What the...?

Users removed?

Seriously thinking of quitting this site for good (well, not really).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ That's really a lot! However, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me to quit the site over this... Your reputation is still very high, and you lost no privileges. $\endgroup$ – Danu Apr 1 '15 at 0:16
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why is it showing up as 9 different removals? Were there 9 different users? By the way, I had the same thing happen to me (on a much smaller scale) yesterday at the exact same time. Isn't there something in place to keep the votes of such high-voting users? But like @Danu, I don't think you should quit. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 1 '15 at 0:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Danu There are privileges at 15,000 but I agree -- that's a pretty big overreaction to this. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Apr 1 '15 at 0:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Same happened to John Rennie at the same time - he lost over 1500 points! And Lubos. And QMechanic. ACuriousMind gained some (from getting rid of downvotes), as did Alfred Centauri. I realize that mods can't share this info, but these are thousands of lost points. I'm looking at the top users and it seems like everyone was affected. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 1 '15 at 0:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here's what triggers it: meta.stackexchange.com/q/126470 $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Apr 1 '15 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it must be a massive clean-up of old users that are now inactive. Some of the more recent high-rep users have not lost much, if any, rep at all. $\endgroup$ – Danu Apr 1 '15 at 0:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I had noticed that (over the last few days) that my "back catalogue" had received a few unexpected upvotes. But WTF Rennie and AnnaV have lost >1000 pts... $\endgroup$ – ProfRob Apr 1 '15 at 0:21
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Danu It's not inactive users who get removed. Only the ones who A) ask for it or B) broke the rules. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Apr 1 '15 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/6621, courtesy of @ACuriousMind (in chat). $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 1 '15 at 0:28
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ No, don't leave! If you leave I'll have to start attempting answers on cosmology again, and the site may never recover :-) $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 1 '15 at 9:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ ^^^ What he said. I can't shoulder all the cosmology stuff myself. We're a team. You bring the technical content, I bring simplified explanations for laymen. I'm only half a user without you $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 1 '15 at 13:08
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Rob, now you know you're addicted just like the rest of us. Just who do you think you're trying to fool? $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Apr 1 '15 at 13:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes, yes. Heat of the moment and all that... And apologies for the crude implied language. $\endgroup$ – ProfRob Apr 1 '15 at 15:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ reputation should not be a reason for leaving, boredom, yes. I enjoy your contributions and am glad you have reconsidered. $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 1 '15 at 17:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ so... not April fools? $\endgroup$ – zzz Apr 2 '15 at 3:13

OK, normally we don't comment on moderation actions, but given the scope of what happened (and, really, the fact that you all figured it out anyway), we thought a brief statement is in order.

For quite some time we've been investigating a pattern of fraudulent activity involving multiple accounts. When we deleted several accounts which were engaged in vote fraud, it also wiped out the votes they cast. If you were the recipient of any of those votes, you'll see a reputation change reversing the effect of the votes, along with the message "user was removed".

Now for something completely general: I believe it's public information (somewhere on the site or Meta SE, but I forget where) that "fraudulent activity" includes various ways in which one person uses multiple accounts to do things they couldn't do with a single account. Things like

  • upvoting their own posts
  • casting multiple votes on other people's posts
  • chiming in on discussions of site policy to artificially inflate the support for one side

and so on. The point is that when you lose reputation due to the deletion of an account, it's usually reputation that was not fairly earned in the first place - not through any fault of your own, but because someone else cheated the system to give it to you. And if the activity has been going on for a while, the amounts of reputation involved can be pretty large.


I hope this is enough to satisfy people's concerns. We would like the community to return to the status quo of not discussing details of individual moderator actions, but at the same time we want everyone to be clear that we (mods, SE, the computers... hopefully) are not up to anything nefarious.


  • 18
    $\begingroup$ That is the most obscure xkcd I have ever seen... $\endgroup$ – Floris Apr 1 '15 at 13:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What I get from this post is that some people were just terrible at cheating the system. Anyone worth their salt knows how not to get caught ;P $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 1 '15 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris - Yeah, really. One guy is more embellished than the other is clear, but those three lines seem to suggest the less embellished guy back tracked or something like that. But the overall meaning and the relevance here is not very clear to me either. Maybe, this xkcd could be a candidate for Puzzling.SE ! $\endgroup$ – 299792458 Apr 1 '15 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDarkSide - two hats is better than one? Even the mouseover text is cryptic: ... $\endgroup$ – Floris Apr 1 '15 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ It's meta, I'll reference all the obscure XKCDs I want. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 1 '15 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Floris the hat guy is a recurring character on xkcd comics...and, if you are used to his actions, you would be scared by a double hat too ;-) $\endgroup$ – yuggib Apr 2 '15 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ Please, sir, may I have some more? $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 2 '15 at 12:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ David, I know this is asking maybe a bit too much, but could you comment on the timescales on which these fraudulent votes were cast? I.e. over the past few days, or over the past year, or roughly whereabouts in between? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 2 '15 at 13:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I honestly haven't been tracking it closely enough to give you a proper answer, but definitely months rather than days. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 2 '15 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ I got a bunch of downvotes removed thanks to these sockpuppet accounts being deleted, apparently the person who created these accounts was using them to tag-team downvote my answer (and multiple other answers) on this question; it seems that this person had an axe to grind against the idea that Newton's third law is assumed to apply to all classical interactions, and had been using sockpuppet accounts at least since shortly after the question was posted in October. $\endgroup$ – Hypnosifl Apr 3 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Hypnosifl - yep, the reversed downvotes I got were also related to my apparently sketchy grasp of Newtonian mechanics. I had noticed what appeared to be a ganging-up; all is now explained. If my observations are correct, one sock puppet awarded another a bonus on at least one occasion. $\endgroup$ – Floris Apr 4 '15 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/455 but you probably knew that :-) $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Apr 9 '15 at 13:16

I am afraid that, as usual, we can't comment on moderation actions.

I will echo tpg2114's comment that users are only ever removed because

  • They explicitly request it.

  • As a consequence of breaking the terms of service

The Meta StackExchange on the matter is What does “user was removed” mean and why did my reputation change because of it?

HDE 226868 asks "Isn't there something in place to keep the votes of such high-voting users?". I believe that the deletion of high-rep, longtime members is handled very carefully on a case-by-case basis to avoid---well situations very much like we have here. As far as I can tell there is no about that on Meta StackExchange

On a personal note, I'd hate to see you go because you bring a considerable expertise on a subject I don't know nearly enough about. I can appreciate that sudden changes of that magnitude are a heck of a shock and break the immersive nature of the gamification, and I couldn't blame you if you decided to give the site a rest for a while. But I still hope that you'll be back some time.

  • $\begingroup$ I kind of figured this would be the case (referring to the middle section), because most of those who have a lot of votes have been around for a while, and therefore have higher rep. There are clearly exceptions, but the model doesn't need (in general) to account for those. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Apr 1 '15 at 2:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The link I put in the comments above (the same FAQ you linked to) has two links to answers that explain they try not to wipe out high-rep users: link 1, link 2. Now, they refer to a single user -- it appears there are 9 users who were deleted which triggered the collective large amounts of rep loss. We can only speculate on why of course. I assume if somebody like... $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Apr 1 '15 at 3:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ John Rennie were to request his account deleted, they would definitely make sure the rep. stuck around. But in this case, maybe no individual user was high rep, or maybe the individual users were low-rep and assumed low-impact, but all of their activity was focused on a small subset of users (which appears to be the case). $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Apr 1 '15 at 3:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I too lost a chunk of rep yesterday... and in fact looking at some recent questions on which I participated, which had resulted in uncharacteristically abrasive interactions (which led me to delete one of my answers just to get it to stop), I notice some previously named users are now back to a vanilla 'user12345' type name, with no linked user profile. I prefer the loss of rep and aggravation, than keeping rep and aggravation. $\endgroup$ – Floris Apr 1 '15 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Floris, I've deleted an answer or two, on occasion, in order to halt the use of my answer's comment thread as an arena for a newsgroup like flame war. After some time has elapsed, I quietly undelete the answer. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Apr 2 '15 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri - you saw the answer in question. Most of the comments had been deleted and the perpetrators have moved on (left the site, profiles inactivated). I admit I had not considered the option of undeleting... $\endgroup$ – Floris Apr 2 '15 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri good :-) for future reference you can also just flag a comment or two, and we (mods) will generally put a stop to ongoing discussions in the comments without you having to undelete the answer. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 2 '15 at 5:00

Whoa, 1,741 votes removed! (How on Earth did they manage to upvote me the 1 rep point?)

I've noticed that over the last few weeks I've been getting lots of upvotes on old questions, and in her answer to Serial up- or down-voting reversed Gwen said she had been reading old questions and upvoting the ones she liked. I also note she's no longer a member, so that's an obvious contribution to the debit. If so I can't really complain as they were upvotes I hadn't really earned anyway.

From various comments I wonder if there has been a group of friends recently join the site and vote in similar ways. If so that might explain the mass defection (I should make it clear this is just mischievous speculation not inside knowledge).

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps they upvoted one of your questions and downvoted you twice? $\endgroup$ – hmakholm left over Monica Apr 1 '15 at 12:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wait, 1741 rep lost, or 1741 votes? If it's votes, then that's a lot of rep. $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 1 '15 at 13:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Jim 1741 rep, not votes. (Actually 1821, but John is being modest.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Apr 1 '15 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it was one or two people who had multiple accounts, according to the answer by David. $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 1 '15 at 17:19

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