Suppose three users A,B, and C, enter Academia.SE in collaboration with moderate knowledge. Each one would vote the post of the other. That is, each would be able to get at least two votes for each of their questions and answers due to the other two collaborators. This would make A, B, and C gain reputation and privilege immediately over a short period of time. As SE does not show who voted the posts openly, it would be difficult for this plot to get detected by the peers of the site.

Is this even possible? Or would such unethical accumulation be detected by the system and intimate the higher moderators?

The reason I post this question to Academia.SE-Meta and not SE-Meta itself is that this act would be easily taken care of in solid Q&A sites like StackExchange.SE and ServerFault.SE; the number of downvotes would counter-balance the number of unethical up-votes. Whereas Academia.SE is where there is not always a solid answer for a given question. It would be easier for A,B and C to slip away with mediocre Q and A due to the illusive nature.

Is there already a way to prevent this? If not, what could be done?

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    In addition to @ff524 answer, I just meant to add that the daily automatic vote reversal script that undoes strategic mutual upvoting (in the past, around 3am) is triggered only when a certain number of votes is exceeded. At MathSE, I've witnessed a scam that took over 2 years before suspensions followed because the lead user involved had, by experimenting, deduced that triggering number, the ring acting below the threshold. If that happens, moderators can still confirm vote fraud, but it takes effort and manual intervention (ff524 - kindly correct me if anything I say is no longer correct). – gnometorule Oct 2 '15 at 5:52
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    @gnometorule Yes, that's what I was alluding to in "In some cases, these votes may even be reversed automatically." On Academia, I personally check in on the manual vote fraud detection tools semi-regularly to pick up on things going on just below the automatic threshold. – ff524 Oct 2 '15 at 5:55

Or would such unethical accumulation be detected by the system and intimate the higher moderators?

Yes. This is vote fraud, and moderators have tools that alert us to this.

In some cases, these votes may even be reversed automatically without moderator intervention, as described here.

(The specific nature of these tools is kept private to avoid people trying to "game" the vote fraud detection.)

  • Could you elaborate on that? Users require a min. reputation to become moderators. Different moderator privileges are unlocked at higher reputation points. At what level would a user get to use such a tool. – Ébe Isaac Sep 25 '15 at 5:30
  • Agreed (+1). One more question. Can any user with sufficient rep. points could have access to such a tool? Or are they predetermined users appointed by the site admins? – Ébe Isaac Sep 25 '15 at 5:37
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    @ÉbeIsaac it's not unlocked at any level of reputation. Sensitive tools, such as those related to vote fraud, destroying spammers, etc are only available to "diamond moderators" who have been elected and who then accepted the moderator agreement. (And to employees of Stack Overflow) – ff524 Sep 25 '15 at 5:39
  • That sound intriguing. Do you get paid for this or is this some altruistic work? Your comment stated 'Stack Overflow' not Stack Exchange. Are there this sort of employment opportunities for each of the SE sites or only for Stack Overflow? – Ébe Isaac Sep 25 '15 at 5:57
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    It's on a volunteer basis. As it says in the moderator agreement I linked to: "I am an independent volunteer moderator to Academia Stack Exchange and I am not an employee, agent or representative of Stack Exchange Inc." – ff524 Sep 25 '15 at 6:02
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    By "Stack Overflow employees," I was referring to the people who work for Stack Overflow, the company responsible for the Stack Exchange network of sites (among other things.) – ff524 Sep 25 '15 at 6:04
  • @ÉbeIsaac - For reference: the agreement we signed when we started as mods. – eykanal Sep 25 '15 at 12:36

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