Wikipedia:Sock puppetry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
toy puppets made from socks with buttons for eyes
The origin of the term "sock puppet" is a type of toy puppet.

The use of multiple Wikipedia user accounts for an improper purpose is called sock puppetry (often abbreviated in discussion as socking). Improper purposes include attempts to deceive or mislead other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus, avoid sanctions, or otherwise violate community standards and policies. The term comes from sock puppet, an object shaped roughly like a sock and used on the hand to create a character to entertain or inform. In Internet terminology it is an online identity used for deception.

Wikipedia editors are generally expected to edit using only one (preferably registered) account. Using a single account maintains editing continuity, improves accountability, and increases community trust, which helps to build long-term stability for the encyclopedia. While there are some valid reasons for maintaining multiple accounts on the project, the improper use of multiple accounts is not allowed.

Sock puppetry can take on several different forms:

  • Creating new accounts to avoid detection
  • Using another person's account (piggybacking)
  • Logging out to make problematic edits as an IP address
  • Reviving old unused accounts (sometimes referred to as sleepers) and presenting them as different users
  • Persuading friends or acquaintances to create accounts for the purpose of supporting one side of a dispute (usually called meatpuppetry)

The misuse of multiple accounts is considered a serious breach of community trust. It is likely to lead to a block of all affected accounts, a ban of the user (the sockmaster or sockpuppeteer) behind the accounts (each of which is a sockpuppet or sock), and on-project exposure of all accounts and IP addresses used across Wikipedia and its sister projects, as well as the (potential) public exposure of any "real-world" activities or personal information deemed relevant to preventing future sock puppetry or certain other abuses.[1]

Editors who want to use more than one account for some valid reason should provide links between them on the respective user pages (see below), with an explanation of the purpose of each account or of the relationship between them. If so desired, the user and user talk pages from one account can be redirected to the other. Editors who use unlinked alternative accounts, or who edit as an IP address editor separate from their account, should carefully avoid any crossover on articles or topics, because even innocuous activities such as copy editing, wikifying, or linking might be considered sock puppetry in some cases and innocuous intentions will not usually serve as an excuse.

Inappropriate uses of alternative accounts

Policy shortcut:

Editors must not use alternative accounts to mislead, deceive, disrupt, or undermine consensus. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Creating an illusion of support: Alternative accounts must not be used to give the impression of more support for a position than actually exists.
  • Strawman socks: Creating a separate account to argue one side of an issue in a deliberately irrational or offensive fashion, to sway opinion to another side.
  • Editing project space: Undisclosed alternative accounts should not edit policies, guidelines, or their talk pages; comment in Arbitration proceedings; or vote in requests for adminship, deletion debates, or elections.[2]
  • Circumventing policies or sanctions: Policies apply per person, not per account. Policies such as the three-revert rule are for each person's edits. Using a second account to violate policy will cause any penalties to be applied to your main account, and in the case of sanctions, bans, or blocks, evasion typically causes the timer to restart. See also WP:EVASION.
  • Contributing to the same page or discussion with multiple accounts: Editors may not use more than one account to contribute to the same page or discussion in a way to suggest that they are multiple people. Contributions to the same page with clearly linked legitimate alternative accounts is not forbidden (e.g. editing the same page with your main and public computer account or editing a page using your main account that your bot account edited).
Policy shortcut:
  • Avoiding scrutiny: Using alternative accounts that are not fully and openly disclosed to split your editing history means that other editors may not be able to detect patterns in your contributions. While this is permitted in certain circumstances (see legitimate uses), it is a violation of this policy to create alternative accounts to confuse or deceive editors who may have a legitimate interest in reviewing your contributions.
  • Editing logged out to mislead: Editing under multiple IP addresses may be treated the same as editing under multiple accounts where it is done deceptively or otherwise violates the above principles. Where editors log out by mistake, they may wish to contact an editor with oversight access to ensure there is no misunderstanding.
  • Misusing a clean start by switching accounts or concealing a clean start in a way that avoids scrutiny is considered a breach of this policy; see Wikipedia:Clean start.
Policy shortcuts:
  • "Good hand" and "bad hand" accounts: Using one account for constructive contributions and the other one for disruptive editing.
Policy shortcut:
  • Role accounts: Because an account represents your edits as an individual, "role accounts", or accounts shared by multiple people, are as a rule forbidden and blocked. Many first time editors may sign up an account with a username that implies it is a role account or is being shared. Such accounts are permitted only if the account information is forever limited to one individual, however, policy recommends that usernames avoid being misleading or disruptive. As such, if you edit for an organization, please see username policy for guidance on choosing a name or a replacement name that can avoid these problems. Role account exceptions can be made for non-editing accounts approved to provide email access, accounts approved by the Wikimedia Foundation (list below), and approved bots with multiple managers. See Username policy – Sharing accounts.
  • Deceptively seeking positions of community trust. You may not run for positions of trust without disclosing that you have previously edited under another account. Adminship reflects the community's trust in an individual, not an account, so when applying for adminship, it is expected that you will disclose past accounts openly, or to email the arbitration committee if the accounts must be kept private. Administrators who fail to disclose past accounts risk being desysopped, particularly if knowledge of them would have influenced the outcome of the RfA.
Policy shortcut:
  • Administrators with multiple accounts: Editors may not have more than one administrator account, except for bots with administrator privileges. If an administrator leaves, comes back under a new name and is nominated for adminship, he or she must give up the admin access of their old account. Foundation staff may operate more than one admin account, though they must make known who they are.
  • Posing as a neutral commentator: Using an alternative account in a discussion about another account operated by the same person.
  • Misusing new pages patrol: Creating an article with one account, then marking it as patrolled with another.

Legitimate uses

Policy shortcuts:

Alternative accounts have legitimate uses. For example, long-term contributors using their real names may wish to use a pseudonymous account for contributions with which they do not want their real name to be associated, or long-term users might create a new account to experience how the community functions for new users. These accounts are not sockpuppets. If you use an alternative account, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not violate this policy. Valid reasons include:

  • Security: Since public computers can have password-stealing malware installed, users may register an alternative account to prevent the hijacking of their main accounts. Such accounts should be publicly connected to the main account or use an easily identified name. For example, User:Mickey might use User:Mickey (alt) or User:Mouse, and redirect that account's user and talk pages to their main account.
  • Privacy: A person editing an article which is highly controversial within his/her family, social or professional circle, and whose Wikipedia identity is known within that circle, or traceable to their real-world identity, may wish to use an alternative account to avoid real-world consequences from their editing or other Wikipedia actions in that area.
  • Maintenance: An editor might use an alternative account to carry out maintenance tasks, or to segregate functions such as work with specific kinds of media files, so as to maintain a user talk page dedicated to the purpose. The second account should be clearly linked to the main account.
  • Testing and training: Users who use a lot of scripts and other tools may wish to keep a second, "vanilla" account, for testing how things appear to others; or for demonstrating Wikipedia's default appearance when training new users. The second account should be clearly linked to the main account, except where doing so would interfere with testing or training, e.g. someone created an account with the user name "example" for the same reason that the domain names "example.com", "example.org" and "example.net" were created, to serve as a "dummy" account to be used in examples without indicating a real user's actual account.
  • Bots: A common special case of maintenance involves bots, or programs that edit automatically or semi-automatically. Editors who use bots are encouraged to create separate accounts, and ask that they be marked as bot accounts via Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval, so that the automated edits can be filtered out of recent changes; see Wikipedia:Bot policy.
Policy shortcuts:
  • Doppelgänger accounts: A doppelgänger account is a second account created with a username similar to one's main account to prevent impersonation. Such accounts should not be used for editing. Doppelgänger accounts may be marked with the {{doppelganger}} or {{doppelganger-other}} tag (or simply redirected to the main account's userpage).
  • Compromised accounts: If you have lost the password to an existing Wikipedia account, or you know or suspect that someone else has obtained or guessed the password, you may well want to create a new account with a clean password. In such a case, you should post a note on the user page of each account indicating that they are alternative accounts for the same person, and you may well wish to ask an admin to block the old compromised account. You may want to consider using WP:Committed identity in advance to help deal with this rare situation should it arise later.
  • Clean start under a new name: If you decide to make a fresh start, you can discontinue the old account(s) and create a new one that becomes the only account you use; see Wikipedia:Clean start. Clean-start accounts should not return to old topic areas or disputes, editing patterns, or behavior previously identified as problematic, and should be careful not to do anything that looks like an attempt to evade scrutiny. A clean start is permitted only if there are no active bans, blocks, or sanctions in place against the old account. Discontinuing the old account means it will not be used again; it should note on its user page that it is inactive—for example, with the {{retired}} tag—to prevent the switch being seen as an attempt to sock puppet. It is strongly recommended that you inform the Arbitration Committee (in strictest confidence if you wish) of the existence of previous accounts before standing for adminship or functionary positions. Failure to do so is likely to be considered deceptive.
  • Humor accounts: The community has accepted some obviously humorous alternate accounts, for example User:Bishzilla, User:Bishapod, User:Darwinbish, User:Darwinfish, User:Floquenstein's monster, and sometimes Lady Catherine Rollbacker-de Burgh (the Late).
  • Correcting username violations: If you are blocked for having an inappropriate username, and that is the sole reason for the block, you are permitted to create a new account with an appropriate username. In fact, the username block template encourages this.

It is recommended that multiple accounts be identified as such on their user pages; templates such as {{User alternative account}} or one of a selection of user boxes may be used for this purpose.

Editing while logged out

There is no policy against editing while logged out. This happens for many reasons, including not noticing that the login session had expired, changing computers, going to a Wikipedia page directly from a link, and forgetting passwords. Editors who are not logged in must not actively try to deceive other editors, such as by directly saying that they do not have an account or by using the session for the inappropriate uses of alternate accounts listed earlier in this policy. To protect their privacy, editors who are editing while logged out are never required to disclose their usernames on wiki.

Alternative account notification

Policy shortcut:

Except when doing so would defeat the purpose of having a legitimate alternative account, editors using alternative accounts should provide links between the accounts. Links should ideally take the form of all three of the following:

  1. Similarities in the username (for example, User:Example might have User:Example public or User:Example bot).[3]
  2. Links on both the main and alternative account user pages, either informally or using the userbox templates made for the purpose. To link an alternative account to a main account, use the main account to tag any secondary accounts with {{User alternate acct | main account}} (using the main account shows it's genuine) or {{Publicuser}} if the account is being used to maintain security on public computers. The main account may be marked with {{User alternative account name|OtherName|...|OtherName[n]}} or {{User Alt Acct Master}}.
  3. Links in the alternative account signature: if not linking to both the alternative and main account, link to the alternative account, and if necessary provide a note there requesting contact be made via the main account, or simply redirect the user talk page.

Editors who have multiple accounts for privacy reasons should consider notifying a checkuser or members of the arbitration committee if they believe editing will attract scrutiny. Editors who heavily edit controversial material, those who maintain single purpose accounts, as well as editors considering becoming an administrator are among the groups of editors who attract scrutiny even if their editing behavior itself is not problematic or only marginally so. Concerned editors may wish to email the arbitration committee or any individual with checkuser rights. Editors who have abandoned an account and are editing under a new identity are required to comply with the clean start policy.

Meatpuppetry

Policy shortcuts:

High-profile disputes on Wikipedia often bring new editors to the site. Some individuals may promote their causes by bringing like-minded editors into the dispute. These editors are sometimes referred to as meatpuppets, following a common Internet usage. While Wikipedia assumes good faith, especially for new users, recruiting new editors to influence decisions on Wikipedia is prohibited. A new user who engages in the same behavior as another user in the same context, and who appears to be editing Wikipedia solely for that purpose, may be subject to the remedies applied to the user whose behavior they are joining. Sanctions have been applied to editors of longer standing who have not, in the opinion of Wikipedia's administrative bodies, consistently exercised independent judgement.

Wikipedia has processes in place to mitigate the disruption caused by an influx of single-purpose editors:

  • Consensus in many debates and discussions should ideally not be based upon number of votes, but upon policy-related points made by editors.
  • In votes or vote-like discussions, new users may be disregarded or given significantly less weight, especially if there are many of them expressing the same opinion. Their comments may be tagged with a note pointing out that they have made few or no other edits outside of the discussion.
  • A 2005 Arbitration Committee decision established that "for the purpose of dispute resolution when there is uncertainty whether a party is one user with sockpuppets or several users with similar editing habits they may be treated as one user with sockpuppets."[4]

The term meatpuppet is derogatory and should be used with care, in keeping with Wikipedia's civility policy. Because of the processes above, it may be counterproductive to directly accuse someone of being a "meatpuppet", and doing so will often only inflame the dispute.

Sharing an IP address

Policy shortcuts:

If two or more registered editors use the same computer or network connection, their accounts may be linked by a CheckUser. Editors in this position are advised to declare such connections on their user pages to avoid accusations of sockpuppetry. There are userboxes available for this; see {{User shared IP address}}.

Closely connected users may be considered a single user for Wikipedia's purposes if they edit with the same objectives. When editing the same articles, participating in the same community discussion, or supporting each other in any sort of dispute, closely related accounts should disclose the connection and observe relevant policies such as edit warring as if they were a single account. If they do not wish to disclose the connection, they should avoid editing in the same areas, particularly on controversial topics.

Handling suspected sock puppets

Shortcut:

Sockpuppet investigations

Wikipedia:Signs of sock puppetry lists some of the signs that an account may be a sock puppet. If you believe someone is using sock puppets, you should create a report at Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations. Only blocked accounts should be tagged as Category:Suspected Wikipedia sockpuppets and only upon sufficient evidence that would stand up to scrutiny.

CheckUser

Policy shortcut:

Editors with access to the CheckUser tool may consult the server log to see which IP addresses are linked to which accounts. CheckUser cannot confirm with certainty that two accounts are not connected; it can only show whether there is a technical link at the time of the check. In accordance with the Wikimedia Foundation's Privacy and Checkuser policies, checks are only conducted with good cause, and subject to the exceptions in those policies, results are given so as to avoid or minimize any compromise of personal identifying information. Particularly, "fishing"—the use of CheckUser for a given user account without good cause specific to that user account—is prohibited.

Blocking

If a person is found to be using a sock puppet, the sock puppet account(s) should be blocked indefinitely. The main account may be blocked at the discretion of any uninvolved administrator. IP addresses used for sock puppetry may be blocked, but are subject to certain restrictions for indefinite blocks.

Tagging

Proving you are not a sock

The project's userbox:
Persönliche Bekanntschaften This is a confirmed main account and no sock puppet.
(→ Verify - info)

One possibility to prove that your account is not a sock puppet is the Personal acquaintances WikiProject. This project was started in 2008 in the German language Wikipedia and uses a WMF labs tool where users can confirm that they have met a real person operating one specific Wikipedia or Wikimedia account at a Meetup in real life. The project and its tool meanwhile have been translated to several other languages and can be accessed with any account using the global single user login. Once you have registered as a participator of Personal acquaintances, you need to be confirmed by three other participators in good standing before you can start confirming other real life persons yourself. For further information go to the project page linked above. You can show other Wikipedians that you are a real person by displaying the userbox {{User:Romaine/Persönliche Bekanntschaften/box}} on your userpage or the link to your list of confirmations via the url "https://tools.wmflabs.org/pb/beta/user/name/your username/".

List of role accounts

Category:Wikipedia contact role accounts

See also

Guidelines

Essays

References

  1. ^ Wikimedia Foundation privacy policy:
    "It is the policy of Wikimedia that personally identifiable data collected in the server logs, or through records in the database via the CheckUser feature, or through other non-publicly-available methods, may be released by Wikimedia volunteers or staff, in any of the following situations:
    • (See policy for details)"
    Information under this policy is not gratuitously released, but may be made public at times in the context of detecting, confirming, preventing, and resolving issues related to actual or possible abuse.
  2. ^ See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Privatemusings#Sockpuppetry.
  3. ^ Dissimilar names may cause confusion and create an impression of avoiding transparency; remember that the username appears in page histories even if you change the signature.
  4. ^ Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Regarding Ted Kennedy#Sockpuppets
  5. ^ Ownership of this account is passed between outgoing and newly-appointed Chairpersons, and the password is changed upon the transferral of ownership, so this is not a "role account".

External links

Related information