Some people don't like to give their real personal data on the internet. Stack Exchange is nice about it. You need to have a user name (if you don't fill up something, you'll have this ugly auto-name with your id inside), but you don't have to give anything else.

However, some people, instead of being anonymous or provide real data, fill the profile with fake data. Sometimes they post photos of people other than they. It's a kind of role playing game, where you build your virtual identity of someone in different age, living in different country, sometimes even of different sex.

What is the position of the community to such role playing? I know that SE team has no restriction to filling up profile, as long as it's not offensive, spam or copyright violation. But what the majority of community members think? Is it rude to provide misleading data, or it's just an online game?

I think that in sites such as SO, Travel or Workspace it's nice to know with whom you are writing, especially if people give answers based on personal experience. The personal experience of small, young woman and 2x2 heavy metal fan are completely different when it comes to travelling alone in Mexico, for example.

However, on sites such as Arqade creating virtual profile of 2x2 giant by tiny girl can be a part of site culture.

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    We can discuss this at length, but what's the point? If someone wants to pretend to be someone else, they can. Unless it's a particularly obvious case, say someone impersonating Jeff Atwood (which is not allowed by the TOS if I recall correctly). I can see how this can lead to credibility issues on sites such as Workspace, but the simplest approach is to take "personal experience" stories with a grain of salt. (Or perhaps a whole shaker full)
    – Bart
    Jan 19, 2014 at 14:29
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    Wait, what? Are you saying that on the Internet people use fake identities??...Joking aside, I thought whats's important here is content, not the person who wrote it. Moreover, how do they say? Never trust users... Jan 19, 2014 at 15:54
  • There was Jon Skeet clone not so long ago. Same name, same avatar and same About Me. He was flagged and moderator had reset his details. If he would do it again, he'll get suspended. Other than that it's legit to copy just the display name or the avatar as long as you don't try to use in your favor. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:54
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    Erm, wait, is your last name really just "L"? Jan 20, 2014 at 18:51
  • @UphillLuge OK I've got the point, if I use the E-word, the people would suddenly 'loose' the ability to read cleartext, like I've written clear I don't speak about usernames. OK, completely rewording the question, keeping its meaning. Jan 20, 2014 at 19:40

3 Answers 3


noone knows you are a dog

Until we start demanding legally-bound certification a person is not a dog, there is no point in preventing anyone from using fake information.

Moreover, I see no problem with people further protecting their identity by using obviously fake birthdates, names and photos, provided they are not violating the TOS (which includes using someone else's identity in order to deceive).

You should focus on the content people produce, not on how they present themselves in their profile.

  • The users can protect their identity by not giving those data at all. Giving fake data provides no further anonymization. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:41
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    @ŁukaszL.: So why do you care? How will you tell what is real and what is fake? Jan 19, 2014 at 15:45
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    In most cases you can't but sometimes some users are going too far. It's a question about etiquette and not rules. Why not make internet a better place? It's nice to know with whom you are talking. Maybe not so important on SO, but on Travel etc. it's simply nice. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:49
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    The line is too blurry to draw. What if I futzed my age by 5 years? What if I misspelled my name slightly, enhanced my photo? Jan 19, 2014 at 15:50
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    It is perfectly normal for people to use fake profiles on the internet; again, as long as they are not violating the TOS (blatantly offensive, impersonating someone else, using their image and name just to promote (spam)), I don't see any problem with what people use in their profile. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:51
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    This is the correct answer. Also, me at home.
    – Shog9
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:19

The profile data is your place to put what you like in it. So long as it's compatible with the TOS and any applicable legislation there's no further discussion to be had. (Unless you want to start lobbing sueballs at other users?)

Clearly you might want to give some consideration to how people will perceive this and how it fits your online image.

In my case "Flexo" is not my real name, so I guess you could say it's fake. It is however a pseudonym that I use from time to time, but that's my own judgment call.

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    I thought all mods used there real name. I guess that means "Bill the Lizard's" isn't his real name either :) Jan 19, 2014 at 15:25
  • I've written about usernames, they are something else because you have to have something. You don't have to give your birthday.You don't have to post a picture of a human in the profile. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:43
  • @ŁukaszL. Nothing stops you leaving the username at its default value (user123456).
    – Flexo
    Jan 19, 2014 at 15:48
  • They are ugly and misleading. All user-something seems to be the same. Jan 19, 2014 at 15:50
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    @ŁukaszL. that's your subjective opinion, but it's entirely reasonable for someone else to choose to leave it at the default or set it to any other value. (The system wouldn't allow leave at default if it wasn't reasonable). At the end of the day you have no right to impose anything on anyone and no means to enforce it even if you did have a mandate to do so.
    – Flexo
    Jan 19, 2014 at 15:52

I think anonymous accounts are perfectly acceptable on the StackExchange network. A reason can be that they do not want certain discussions directly traceable to their name. This can for example be political discussions, or discussions about parenting style. Once something is online, it is oftentimes there for a long time. If, for example, a potential employer would google you and see some opinions he does not like, that could influence the chances of getting the job. An alternative scenario might be posting a nasty problem on the Workplace. You do not want to have your boss finding out your are complaining about him online.

In short, some people have valid reasons to be anonymous. In addition, when they are offensive, their account can still be blocked.

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