Wikipedia:Clean start

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This page is about making a fresh start on Wikipedia. For removing personal information that you may have accidentally revealed about yourself, see Wikipedia:Oversight. For changing your username but re-attributing past contributions to the new name, see Wikipedia:Changing username.

A clean start is when a user stops using an old account in order to start fresh with a new account. The two most common reasons for wanting a clean start are to make a fresh start after recognizing past mistakes, and to avoid harassment. The old account must be clearly discontinued, and the new account must avoid editing patterns or behaviors that would allow other users to recognize and identify the account. It is expected that the new account will be a true "fresh start", will edit in new areas and avoid old disputes, and will follow community norms of behavior.

A genuine clean start is not considered improper. However, if an editor uses their new account to resume editing articles or topics in the same manner that resulted in harassment or a negative reputation in the first place (becoming involved in disputes, edit warring or other forms of disruptive editing), the editor will probably be recognized and connected to the old account. Changing accounts to avoid the consequences of past bad behaviors is usually seen as evading scrutiny and may lead to additional sanctions. Whether a new account is a legitimate fresh start or a prohibited attempt to evade scrutiny is determined by the behavior of the new account. A clean start is not permitted if there are active bans, blocks or sanctions (including, but not limited to those listed here) in place against the old account.

Criteria[edit]

Users who may have a clean start
Any user in good standing who has no unexpired sanctions, and who is not being or about to be formally discussed for their conduct, may have a clean start.
Users who may not have a clean start
Any user who has active bans, blocks or sanctions (including, but not limited to those listed here); or is being or about to be formally discussed for their conduct; or is attempting to evade scrutiny, may not have a clean start.

How to "clean start"[edit]

If you decide to make a fresh start and do not wish to be connected to a previous account, simply stop using the old account and create a new one that becomes the only account you use. To reduce the chance of misunderstandings, you should note on the user page of the old account (while logged in under that account) that it is inactive, by using the {{retired}} tag or leaving some other message. You may not use more than one account at a time.

Notification and permission[edit]

If you are not under Arbitration Committee sanctions, you are not required to notify anyone of your clean start. However, you may find it helpful to notify the Committee or a member of the functionaries team, and get confirmation that there are no obvious problems with you following the clean start procedure. This may reduce the risk of misunderstandings that might result from "behind-the-scenes" discussions and investigations, and may assist you in an appeal of a mistaken block or sanction for creating an alternative account.

If you are under Arbitration Committee sanctions, then under an ArbCom resolution, you must notify the Committee.

Be aware that no one can grant permission for a clean start. The term "permission" carries with it the sense that you will not be held at fault for your actions. If you attempt a clean start, but are recognized, you will be held accountable for your actions under both the old and new accounts. The fact that you notified someone of the change will not excuse you from the consequences of your actions or protect you from recognition.

Editing after a clean start[edit]

It is assumed that editors who change accounts under the terms of clean start are seeking exactly that, a fresh start. You are responsible for editing in a manner that respects community norms of behavior, and avoids association with disputes or poor behaviors that you might have been involved with under your former account. It is best that you completely avoid articles or topics that you previously edited, especially if you were involved in a dispute with another editor(s). If you do not make positive changes in your behavior, you may be recognized, and held accountable for the actions of your past account(s). Likewise, if you want to make a clean start because of harassment from other editors, you should avoid editing articles that may place you in conflict with the same editors, because they will probably recognize you.

Returning to previous articles and topics[edit]

It is only natural that editors will want to edit the same topics that drew them to Wikipedia in the first place. However, returning to a favorite topic after a clean start carries a substantial risk that other editors will recognize and connect the old and new accounts. This can result in arguments, further loss of reputation, and blocks or bans, even if your behavior while using the new account was entirely proper. For this reason, it is best to completely avoid old topic areas after a clean start. If you have a favorite topic that you wish to edit, it may be better to continue using the old account, clean up your behavior, and rebuild your reputation the hard way. Alternatively, spend some time editing other areas and building a reputation as a "good" contributor before returning to former topics of interest. Remember that the goal of "clean start" is to make a positive change in your behavior so that you are not recognizable as your former account.

Contentious and scrutinized topics[edit]

Certain articles and topics are particularly contentious, and have attracted additional community scrutiny in the form of requests for comment, community sanctions, or arbitration cases. These areas should be completely avoided by the editor attempting a clean start. Even if the original account is not under a formal editing restriction, changing accounts hides the editor's past relationship to the disputing parties, and interferes with the community's ability to monitor the dispute. It is not an appropriate use of clean start to resume editing contentious or scrutinized topics with a new account. Changing accounts, and then resuming to edit in a contentious area, carries a substantial risk that other editors will recognize you and connect your old and new accounts. You may be viewed as evading scrutiny, which carries a risk of long-term blocks and bans. If you are unsure in a particular situation, you can ask a member of the Arbitration committee or the functionaries team for advice.

The guiding principle is that clean start is not a license to resume editing in areas under heightened scrutiny. It is intended for users who wish to move on to new areas having learned from the past, or who wish to set aside old disputes and poor conduct.

Requests for adminship[edit]

You are not obliged to reveal previous accounts; however, it is strongly recommended that you inform the Arbitration Committee (in strictest confidence if you wish) of the existence of a previous account or accounts prior to seeking out adminship or similar functionary positions. Failure to do so may be considered deceptive, and be poorly received by the Wikipedia community.

Seeking or accepting a nomination for administrator after a clean start often results in controversy. If the reasons for your clean start no longer apply then your best option is to simply link the two accounts before your RFA and resolve any outstanding issues relating to the account that ceased editing.

Becoming an admin without admitting that you had a previous account risks losing the confidence of the community if the former account is subsequently revealed.

If you want to become an admin without revealing your former account it is best to wait rather longer than if you had let people check your former account.

See also[edit]