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In a comment on this question I voted (with four others) to put on hold, the OP tagged me and asked, "@Travis: What do you think is wrong with this question?", notwithstanding that the on-hold message indicates exactly the reason for my vote.

About two hours later, the same user commented on one of my replies to an unrelated question: "What do you think is wrong with this question? : math.stackexchange.com/questions/959181/…" (Since I began composing this note a moderator has found and replied to the first note, and the second has been deleted.)

Roughly around this time, two of my own questions---which are both a few weeks old and related neither to the above questions nor to each other---received their first downvotes, which together with the above suggests some kind of retaliatory action might be at play here.

If this is indeed retaliatory, surely this is an appropriate use of the voting mechanic, not least because it worsens the site's signal-noise ratio. Is there any action I should take beyond pointing out this situation here?

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    $\begingroup$ Some users can't put up with the idea that people close their questions and become vindictive (look at some recent meta threads). There is nothing to be gained by arguing with them. If it's really malicious votes the software will kick in and revert them. $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Oct 7 '14 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi Yes, I certainly don't see any good engaging with the person. $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 7 '14 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say that instead of pointing out the situation here, you should flag for moderator attention. There's very little anyone who isn't a moderator can do about your problem, other than to offer you sympathy. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Oct 7 '14 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson I posted here (1) to seek advice, in case this was a common enough issue that there's a standard action I should take, and (2) to draw some attention to the issue of (apparent) retaliatory downvoting, rather than to my own situation in particular, which amounts to a negligible difference in reputation and a very temporary nuisance. $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 7 '14 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ And I posted here to give you advice, so we're even. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Oct 7 '14 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson It probably wasn't clear from my previous post, but I do appreciate the advice, and I'll do as you suggest in the unpleasant case this sort of thing happens again. $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 7 '14 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, this user has started downvoting my answers, even posting comments saying this is the reason for his downvotes, and I've flagged the comments for moderators and, per Mad Scientist's suggestion, written SE directly. $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 8 '14 at 5:20
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    $\begingroup$ Retaliatory voting is indeed discouraged, although it can be hard to prove. There are automated scripts that try to correct for some kinds of "inappropriate" voting, but these scripts have both false positives and false negatives from time to time. The many comments that the user left certainly did impact the "signal/noise" ratio of the site, and I suspect they (rather than the votes) are likely the thing that led to the moderators taking action. Comments that look like harassment or provocation are strongly discouraged - and I think the site does have a better tone overall because of it. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Oct 8 '14 at 11:58
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Two downvotes are not enough to do anything, it is exceedingly hard to prove that they were cast maliciously. SE is rather conservative in this regard, and they only invalidate votes when there is very clear evidence that they were abusive or fraudulent votes.

If the user stalks you on other posts, flag for moderator attention and explain the issue. If you accumulate a larger number of suspicious downvotes, you can also flag or contact SE directly (the "contact us" link in the footer).

In general I'd ignore anything that is only about a handful of votes, without being able to read minds it is almost impossible to prove foul play, and it generally isn't worth the hassle to even react to it.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I'm not concerned about the tiny delta in points, but rather about the harm to the site were this kind of behavior to catch on. I suppose its relative rarity means that it's presently just a nuisance. $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 7 '14 at 10:06
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The moderators became aware of this situation. As of this morning, it appears that many of the comments made by a particular user were deleted by moderators, and the user has a short suspension. The best way to bring things to the moderators' attention seems to be by flagging posts and/or commenting on meta. But in this case the user was also posting the same kind of comments to at least one moderator...

(N.B. I am not a moderator.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Sometimes the flowers arrange themselves, I suppose... $\endgroup$ – Travis Willse Oct 8 '14 at 13:21

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