I understand that the details of the vote anomaly detection script are secret for a reason. But I also think that at least the coarse principles of what amounts to automated policing of what is legitimate voting behavior should be up for discussion. And many users might not even be aware that such as script exists.

Personally, I essentially only down-vote questions and answers that I consider to be in bad faith. If I see a mathematical mistake I consider not to be the outcome of stubborn crankery, I leave a comment and do not downvote. I do downvote when I have the impression that someone violates the community norms while knowing better. If someone posts ten questions in a row that seem to come from some problem-set without showing any effort, even though the poster has been asked to modify their behavior, I feel justified in downvoting the whole series of questions. If some Cantor-got-it-all-wrong crank starts giving "answers" based on this mistaken view, I feel free to downvote all these answers. This can be very fast, and it might be perfectly possible that this looks like spiteful-downvoting to an observer who is not able to form sound judgements based on mathematical knowledge and knowledge of human thinking: I'm talking about a machine here. So I have the following questions, which I think can be answered without endangering the integrity of the system:

  1. Are the actions of the vote anomaly detection script reviewed by moderators?
  2. Is my voting behavior likely to trigger the vote anomaly detection script?
  3. Can somebody tell me whether the vote anomaly detection script has ever reversed votes of mine?

The only, and rather controversial, discussion of the vote anomaly detection script I have found is in the comments of this post of Jeff Atwood.


I've found some information by looking at stackexchange proper. There is this blog entry by Jeff Atwood when the system got introduced. There is a lot of discussion following this post. A useful summary for thos who do not want to wade through the drama can be found here. Apparently, developers and no-one else have access to individual voting data.


2 Answers 2



Moderators (by which I mean MSE mods - I suspect otherwise about SE-team mods, but they're different) are not able to review detected anomalous votes. (At least, as a mod at Phil.SE I have never seen any indication that this has ever happened). On the other hand, there is a way for mods to look at 'suspicious voting patterns.' But I do not think that it holds any information about the Black Ballot Box. There are many things that will throw a flag towards the mods - and I don't think that this is one of them. So it's more or less invisible. Perhaps more pertinent: mods can't reverse/change votes

I highly doubt that any typical voting will trigger the script. I think it's far more likely that some malicious voting will not trigger the script. But this is hard to say, as it's a black box. I can say, however, that I vote a lot and as far as I can tell, none of my votes have been considered anomalous. I feel that there have been times where (coincidentally, or rather not because of malicious intent) I have downvoted the same user on several answers/questions in a relatively short period, but these went unmodified.

None of the standards or typical diamond-mods can say. For downvotes, any reputation changes would clue you off. Upvotes? I think that unless you happen to be very vigilant, they'd go unnoticed.

As for my take on it - I bet that if retrospectively looked up all of my posts that you hadn't read before, and upvoted/downvoted them, your votes would be caught in the Black Ballot Box (BBB). More generally, retrospective voting is likely more suspicious than voting on current questions. In the past, I've noticed (usually via the meta) that this has been a cause of BBB detection.

And other than that, I try not to worry about it too much. What's a couple of rep here or there? My votes seem untouched so far - and the BBB does its analysis on the day's votes every 24 hours or so. And whether I like it or not, it's here to stay. I suppose it's more worrisome when sockpuppets upvote each other, but many sockpuppets have been caught in the past. And this is a pretty serious offense. If you suspect someone of sockpuppetry, let the mods know, as there are ways of looking into this.


The general rule is: Vote on posts, not on users. If you go through a user's profile looking for posts to vote on, you're in significant danger of triggering the automatic script.

The voting script cannot know the intent of the voter, it can only detect unusual voting patterns. And while you might examine the posts of the user when downvoting and vote based on that content, this behaviour is indistinguishable from someone downvoting the user's posts based on their dislike of that user. Most voting is not targeted towards specific users, if you do vote in such a way it is certainly an anomalous pattern.

The moderators have absolutely no influence over the script, it's entirely automated.

The script leaves a trace on your profile when your votes are nullified, but it's not very obvious or informative. The moderators can see that something happened with your reputation, but I'm not sure if there are other events besides the script that can cause this specific message.


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