[moderator action] The_Lion and The_Lion2 are banned

post by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-30T02:09:28.603Z · score: 53 (55 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 40 comments

Accounts "The_Lion" and "The_Lion2" are banned now. Here is some background, mostly for the users who weren't here two years ago:

 

User "Eugine_Nier" was banned for retributive downvoting in July 2014. He keeps returning to the website using new accounts, such as "Azathoth123", "Voiceofra", "The_Lion", and he keeps repeating the behavior that got him banned originally.

The original ban was permanent. It will be enforced on all future known accounts of Eugine. (At random moments, because moderators sometimes feel too tired to play whack-a-mole.) This decision is not open to discussion.

 

Please note that the moderators of LW are the opposite of trigger-happy. Not counting spam, there is on average less than one account per year banned. I am writing this explicitly, to avoid possible misunderstanding among the new users. Just because you have read about someone being banned, it doesn't mean that you are now at risk.

Most of the time, LW discourse is regulated by the community voting on articles and comments. Stupid or offensive comments get downvoted; you lose some karma, then everyone moves on. In rare cases, moderators may remove specific content that goes against the rules. The account ban is only used in the extreme cases (plus for obvious spam accounts). Specifically, on LW people don't get banned for merely not understanding something or disagreeing with someone.

 

What does "retributive downvoting" mean? Imagine that in a discussion you write a comment that someone disagrees with. Then in a few hours you will find that your karma has dropped by hundreds of points, because someone went through your entire comment history and downvoted all comments you ever wrote on LW; most of them completely unrelated to the debate that "triggered" the downvoter.

Such behavior is damaging to the debate and the community. Unlike downvoting a specific comment, this kind of mass downvoting isn't used to correct a faux pas, but to drive a person away from the website. It has especially strong impact on new users, who don't know what is going on, so they may mistake it for a reaction of the whole community. But even in experienced users it creates an "ugh field" around certain topics known to invoke the reaction. Thus a single user has achieved disproportional control over the content and the user base of the website. This is not desired, and will be punished by the site owners and the moderators.

To avoid rules lawyering, there is no exact definition of how much downvoting breaks the rules. The rule of thumb is that you should upvote or downvote each comment based on the value of that specific comment. You shouldn't vote on the comments regardless of their content merely because they were written by a specific user.

40 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2016-01-30T02:14:57.983Z · score: 24 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for taking action on this.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2016-01-31T15:49:32.161Z · score: 12 (11 votes) · LW · GW

What if we set a significantly higher karma threshold for voting? I think a threshold of 250 or so would make Eugene's sockpuppetry and mass-downvoting shenanigans prohibitively difficult.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-02-02T22:49:15.065Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like this could work.

Well, depends on how large fraction of votes currently comes from users with karma under 250. It would be bad to reduce the total number of votes drastically. They do have a positive role, in general; most people use them correctly.

comment by AspiringRationalist · 2016-02-03T02:56:05.670Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I'm not sure what the right threshold would be.

How difficult would it be to look up the percentage of votes that come from different karma levels?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-02-03T23:12:20.244Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here are some existing Python scripts for LW.

If you can look at them, and then write a script that takes a number (or a list of numbers) as an input, and displays total number of LW users, and number of LW users with karma smaller than given number... well, that would be the first step. Otherwise, we need to wait until someone does it.

comment by bogus · 2016-01-30T02:30:27.576Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

He keeps returning to the website using new accounts, ... and he keeps repeating the behavior that got him banned originally.

Thanks for looking into this again. Yes, given that the karma-abuse continues, the only sensible choice is to keep enforcing the ban.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-01-30T07:14:54.404Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe we can convince another 2 karma-abusers to get in a fight and negate one another.

comment by Elo · 2016-01-30T10:49:53.284Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

creative solution. I believe we had at least 20+ people try to mass downvote his recent post, only to have a sockpuppet effect giving +20 karma. So in theory yes, but in practice it didn't work with a mass of public against a puppetvoter.

comment by [deleted] · 2016-01-30T12:00:36.743Z · score: 9 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I feel really really concerned about the fellow. It must take an enormous amount of work to do that kind of sockpuppetry. I wonder why he feels so invested in his presence here? Maybe we can address this therapeutically rather than legalistically? Maybe he enjoys the drama the most. I hope he'll just grow out of it or ask for help soon :)

I can imagine him taking the opportunity to defend himself as a chance to grandstand. He can give a versatile Pearce excuse/justification/reason that repositions himself as a victim:

I'd like to unreservedly apologise to everyone for my actions over >x amount of time<. My behaviour was unacceptable. I'm embarrassed and take full responsibility for my actions. I acknowledge I have a problem with >behaviour< and it is something I have to address. It is not an excuse but a realisation that I finally need help.Together with the >ingroup< I'm working on a solution for me to address these issues that will come out in the next couple of days. I just want to thank everyone for turning up and I apologise again.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-01-30T08:28:42.200Z · score: 7 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Enough with the sphexiness, and let's implement some software measure preventing anyone from casting too many votes.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-30T20:12:34.444Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

We don't even have a good specification yet. Even if you add a specific number, "casting too many votes" isn't really what we need.

Ironically, I believe the problem could actually be not enough voting by the regular users. That gives a rabid voter such large fraction of the total votes on the website.

For the record, I would support a software solution, but it would be one that would do data analysis in order to find various kinds of voting abuse (retributive downvoting, sockpuppetry, etc.) and would provide reports to moderators. Clicking the "ban" button is the part that only takes a few seconds. Analysing the data to find out if the user really does what they are accused of, that takes a lot of time, because it's currently done ad-hoc, and because the Reddit code and database are unnecessarily complicated.

comment by casebash · 2016-01-30T03:08:19.937Z · score: 4 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Everytime I publish a post, someone seems to down vote without comment. I'd be really curious to find out if I am being targeted by a specific user or whether there is just a lot of hate for abstract discussion.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-30T03:28:33.333Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am sorry, this is an announcement post; I will not handle the requests posted here. This was a one-time action for me, and I will soon return to hibernation as a moderator.

The currently active moderator is NancyLebovitz. If you have a strong suspicion that something wrong is going on, please send a private message to her.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2016-01-30T02:56:16.128Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think we should be able to detect this with a smart data analysis program that is able to do SQL queries on the database that holds the LW voting records.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-30T03:06:15.445Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In theory, yes. However, LW is based on Reddit code, and the code and the database structure are quite difficult. (See some example database scripts here.)

comment by rpmcruz · 2016-01-30T16:55:58.415Z · score: 2 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I am new here. But what about just disable downvoting? Good comments will be voted up, bad comments will not be voted at all, and will rot in the bottom. Why remove them?

Possibly, you could have a "report" button to ask a moderator to review a very offensive comment.

comment by bogus · 2016-01-30T17:47:15.827Z · score: 9 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I am new here. But what about just disable downvoting?

Please no. Disabling downvoting would just turn "voting" into a popularity contest. Downvotes work well overall, and abuse of the karma system is quite rare.

comment by EGarrett · 2016-02-06T09:39:39.715Z · score: -1 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Disabling downvoting would just turn "voting" into a popularity contest.

Downvoting doesn't stop it from being a popularity contest. If you don't like someone, you can vote them down just as much as you can vote up people you like.

comment by Vaniver · 2016-01-30T19:26:53.342Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am new here.

Welcome!

But what about just disable downvoting? Good comments will be voted up, bad comments will not be voted at all, and will rot in the bottom. Why remove them?

Downvotes serve a number of useful purposes. We do want to maintain a culture of high standards and differentiate between comments that some like and others dislike and comments that aren't disliked by anyone. (If you only have to worry about playing to your supporters, then you are less likely to be charitable and polite.)

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-30T21:01:07.589Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Possibly, you could have a "report" button to ask a moderator to review a very offensive comment.

I believe there used to be one, but it went away some years ago. I don't know why. Maybe it was being abused, or was found to just not be useful.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-02-07T23:05:02.264Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It might make sense to specifically delete posts in addition to banning an account to deincentivise simply reregistering accounts.

comment by Alicorn · 2016-01-31T06:34:08.122Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am occasionally summoned to address spam. I currently have the ability to ban comments, but not accounts. Should I talk to someone about acquiring this ability or just refer anyone trying to summon me over to you instead?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-31T09:11:40.186Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

NancyLebovitz is currently the main moderator, with the right to ban accounts, so you can send her a private message.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-01-30T09:05:29.811Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What kind of grudge does this person has against LW that he keeps coming back? (It seems to be a bot judging by casebash's comment but nevertheless)

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-30T10:25:02.306Z · score: 11 (12 votes) · LW · GW

He is one a one-man crusade to show that rationality is identical to adherence to his object level political beliefs, and feels entitled to punish irrational people, ie people who disagree with him politically, by downvoting. He does not define rationality in terms of being able to provide reasoned arguments for beliefs, and does not regard his own inability to provide good reasoned arguments for his political beliefs to impugn his own presumed level of rationality.

comment by Houshalter · 2016-01-31T01:37:42.778Z · score: 9 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying that I agree with him at all, but I think it's important to understand this kind of behavior, rather than merely dismissing it as a crazy person. Though it is quite possible he is crazy, too.

But I think he feels like his political beliefs are being dismissed by others because they are controversial. There's a certain kind of person who's really attracted to contrarian beliefs like that. He thinks he can provide rational arguments for their beliefs, but people dismiss him and downvote him anyway.

This probably led to t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶o̶c̶k̶p̶u̶p̶p̶e̶t̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶ downvote people he didn't like [and sockpuppet accounts to upvote his own comments to undo it]. Again, not defending this at all, just trying to understand it.

Many people treat downvotes like insults. If your comment gets downvoted, its kind like if a bunch of people told you loudly and publicly "Shut up!", or that you are stupid. It's a public humiliation and a loss of status. That can lead to anger and frustration and a desire to get revenge.

Downvotes as shaming is a real effect. I certainly don't post comments which I think have a chance of being downvoted. Which is why I post comments here much less frequently than I otherwise would on other discussion sites. And I'm not trying to complain, because I love reddit's comment system and think it's really good at filtering discussion. But it is problematic that people treat it like a disagree button.

Then he gets banned for that behavior. That feeds into his persecution complex and gets him even angrier. And well, we've seen the results of that.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-31T10:32:15.504Z · score: 17 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Eugine's beliefs are "politically incorrect", but that's not completely unusual at LW. The main reason why we don't see them here often is that we don't debate politics often. And ironically, Eugine's downvoting crusades have contributed significantly to reducing the political debates on LW. There were times when we used to have a political debate in a separate thread or in an Open Thread once in a while. And at some moment, such debates started predictably ending with someone saying "I have disagreed with Eugine yesterday, and today I see I have lost hundreds of karma points and most of my old comments are at -1; fuck this". This makes the debate unpleasant even for the people who on object level happen to agree with Eugine on the specific topic. Most of us see the difference between "I won the debate by providing convincing arguments" and "I won the debate by strategically downvoting or otherwise harrassing my opponents" (or "I won the debate because my opponents were harrassed by a third party").

Also, Eugine's comments seem like optimized to offend. Such comments are "convincing for the already believing, and irritating for the unbelieving". They don't change anyone's opinion, and are usually used by a majority, to silence a minority. Ironically, majority is exactly what Eugine doesn't have here. So this leaves me with two models:

  • Eugine is too mindkilled to understand all this nuance, despite having spent years here. He still doesn't get what LW is about. In such case, his mental abilities are insufficient for LessWrong.

  • Eugine may understand the nuance, he just doesn't give a fuck about rationality or LW culture. For him, victory of his tribe is the ultimate goal. That also means he doesn't belong here, just for different reasons.

Regardless of whether he understands or doesn't understand what he is doing wrong, he has shown no capacity to learn or to improve his behavior. Like, come on, it's not like moderators are paranoidly observing IP addresses of every user to make sure the lifelong bans stay enforced. All he would have to do is to create a new account and change his behavior so that no one would suspect it's the same person. He is either incapable or unwilling to do that. Well, fuck him; we are not here to provide him group therapy.

I mean, feel free to speculate about his true reasons. I am just saying they don't change anything about the ban.

comment by Val · 2016-02-01T19:19:01.781Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

... comments seem like optimized to offend. Such comments are "convincing for the already believing, and irritating for the unbelieving". They don't change anyone's opinion.

This is a very beautiful and short summary of how a lot of political discussions actually look like. This concept is not new for me, but I've never seen it summarized this well before.

comment by Houshalter · 2016-01-31T13:43:52.118Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, Eugine's comments seem like optimized to offend. Such comments are "convincing for the already believing, and irritating for the unbelieving".

Did he start out this way or did this develop over time as he got more frustrated? I thought his comments got particularly worse after he got banned.

I mean, feel free to speculate about his true reasons. I am just saying they don't change anything about the ban.

Let me be clear, I'm just trying to understand why this happened. This behavior absolutely should be banned. Even if he had reasons for his actions, they were still wrong and he's still an asshole.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-01-31T19:53:23.016Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Did he start out this way or did this develop over time as he got more frustrated?

I think he got worse with time (though was never 100% unproblematic to begin with), but I'm fully not sure.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-31T14:32:05.873Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Did he start out this way or did this develop over time as he got more frustrated?

I don't remember.

comment by arundelo · 2016-02-01T18:04:50.684Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This comment is an excellent summary of Eugine_Nier's history at LW and what's wrong with his behavior.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-31T02:33:02.313Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · LW · GW

sockpuppet accounts to downvote people he didn't like

I've been mass-downvoted quite a bit by Eugine and I don't recall ever seeing any comment of mine downvoted more than once. If he's using sockpuppets, it's not so much "to downvote people" but either (1) to hide his mass-downvoting by splitting it among socks or (2) to upvote his own comments (whose karma trajectory over time is often rather peculiar).

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2016-01-31T07:15:57.650Z · score: 10 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Sockpuppets are for upvoting, not downvoting, because downvoting requires karma and upvoting doesn't.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-01-31T19:47:34.887Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Also, whereas as gjm noticed hardly any comments have more than one "anomalous" downvote, plenty of comments have like half a dozen anomalous upvotes.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2016-01-31T10:36:22.905Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Traditionally he posted quotes in Rationality Quotes threads to farm karma he could use for the downvotes. Maybe he got tired of doing that.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-01-31T19:59:11.600Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But I think he feels like his political beliefs are being dismissed by others because they are controversial.

He is partly wrong -- many users with similar beliefs but more reasonable attitudes got plenty of upvotes. (Part of that trend I describe in the linked comment can be explained as LW getting less tolerant of reactionary ideas with time, but not all of it: for example, Aurini was mostly active in the first year after LW opened and yet his karma is 60% positive.)

comment by Val · 2016-02-01T19:21:48.766Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I remember having some arguments with him, and although he seems a bit more confrontational than the average, he did in fact had some well-formed arguments from time to time. So definitely not an unintelligent person.

comment by username2 · 2016-01-30T17:47:42.688Z · score: -5 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Please note that the moderators of LW are the opposite of trigger-happy. Not counting spam, there is on average less than one account per year banned.

So I suppose you're counting advancedatheist as spam.

comment by knb · 2016-01-30T18:45:22.296Z · score: 9 (10 votes) · LW · GW

He said "on average."