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The site's highest rep-holder Rand al'Thor claims that he has a well-formatted, bulleted list that contains information which apparently shows that some users were engaged in sock-puppetry.

Of course, such a claim would need to be verified. And if it is true, then it has far-reaching effects on the site.

I also realise that this could lead to the demonising of a specific user which, again, shouldn't really happen. Rand's defence for this is that he feels that people ought to know the reality before they start voting on the post.

I agree with Rand's defence. But again, the fact that this leads to a single user being targeted feels wrong. Thus, a discussion by the members of the community on whether the "evidence" should be posted is required. And then we could decide on the issue.

Should such an "evidence" of wrong-doing by a few users be posted on meta?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think there's anything wrong with posting it (IMO letting the public know is more important than protecting a user). We of course don't know if the evidence is convincing or not, but the votes will show that. $\endgroup$ – user14478 Nov 28 '16 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ I'm going to remove comments here if they discuss any specific user(s). $\endgroup$ – user20 Nov 28 '16 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Any reason why anyone besides the moderators would keep such a "bulleted list"? I mean... as long as the puppeteer does not interfere with the site's normal activity, then who cares? What possible good could come out of this? $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Nov 28 '16 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, what is sock-puppetry in this sense? $\endgroup$ – greenturtle3141 Nov 29 '16 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Matsmath "interfere with the site's normal activity"- Could you care to elaborate what you are saying here? $\endgroup$ – Sid Nov 29 '16 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ @greenturtle3141 Sockpuppetry is when a user creates an additional account, and uses it at the same time as their main account. While not on its own disallowed, any use of multiple accounts for any gain against the system is. $\endgroup$ – user20 Nov 29 '16 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid on other SO sites it happens from time-to-time that so-called Voting circles show up, where literally dozens of people ask either ridiculous questions or verbatim copy-paste from previous well received questions and answer/upvote each other. Voting rings are a kind of generalized sockpuppeteers with multiple users involved each having multiple accounts. I have witnessed "attacks" from such voting rings where questions coming from them flooded the site.Now that is not normal. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Nov 29 '16 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @greenturtle3141 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_(Internet) $\endgroup$ – A E Dec 8 '16 at 19:42
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If it's possible to do, we'd prefer to handle it in private.

Posting information like that in public can easily slip into witch-hunting (which, please note, this case definitely has), or at minimum it can raise hostility against a specific person, even if we look into it and find nothing.

While it appeals to a sense of justice to have people know that meta-reason for voting, it violates a core principle of Stack Exchange: vote the post, not the person. That principle alone unravels any justification for using this information when voting on the main site.

If such information is posted, the unfortunate reality is that there's not much we'll usually be able to say about it. All I'd ask is that you (yes you, dear reader), reserve any judgement about the person in question, and refrain from joining the inevitable bandwagon of "get out."


Also, the case in question has been reviewed (literally) five or six times already, many of them with SE community managers. They're tired of hearing about it, we're tired of hearing about it, and I really, really wish people would stop bringing it up. I guarantee we have access to better tools than empirical evidence, and it's not actionable right now. End of story.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. The fact that you mention that there is no actionable evidence suggests that you have already seen what is needed in this case. And if, as a moderator, you think, that the evidence is not enough, then, I believe there is no question of posting it in meta. It would simply lead to friction between users $\endgroup$ – Sid Nov 29 '16 at 11:53
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I'm not a moderator in this site, but starting from my experience as a moderator elsewhere I'd like to say that Emrakul is absolutely right. There are various points I'd like to add (might or might not overlap):

  1. Moderators aren't allowed to discuss these matters other than other moderators or the user in question. So even if users had a "correct hunch", we would either have to ignore the question or close it without being able to comment.
  2. Moderators and CM have the tools to confirm if sock-puppetry is taking place (CM even more than diamond mods). Regular users do not have these tools, so conjectures are pointless at best and damaging at worst. And in this case, even if you were right, the proper action to take would be to flag for moderator attention, and not take it publicly, because that would achieve nothing except create drama.
  3. A user is theoretically allowed to have more than one account, as long as these accounts do not interact with each other (otherwise we merge them). So if you know that a user has two accounts, that is not against the rules per se. A user may possess a public and a "private" (anonymous) account for any (legitimate) reason, so your public accusation of sock-puppetry will be creating drama again and damaging a user for nothing.

In conclusion, my suggestion (and I think all the mods will agree) is to stick to using flags.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that this could very well lead to a not-so comfortable environment in the community. And I feel that the demonising of a certain user is bad for a community as a whole. $\endgroup$ – Sid Nov 29 '16 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid Sure, I was just taking advantage of your question to add a few points (not strictly answering to you) :D $\endgroup$ – Alenanno Nov 29 '16 at 16:10

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