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According to the Users with more than 10 duplicate accounts on StackExchange Data Explorer there are many people that have multiple user accounts for each e-mail address. Why is this allowed? Some people seem to have more than 90 user accounts.

This probably mean that people can create multiple user accounts and upvote themself.

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Surely "jim" and "JamesBrownIsDead" from that list have many accounts. But what if the other hashes just indicate some often-used spam address, like nothanks@mailinator.com? –  Arjan Dec 14 '10 at 22:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

People are allowed to have multiple accounts as long as they don't use them to vote for themselves.

There are mechanisms in place to identify this sort of behaviour and steps taken - usually merging the accounts, but it can lead to suspensions.

I suspect in the cases you link to though people are coming from Google or setting up an account to ask a question, vote on the answers and then promptly forgetting that they've done this.

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There are at least two non-abusive intents of having two or more user accounts.

  • Unregistered users who lose their old accounts will probably use the same email address when they create a new account. It's useful not just to keep at the community, but also handy to communicate the loss of account detail to the authorities in order to get a merge.

  • Sometimes, a user wants to use two separate accounts - one to ask questions and one to answer questions. This lets them ask all the newbie questions they want without staining the AWESOME record of their answering account. This is generally done under the understanding that they do not interact between the two accounts (such as upvoting), under the risk that when someone finds out the accounts will get merged. Oh, AWESOME user, not looking so AWESOME with those three hundred easy questions, now, are you?

Many people are very civil and will not engage in abusive acts when registering extra accounts. And for those that do, the rest of the community has proven to be very good at noticing these trends. Moderators also have tools to identify suspicious trends where a user might be getting illicit votes. These, and other keys, will prompt a deeper investigation that will lead to appropriate action if fraudulent action is found.

So to answer "why", we have the measures necessary to counter most bad uses, leaving it open to allow people to use it for non-bad reasons.

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I really wish we would merge accounts by default, and only allow exemptions under specific circumstances (i.e. ask the moderators first). It's way too confusing seeing one user have multiple accounts, such as when trying to find other posts that they have made. –  Ether Dec 15 '10 at 0:16
    
@Ether: I agree with that. –  Jonas Dec 15 '10 at 9:33
    
That second reason is not a good reason because asking questions at all is pretty dumb. Why would one need an account for such an unnecessary activity? People just need one account for answering questions. This does make me wonder where questions come from. I'm assuming it's some kind of bot. –  XMLbog Dec 15 '10 at 14:40
    
@26y Someone has to be behind the bot, though, which means that the second reason is definitely in play. But, if we did discover who it was, would we chance merging a person with a bot? –  Grace Note Dec 15 '10 at 14:49
    
How can a newbie ask poor questions but post awesome answers? –  DJJD Apr 17 '13 at 4:01
    
@DJJD This answer was less about "poor" questions as it was "beginner", the likes of which make people might think you're quite fresh in the arena. Some people have weird levels of pride. That said, it's quite possible to be able to help solve people's problems, but not be all that articulate with your own problems, especially if they're esoteric enough. –  Grace Note Apr 17 '13 at 13:12

Why wouldn't it be allowed?

See Jeff's answer on the policy on multiple accounts. It doesn't do any harm to allow users to make multiple accounts. It only does harm if they use those accounts to upvote themselves. If they are doing that, then there are ways that SO will check for vote fraud.

If you suspect that users are sockpuppets, flag them for moderator attention.

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