Wikipedia:Autoblock

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To have an autoblock on your account lifted, please follow these instructions, but the instructions only work if you are able to edit your talk page while autoblocked.

An example of an autoblock causing collateral damage. This display makes it look like admin Curps blocked many other users (identified by anonymizing six digit numbers). In actuality, Curps only blocked one user, and all the others were "collateral damage" caught by the autoblock because they were using IPs related to the blocked user.

An autoblock is an automatic block of an IP address. Autoblocks are the result of an attempt to edit Wikipedia from an IP address recently used by a blocked user.

Each time a user edits Wikipedia, the IP address from which the edit was made is logged. (This log is accessible only by a very small number of trusted users, called "checkusers.) If a blocked user attempts to edit, the IP from which they are editing is "autoblocked," to prevent their switching to editing anonymously or under a sockpuppet username. Also, if a different user then attempts to edit from the autoblocked IP, that user is autoblocked as well, and any other IPs from which they attempt to edit, while so blocked, are autoblocked as well. Other users who use those IPs may also be blocked, and so on. It is possible for some users, who have done nothing blockworthy, to be caught in this cascade of autoblocks.

In short: If you are autoblocked, don't panic, simply request an unblock and an admin will review the situation.

Requesting an unblock

Users who find themselves autoblocked accidentally may request an unblock by one or more of the following methods:

  1. Posting the {{unblock-auto}} template on their talkpage to obtain the attention of an administrator (see {{autoblock}} for further instructions)
  2. Contacting the administrator who issued the initial block and requesting an unblock, by sending them an email with the "Email this user" option at that admin's userpage
  3. Going to the #wikipedia-en-unblock connect IRC channel on freenode
  4. Submitting a request to the Unblock Ticket Request System

Unblocking an autoblocked user

If a user is autoblocked, an admin can clear the autoblock by:

  • Reviewing the list at Special:BlockList, and searching for the user's account name. This is a case-sensitive search.
  • Identifying the #xxxxx number that is associated. If searching on this number, be sure to include the "#"
  • Unblocking the #xxxxx by clicking the "unblock" link

Note that once the autoblock is cleared, the user's account name will no longer appear in the list.

If the user has posted the blocked IP on-wiki as part of the request to be unblocked, consider whether there is a need to remove this information for privacy/security reasons, using revision deletion.

Messages

Block message

When a user is autoblocked, they see the following message:

Log messages

Sometimes the term Autoblock disabled will show up in a block message. This means that when the user was blocked, that only their username was blocked, but other users on the same IP are still free to edit.

The default setting for a block is to have Autoblock enabled, but it generally does not say this explicitly in a block message. To disable the default autoblocking of an account, admins must manually uncheck the box that says "Autoblock any IP addresses used".

How it works

Gmaxwell shortly after vandalizing the English Wikipedia under the username
Bad article creation bot.
His vandalism caused harej to accidentally autoblock the entire Wikiconference NYC 2009. English Wikipedia ArbCom member Kirill Lokshin looks on with disapproval.

When an autoblock occurs, users may be autoblocked as the result of a block on another user, who was probably using the same ISP. So a different user may end up blocked, even though they have personally done nothing wrong. This is referred to as "collateral damage". Example:

  1. User:Susan, an administrator, blocks User:Bort for 24 hours. Unknown to Susan, Bort uses AOL to edit Wikipedia, and an autoblock was enabled at the time of the block
  2. User:Steven, who also uses AOL from home, and is currently assigned the IP address last used by Bort, signs on to Wikipedia
  3. The MediaWiki software, detecting the use of the IP by Steven, and assuming it to be Bort, issues a 24 hour block on Steven, in admin Susan's name. Susan is not notified of the block.
  4. Steven receives a "You have been blocked" message, doesn't understand what an autoblock is, and angrily demands to know why admin Susan has blocked him.
  5. Steven tries to login from his work computer (which does not use AOL)
  6. The MediaWiki software senses that Steven is trying to get around his block, and autoblocks his work IP as well
  7. One of Steven's co-workers, who happens to use the same work IP, tries to access Wikipedia
  8. The MediaWiki software senses the co-worker, and autoblocks them too, as well as any future IPs they may use
  9. And so on...

It is important for users to understand that administrators do not set autoblocks; once they have blocked a user with autoblocking enabled, autoblocks are set by the MediaWiki software. Autoblocks do not appear in administrators' block logs, and the administrators are not notified of them. This is a necessary consequence of Wikipedia's privacy policy, to keep logged-in users' IP addresses private. So while the IP address responsible for each edit is recorded by the MediaWiki software, this cannot be accessed, even by administrators and even when the user is blocked.

The only circumstances in which a user may be associated with an IP address, are certain policy violations detailed by the checkuser policy; even then, access to the Checkuser tool is granted only to a small group of trusted users, not administrators in general.

Disabling autoblocking

When a block is issued, autoblocking is usually turned on by default, except for common dynamic IP ranges, such as those used by AOL. A list of such automatically exempt IP ranges can be found at MediaWiki:Autoblock whitelist.

Administrators can disable autoblocking at the time of blocking a user, by unchecking the checkbox. Once an "enabled" block is placed, it can also be fixed by modifying the user's block, but this should not be done unless absolutely necessary.

Automatic reset

There is an internal autoblock expiry time variable, which is set to 24 hours, meaning that autoblocks only last for 24 hours. However, in the case of dynamic IP pools (such as those used by AOL), this may affect hundreds of users before the block expires. So in the case of an indefinite block, autoblocks may continue to be set by the software, weeks or months after the initial block has been set. Older indefinite blocks, dating from before the autoblock exemption whitelist and the option to disable when blocking, may also trigger autoblocks.

Starting with Mediawiki version 1.20.0 (live on Foundation wikis since May 2012), lifting the original account block automatically lifts every autoblock that was created as a consequence of that block.

Ipblocklist

When IP addresses are autoblocked, they appear in Special:Ipblocklist (but not in the admin's block log) with a special mask that prevents the IP from being seen. Autoblocks register on Special:Ipblocklist and in the banner available to the blocked user, with the name of the admin that set the original block. However, the admin is not notified that an autoblock has been placed.

Tips

  • It is helpful for all involved, especially AOL users, who are often chronically autoblocked by collateral damage, to remain patient and remember that it is the software, not the administrator who is unfortunate enough to have his or her name appear on the block, that is responsible for the autoblock.
  • Equally important is for admins to check Special:Ipblocklist regularly, and unblock all autoblocks from a particular user if more than two autoblocks are set in rapid succession.
  • If more than two IPs are autoblocked within seconds/minutes of each other, it is a good indication that it is a dynamic IP pool and the blocks are collateral damage.
  • Autoblocked users should email the admin, before posting angry messages to the mailing list, as 1) it isn't the admin's fault, and 2) it can quickly be taken care of without the need for hurt feelings.

See also