@Brian Lenz- certainly, when the formula is eventually published, a lot of the current friction will dissipate.
"People can downvote for whatever reason they want"...
That's the problem - that's a terrible message to send!
You're a representative of the company, saying people can downvote maliciously if they want to, and that the rep algorithms might tweak their rep accordingly.
Well, in this tech era, people push the limits. They'll think "I bet those algorithms won't catch me if I downvote maliciously infrequently, or using a pattern that is difficult to detect". So they'll try it. They'll do a couple of malicious downvotes, and see if their rep budges. If they see no change, they'll do it again. The lax message you send invites boundaries to be tested.
It even invites concerted attacks on the system. I will describe one to you in a private ticket, that could flood the platform with 200 high rep downvotes per day, be up and running in a month, and cost perhaps $3000 per month to operate. Cheap way to set back the competition, no?
There seems to be an idealism surrounding protecting the anonymity of voters, and I agree we should do that when a voter is voting honestly. When a voter votes fraudulently, on Narrative, that is like vandalism. Protecting the anonymity of a vandal/fraudster is not the same thing as protecting the anonymity of a voter.
But you don't even need to dive into who voted.
Moderators will have very little work to do: I'm the default moderator for a bunch of niches right now, and it takes me just a few minutes per day. When moderators get elected, there will be at least two moderators per niche! They're going to be begging for more work.
Why not make downvoters type a sentence explaining their downvote, and let moderators flag explanations that seem disingenuous. Their success rate will blow your algorithms out of the water - no offence.
The flagged downvotes could go to the Tribunal, who could make a decision, with or without knowing the identity of the downvoter (in other words this can still work even if you maintain 100% anonymity of voters, even the vandals). Abusive downvotes could result in a rep hit, and successive ones, could result in bigger rep hits, and even financial docking. Always with an email sent to the abuser letting them know they got caught.
The moral of the story? People will know - if I downvote, I'd better be able to say why, and it better make sense and line up with the downvote reason I chose from the list.
Algorithms are great, but the dev team is small, with a massive feature list to develop. Why not use the manpower you have on hand - the Moderators who on paper sound like they will be twiddling their thumbs 95% of the time...
And even if you hate this idea, at least recognise that the Narrative Company should have a moral stance here. Saying you can act any way you like with your downvotes and maybe you'll suffer a rep hit, is like saying you can steal and lie and cheat and defraud, and maybe you'll get caught. It is the truth, but it is a truth devoid of any moral backbone. Societies work best when there is a shared and taught ethos of what behaviours are positive, and what behaviours are negative. When people in positions of leadership say: "do as you will (inferred: you might well get away with it)"... that has negative consequences.