aug 13 at 21:03
  • This is quite brilliant. Also, we should wait a few days before showing vote totals so as not to cause an information cascade/pile on. – K Dog Sep 21 at 22:17
  • I'm not sure this proposal will have only positive effects. Some editors already do that by serially using single-purpose accounts; but alas for low-quality contributions. See politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4021/… – Fizz Sep 23 at 9:23
  • This would effectively just create an anonymous 'chan forum' environment, encouraging users to post whatever they want without getting a reputation for low quality nonsense. It encourages disinformation, impersonation, and generally low quality contributions. I dont think this site should be trying to mirror /pol/. – Tal Nov 6 at 19:07
  • @Tal, The "low quality nonsense" would be downvoted, and those downvotes would reduce the author's (private) reputation and corresponding privileges. Probably like many here, I'm unacquainted with '/pol/' -- please clarify whether '/pol/' uses downvotes and reputation. – agc Nov 7 at 7:39
  • @agc Its a reference to a well-known anonymous cesspool. The point being made is that anonymity makes a dedicated user of the site look identical to a new troll account used to post deceptive or bad faith content. The ability to downvote doesnt solve this. Over time, a coordinated flood of bad faith posts, questions, and answers can change the tone of the site and drive away other users until bad faith posts are upvoted. Its a tactic used by extremist groups to turn anonymous online forums into havens for their ideology. Infiltrate a community, shift the conversation, then gain control. – Tal Nov 7 at 18:34
  • @Tal, Sorry, but it's not obvious who would be upvoting these bad posts. A new user's upvotes don't really count until a certain reputation. Trolls who are only downvoted could not earn enough reputation to upvote. (Note: I have seen 4chan -- if /pol/ is like that, then it has no voting system, and therefore has little in common with SE.) – agc Nov 8 at 19:46
  • @Tal, FWIW, I'm also no fan of forum manipulation. See If, (and only if), there were professional trolls and moles here, what if anything should be done? for my 2 cents... – agc Nov 8 at 19:51
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But abusing the voting system is the wrong way to deal with these people.

How is using the voting system "abusing" it ? If I am not free to vote what I like, then the voting system abuses me.

If you feel that someone doesn't behave the way they should, use the flagging system to flag their posts, so the moderators can deal with it.

So there was this neonazi hitler apologist asshole who had answers and comment saying gaz chambers never existed, and posting links to neonazi websites. Despite me flagging it the link wasn't removed for weeks. It was eventually removed, but after an awfully long What else can we do?

There is plenty of extremist people here, and they can easily get high rep, despite posting at best biased views, at worst extremist neonazi or communist propaganda. I think they're not purchased enough - it's fine to have libery of expression and all, but those extremists are going too far.

This is particularly dangerous since the same extremist user can have what looks like a normal question or answer and have people upvote it, but only if you know the user is an extremist it becomes apparent that his questions are a hidden complaint or rethoric for his propaganda (for example an extreme right people asking "why do the government help poor people" - looks legit question but can be turned into an extreme right propaganda).

Or on the other hand they can post answers that look honest but actually are lies or gross exaggerations - for example questions about the soviet union will have answer making this country look better than it actually way.

Only mass downvoting the questions and answer by those people would be a partial solution to the problem - it'd both lower the extremist's reputation and lower the individual score of his dubious double-sided questions and answers. Unfortunately this is disallowed and this sucks. Basically SE encourages and protects extremists.

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    Downvotes count for much less than upvotes, intentionally. Serial downvoting will not affect someone enough to have any meaningful impact on their reputation, especially after the algorithm reverses it. Individually voting down each question and answer is valid, provided that you don't vote them down because of who the poster is. Which means you need to go "Oh, I think this is a bad answer, I'll downvote it" as you see them naturally, not "Oh, I think this is a bad answer, and the user has posted 20 other answers, so I'll downvote them all." – Bobson Jan 25 '17 at 22:12
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    If there is someone posting Neo-Nazi crap then just flag it for moderator attention and it'll be removed. Post something on meta if you feel action isn't taken fast enough or the inappropriate action was taken. No need to abuse the voting system for that. – user11249 Jan 26 '17 at 7:25
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    Evaluating ideas based in any way on their source is the opposite of what SE is designed for, which is evaluating ideas based on their merits. If some Neo-Nazi is going around trying to promote Neo-Naziism, attack the Neo-Naziism, not the Neo-Nazi. If propagandistic questions or answers aren't getting flagged quickly enough, that's another problem. – J Doe Jan 26 '17 at 20:32
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    Do you really want this stackexchange to turn into a voting-war between different political factions? – Philipp Jan 26 '17 at 21:37
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    The problem is that it's an ad-hominem judgement, which can do more harm than good if you vote against what's actually a good answer, when the people presenting it and their motivations are irrelevant. Racist motivative do not necessarily translate into racist results. I think most people consider compulsory education laws to be good for everybody, as they are near universally adopted today. However the Oregon Compulsory Education Act of 1922 was backed in large part by the K.K.K. for both racist and bigoted reasons. Should we repeal them for that reason alone? – Tonepoet Feb 1 '17 at 6:22

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