Wikipedia:Meat puppetry

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Meatpuppetry is soliciting other people to come to Wikipedia in order to influence the editorial process in a topic or discussion. A "meat puppet" is another editor that has been solicited to sway consensus.[1] It is a violation of this policy either to solicit meat puppets or to be a meat puppet for someone else.

New editors sometimes engage in meatpuppetry unwittingly, on the assumption that it is an acceptable practice. Editors should assume good faith, especially for new users, before making meat puppet accusations.

Examples of what constitutes meatpuppetry[edit]

The following behaviors are examples of what constitutes meat puppetry:

  • Asking another editor to support your position in a dispute. For example:
  • In a content dispute in an article Talk page
  • In a deletion dispute related to an WP:Articles for deletion
  • In an issue under discussion at a noticeboard such as WP:ANI
  • Asking another person to create a Wikipedia account for the purpose of supporting your own position in a dispute
  • Assembling a group of editors with the purpose of resolving an ongoing dispute in a certain way
  • Patrolling the page someone you know created, or asking someone you know to mark the page you created as patrolled.
  • Holding a discussion with several like-minded editors outside of Wikipedia about an ongoing dispute within Wikipedia, with the purpose of swaying the consensus
  • Creating a page, then arranging for someone you know to propose it for deletion, just to see what an AfD for it would be like.

What is not meatpuppetry[edit]

Compared with sockpuppetry[edit]

Unlike sock puppetry, meat puppetry involves more than one person, rather than a single person using more than one account. Often, these people use two separate computers or connections, thereby rendering the checkuser inquiry useless. Therefore, only circumstantial evidence can be relied upon in order to make a positive identification.

Compared with canvassing[edit]

Meatpuppetry can be similar to canvassing in some situations, but they are distinct. Canvassing is usually a public invitation of a select group of people that are likely to agree with the requestor's position; whereas meatpuppetry is generally a hidden invitation with the direct goal of affecting the outcome of a dispute.

Discussions outside Wikipedia[edit]

Discussions about a Wikipedia dispute in forums outside Wikipedia are discouraged, including discussions on other websites, web forums, IRC, by email, or otherwise off the project. Such discussions are not taken into account when determining consensus "on-wiki", and may generate suspicion and mistrust if they are discovered. While there is an occasional need for privacy on some issues, most Wikipedia-related discussions should be held on Wikipedia where they can be viewed by all participants. See WP:Consensus#Consensus-building pitfalls and errors for details.

Signs[edit]

Some of the possible signs of sock puppetry may also be signs of meatpuppetry. In fact, some are more commonly associated with meatpuppetry than sock puppetry. If any of these are taking place, this does not automatically mean there is meatpuppetry, and those engaging in such behavior should not instantly be accused. Use care when making such accusations. It is preferable only to make accusations when multiple signs are present.

Some of the signs are:

  • New accounts possibly showing a short or precocious edit history. Just because an account is new does not make it a sock or meat puppet. But in some cases, this may indicate the user when instructed or coached what to do.
  • Excessive support for one's cause: This is not always a sign of meat puppetry. Sometimes, a cause inherently is really popular, or others may be following the leader. But this may in some cases indicate one has been soliciting others to support one's own cause.
  • Editing warring: If an edit war is taking place, and at first, only one editor supports a cause, but suddenly, this increases to more, this may indicate that the one holding the minority view has solicited this help. This is not always the case; it is very likely for others to hold the minority view as well.
  • Participation in discussions: If, in a discussion, one or more accounts support a particular cause (such as keeping an article proposed for deletion), and it appears these accounts are held by those not holding their own independent view, it may be worth examining if meat puppetry is occurring. This is not always the case, and accusation should not be automatic.
  • Knowledge that an obscure article exists: There is nothing wrong with telling your family and friends about an article you created. There is nothing wrong with them editing it either. But if there seems to be no other apparent reason one should know about such an obscure page, this could be a sign the other editor was informed about the page's existence.
  • Always there when needed: This is one of the more suspicious signs of all. If there are two accounts that frequently are seen commenting in occasional common discussions, but rarely are involved in discussions otherwise, this could be a sign that one person is actually there to support the other. If the evidence shows these accounts are not operated by the very same person, it is more likely to be meat puppetry.
  • Editors live near one another: If the article in question is about something that is not a local or regional interest, and two or more editors live in close proximity of one another, it is possible, but not definitive that meat puppetry is occurring.

Handling meatpuppetry[edit]

Following the positive identification of a meatpuppetry case, any action that is taken will be taken against both the solicitor of the meat puppets, and the meat puppets themselves.

Meatpuppet investigations[edit]

Meatpuppet investigations are handled together with sockpuppet investigations. Any suspected meat puppets should be reported at Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations.

Checkuser[edit]

While it is less likely for the CheckUser tool to be of any use in a meatpuppetry case, especially since those solicited may be editing from different computers and connections, Editors with access to the Checkuser tool may consult the server log to see which IP addresses are linked to which accounts. In meatpuppetry cases, Checkuser may be able to help confirm that two accounts may be operated from the same computer. Checkuser may also indicate that the editors live relatively close to one another.

Blocking[edit]

If a case of meat puppetry is confirmed, the person found to be using meat puppets, as well as the meat puppet accounts themselves, may face a temporary or permanent block or ban. Accounts created solely for the purpose of being meat puppets may be blocked indefinitely. Accounts with a history of good-faith editing may face blocking on a more temporary basis.

Tagging[edit]

Ways to mitigate unproven meatpuppetry[edit]

If meatpuppetry is suspected, but not proven, WP includes polices that may minimize its adverse effects.

  • Consensus in many debates and discussions should ideally not be based upon number of votes, but upon policy-related points made by editors. See WP:Wikipedia is not a democracy.
  • 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.
  • For the purposes of dispute resolution, the Arbitration Committee has decided that when there is uncertainty whether a party is one user with sock puppets, or several users acting as meatpuppets, they may be treated as one entity.[2]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ In Internet slang, meatspace means "real life", as opposed to cyberspace. In this context, "meat" means a person, and "puppet" suggests they are doing the bidding of whoever recruited them to Wikipedia rather than acting in the best interests of the encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Regarding Ted Kennedy#Sockpuppets