Wikipedia:Dealing with sock puppets

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What is a sock puppet?[edit]

Sock puppetry is where one user is secretly pretending to be a completely different person or multiple people, in order to avoid scrutiny or otherwise abuse the system.

A sock puppet (also called a "sock") is an extra account used by someone for abusive purposes. This could be someone who is blocked, and created an extra account to be able to bypass the block and edit. Often, an abusive person will create several sock accounts so they can vote many times in a deletion discussion at WP:AFD or talk page discussion. In this case, it is used to make it look like they have more support than they really have. In other cases, they are created to edit war and bypass WP:3RR. Sock puppetry is dishonest, and makes Wikipedia less enjoyable for honest editors looking to build an encyclopedia.

The "sock master" is the original and authentic account, while a "sock puppet" is the deceptive account, basically a fake person. Since puppets aren't "real", they are handled differently than the master. This shouldn't be confused with meat puppetry, which involved getting real people to pile on in a discussion and is a different kind of policy violation.

There are many good reasons for a person to have more than one account. Many have an alternate account for security reasons when they are logging in from public places, for example. It is only sock puppetry when those alternate accounts are used for abusive purposes such as deception or avoiding scrutiny.

If you think someone is a sock puppet...[edit]

Putting the "suspected sock puppet" tag on a talk page or calling them a "sock puppet" on any talk page is considered uncivil, so don't do it. Report them to WP:SPI instead. Informing the suspected sock that they have been reported to WP:SPI is not required, and in most cases, it causes more problems than it solves so it is discouraged in most cases. If input is needed from the editor, an SPI Clerk will notify them. This is true whether they are innocent or guilty of sock puppetry. It is strongly preferred that you do not report sock puppets to WP:ANI or WP:AN. These admin boards require notification of the other party, which is often sub-optimal. Furthermore, the Echo notifications system will automatically notify the users that they have been reported to SPI. Sock puppets should be reported to WP:SPI using one of the methods below, and you should simply avoid them and avoid talking about them until the investigation is over.

Writing a proper report[edit]

All reports should be concise and contain a few diffs that show the linkage between the sock master and puppet. Keep it simple. A short but clear report is more likely to get attention quicker. Do not inject personal attacks or comments about the character of the individual, just keep it focused on the facts. You may be asked for more information. Keep in mind, it is your job to provide enough information to justify the investigation, it is not the Clerk's job to do all the work for you. They are always helpful, but you have to provide enough information for them to determine if a deeper investigation is warranted. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

If there are multiple socks, or a case is already open, do not keep adding new reports. Add a note in the existing case in the "Comments from other users" area. Provide diffs and link the users name using the {{checkuser|1=User Name}} template.

Requesting a checkuser process be used[edit]

"CheckUser" (CU) refers to both the tool that reads the logs of the website, and the person that is authorized to use that tool. Most of the time, asking for a CheckUser to run a checkuser process isn't needed. The SPI Clerk will ask for and endorse a CU if it is needed. If you are confident it is required, then you must provide diffs showing the connection between the puppet and master, where their edits are the same, otherwise it will be declined. The final decision to run a checkuser is solely the decision of the CheckUser, not the Clerk's or reporting party's. Under virtually all circumstances, a CheckUser will not disclose the relationship between an IP and a named account. If a case is very obvious it may be declined and the person duck blocked, making the check unnecessary. Or it might be declined because the Clerk or CheckUser doesn't think it passes the criteria to be checked. CheckUser is not magic pixie dust and it does not prove that two accounts are the same person, it only shows if two accounts used the same IP address and device. It is only one tool that is sometimes used to prove sock puppetry. Behavioral analysis is the most important tool used when making a determination.

Reporting a sock puppet using Twinkle (best)[edit]

Go to the suspected sockpuppet's user or talk page, click on the Twinkle tag, chose "ARV", then for report type chose "sockpuppet" and fill in the name of the "sockpuppeteer" (the older, master account). In the evidence area you should provide a few diffs and a very short explanation of why you think they are a sockpuppet. Keep it simple, don't drone on or insert your opinions on them as a person. Be sure to include a few diffs to show the linkage.. The vast majority of the time, you should NOT select "Notify user". The Checkuser box is usually not selected either. If it is required, an SPI Clerk will request and endorse it. Don't add the word "User:" before the person's name in the report, and don't sign the report with the regular ~~~~ signature. The tools do this automatically for you.

Reporting a sock puppet manually[edit]

To to WP:SPI and in the form in the middle of the page, enter the sockmaster (the oldest account or the already blocked sock master), then it will pop open a form to fill out. Do your best, but don't worry about small errors, as the SPI Clerk will clean up anything that needs it. Make sure you prove a few diffs to back up your suspicions. You can then edit the page after it is created. Please keep your comments in the upper section, even when replying to admin or clerks. The bottom section is exclusively for admin and checkusers. Do not add "User:" before the person's name in the report, and don't sign the report. The template does this for you automatically.

Reporting a sock puppet to an admin[edit]

If you know an active admin, you can drop the information off on their talk page or email them. You still need to provide ample evidence in the form of diffs. Not all admin are willing to file for you, and they are not obligated to do so. Remember, they are volunteers, too. You can also report it directly to an SPI Clerk on their talk page.

Your conduct[edit]

Sometimes you are convinced that two accounts are puppets, yet the Clerk is not. Blocking someone is a radical step and can only be done if an administrator is very confident that a link exists. Sometimes, a case is borderline so they can't block until more evidence shows up. Please respect the decision even if you disagree with it. You can always go to the admin's talk page and politely discuss it, but don't get into a long debate at the SPI report page. Don't get into side discussions at the SPI page, keep it on topic and formal. Sometimes an admin might think the two are linked, but they aren't sure, so they can't block. Determining sock puppets isn't an exact science.

Never revert a report that has been archived, ask the Clerk on their talk page instead. You can't do a simple revert of an archive, it breaks things. Don't edit war with Clerks. It may seen odd to keep your comments up at the top of the report, while Clerks and admin write in the bottom, but the template requires this, so please do so. This makes reading the report as an archive much easier for future Clerks and CheckUsers.

Cleaning up after a sock puppet is blocked[edit]

The goal is to mop up the mess, not to shame the sock puppet. When deciding what and how to revert, don't be emotional or vindictive.

If an account has been blocked specifically for sock puppetry, then removing some of their edits is acceptable. This is NOT done to spite or punish them. It is done to alleviate the disruption/deception caused by abusing multiple accounts. In discussions such as WP:AFD, RFCs or other !voting discussion, you should strike their contributions using one of several available methods. Sometimes, a combination of these methods is best. The goal is to make it obvious they are a sock so when the discussion is closed, their input will not be considered. This should be done for all blocked sock puppets and sock masters in a discussion. Don't worry about their comments on their own talk page, small article edits, or every single comment on an article talk page. Don't be "nitpicky".

When deciding how to clean up after a sock, ask yourself "What is the cleanest and least disruptive way of dealing with each edit?" and use that as your guide. As long as you aren't emotionally motivated, you will probably get it right most of the time. If you are unsure with any modification, just ask an admin first.

Removal[edit]

Removal is often the cleanest method when dealing with comments in RFCs, AFDs, !votes and article talk pages. Simply delete the comment and use an obvious edit summary that won't confuse anyone, such as "Removed vote from blocked sock. See SPI case." This should only be done when their comments are stand alone with no replies, or when there is one or two replies that clearly do not add anything of value to the discussion, such as someone commenting that they look like a sock. When removing their comment, you have to remove the replies to their comments as well, or it will be confusing. This is why you need to be careful when doing this, since you are removing other person's comments. If in doubt, don't do it.

Striking[edit]

Often, striking is the easiest way. It is simple and easy to do, and requires placing <s> before the text to be struck, and </s> afterwards. This is an example. The code will look like this. <s>This is an example.</s> Indenting is also a good idea and you can also add a comment directly after the struck text (not on a separate line) in regular or small text.

Keep This is a good article. IRA Sock 00:00, 1 January 2000 (UTC) Blocked sock. Dennis Brown / / © / @ 00:55, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

This will look like this in code:

<s>'''Keep''' This is a good article. [[User:Example|IRA Sock]] 00:00, 1 January 2000 (UTC)</s> <small>Blocked sock. ~~~~</small>

This method is best when there are replies to the !vote, and removing the comment would be confusing to the reader. Always use a clear edit summary, so everyone is clear why you are striking the vote when they look at the page history. This prevents misunderstandings (and drama).

Hatting (Hidden archive)[edit]

Hatting is good for when there is several replies to the comment, and those replies are not adding anything particularly unique to the discussion. Examples might be if they are asking the sock questions or answering the sock, but the material has been covered elsewhere in the discussion. Hatting is fairly easy, and requires TWO templates, one before the part to be hatted, and one after. Direction before the part to be hatted use this: {{hat|Blocked sock ~~~~}} making sure you sign inside the template so others will know who hatted and why. Directly after the section, you use the {{hab}} tag. To help remember the names, {{hat}} standards for "Hidden Archive Top", {{hab}} stands for "Hidden Archive Bottom", and you must use both. Here is an example:

Blocked sock. Dennis Brown 00:00, 1 January 2000 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
  • Delete - I'm a blocked troll/sock. Ima Troll (talk) 01:10, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Farmer Brown (talk) 01:10, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
The lazy dog didn't even notice the fox. Pharmboy (talk) 01:10, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

The information will still be viewable by clicking the "show" button. The hat method is also handy for other applications, too, such as for long lists. You don't need to strike comments if they are also hatted, but you can if you like. Using "blocked sock" is all the comment that is needed, expressing other opinions about the editor isn't helpful.

Deleting articles or article edits[edit]

It isn't necessary or desirable to try to revert every single article edit the sock puppet has ever made. If they have the most recent edit and it isn't adding anything to the article, or is vandalism or clearly disruptive, then you should revert it as you would any other unhelpful edit. If they have recently created articles and the master account was previously blocked, you can tag them for speedy delete with criteria G5 using Twinkle. Sometimes there are reasons why the articles aren't deleted and why edits aren't reverted. Do not edit war with admin over this. You can always ask, but the procedure for when and if to delete is complicated and not always obvious at first glance. Again, the goal isn't to punish the sock puppet, it is to take away the reward for violating policy. At the same time, we aren't trying to be pointy about it and there is no simple set of rules telling us when to and when not to delete, so experience and good judgement are required.

What NOT to do[edit]

Do be mature, polite and professional in how you deal with sock puppets.
  • Do not place tags on their talk or user pages. There are number of different tags that can be used, and often there are reasons why tags shouldn't be used. If you think a tag should be added to a sock puppet page, ask an SPI Clerk to do so.
  • Do not ever call someone a sock puppet on an article or user talk page or in any edit summary. Doing so is often considered uncivil and can actually get you in trouble. If you suspect they are a sock, then file a report at WP:SPI or put a polite note to this effect on any active admin's talk page. Reporting them at WP:ANI or WP:AN is discouraged.
  • Do not make personal comments about users, edit war, or argue at WP:SPI. Just make your case and wait. Sometimes it takes days to get a result.
  • Do not grave dance. This means you shouldn't go to their page and talk trash, celebrate their block, say "I told you so" or comment further. Move on instead, clean up anything you need to, and ignore them. They are already blocked, and taunting them only make it more likely they will make MORE sock puppets, which causes the admin yet more work. Be the bigger person and resist the urge to twist the knife once they are blocked. Taunting can also get YOU blocked, so just don't.
  • Socks feed on drama, so Don't feed the socks.

Conclusion[edit]

Sock puppetry is a problem at Wikipedia and you can help make a difference by reporting them to the proper admin board and by your conduct when dealing with them. Many sock puppet masters take joy from making others mad, so deny them the pleasure by staying calm. Just report them, stick to the facts, be polite, clean up like a pro afterwards, and move on without discussing them elsewhere. This will actually help reduce sock puppetry because it takes away the reward.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]