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A common scenario we run into on Stack Overflow is that we have a troll, spammer, or obvious sock puppet of another user and moderators decide to delete this user. We go on about our business only to find out an hour or two later that the account we just deleted has been recreated, using the same credentials, and is now back to trolling, spamming, or committing voting fraud once again.

I've seen some people recreate an account like this using the same credentials four or five times (multiple times in the last week, in fact). The only thing that stops them is if we remember to suspend the account for right before we destroy it. Accounts recreated using the same credentials as an account that was suspended will be locked into the same suspension the old account was serving.

In particular, this becomes a real problem with sock puppet accounts that have a network association reputation bonus attached to them, because the recreated accounts keep getting that 100 point bonus and can immediately be used for voting fraud, to troll chat, or to spam comments. I've had to deal with quite a few puppet accounts like this by suspending them for a year before deletion.

I propose that all moderator-deleted accounts behave as if they were suspended for a year upon deletion, so that recreating these accounts using the same credentials will cause the new account to be locked in a one-year suspension. This would prevent the new accounts from being used to abuse the site in the same manner as their old account did.

This won't put an end to people creating new spam, troll, or puppet accounts after we delete them, but it will at least slow them down by forcing them to create new login credentials each time. It also would curb abuse of account association bonuses by puppets.

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    i.stack.imgur.com/a0jCv.png – gnat Mar 21 '16 at 21:06
  • +1, but: if someone is determined enough to keep signing in with the same credentials after their account is deleted, they're probably also determined enough to set up new credentials if the feature you request was actually enacted. Email addresses are two a penny these days, so it'd be almost as easy to create a whole new account as to reuse the old one. So although it'd be a good thing to have, this feature probably wouldn't help THAT much. – Rand al'Thor Mar 21 '16 at 21:16
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    @randal'thor - True, this won't stop even moderately determined trolls and spammers (that's what the anti-trolling and anti-spam systems are for), but it at least blocks one easy avenue for account recreation. It doesn't harm legitimate users, so if it helps in any way that would seem to be worth it. It might completely stop the abuse of account-association bonuses by puppets, though, and that could be a real help. – Brad Larson Mar 21 '16 at 21:26
  • @BradLarson I'm trying to think of any way it might possibly harm a legitimate user ... maybe if an account was somehow destroyed wrongly? – Rand al'Thor Mar 21 '16 at 21:31
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    So add a checkbox "this user is being deleted because of spamming, trolling, or in connection to vote fraud" – Ramhound Mar 21 '16 at 21:34
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    @randal'thor Mods can end a suspension early, iirc. So if that happened, it would get sorted out far before the year was up, and the user could be unsuspended. (Not that I imagine that happens all that often to begin with.) – Kendra Mar 21 '16 at 21:42
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    @gnat, the Hot Question in the sidebar of that screenshot is an unbelievable bit of serendipity. – Josh Caswell Mar 21 '16 at 22:14
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    @Josh Caswell completely missed the hot question for user experience great! – DnrDevil Mar 21 '16 at 22:45
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Adam Lear implemented this as follows:

  • If a user is destroyed using the "spam" option or deleted using the "no longer welcome" option, a 14-day suspension is automatically recorded on the account at the time of deletion, effectively creating a situation identical to that which would exist if the user was manually suspended prior to deletion (except without triggering an email to the user).
  • If the user is recreated, the system immediately re-suspends them for the duration of this 14 day period. They can wait it out of course, but this should add a significant amount of resistance to the process.
  • Re-created accounts should immediately appear to moderators under /admin/users, in both the "annotations" and "timed suspension" sections. Critically, users annotated with "Remainder of unserved suspension applied to new profile" are returning users and may warrant observation.

As tempting as it is to just impose the maximum suspension here, that's probably counter-productive; for spammers looking to save a few minutes by re-using destroyed accounts, 14 days is as good as infinity; for fraudulent accounts, it's probably a wash but perhaps some value can be had in tracking via the annotation. For everything else, a 14-day waiting period should serve as an effective deterrent while reducing the need for moderator messages / support emails as a safety net - we're leaning on the lesson learned from quality-bans and rate-limits here.

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This currently works if an account is suspended before it's deleted, to curtail the very thing you're describing. Folks were getting suspended, contacting us for deletion, and then signing up again all washed-n-rinsed of their previous transgressions.

I can see doing this automatically if:

  • The account is destroyed for "spam or nonsense"
  • The account is destroyed for "no longer welcome"

This would be scoped strictly to accounts eligible for destruction (mod language for delete the account and wipe all of their posts) - if an account has enough rep to disable that option, we should be proceeding manually and probably contacting the user.

If this is just a matter of inserting a suspension start date, length and automatic annotation prior to the rockets launching - it should be a no-brainer.

I'd like to point out that I'm sorely tempted to make the suspension stick at the network level if 'spam or nonsense' is selected, but that gets into mods having administrative powers that reach slightly beyond the borders of their sites, which is another discussion I'd like to revisit soon.

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    I'm sorely tempted to make the suspension stick at the network level if 'spam or nonsense' is selected - Yes. This. Spammers should not be able to continue spamming across the network. If the only problem is the mods having power beyond their site, maybe require approval or something like that from other mods/CMs. – angussidney Mar 22 '16 at 6:10
  • @angussidney The idea of automating this is to save a lot of work for moderators, and we'd give a lot of that savings back if we had to build this around a two-key system with a queue for approval. If we're going to do it, we've got to do it in a system of constraints that trusts and enables mods to make good decisions. I think we could do that, but I need to spec it out more and see how folks feel about it. – Tim Post Mar 22 '16 at 7:01
  • I have the same thought with angussidney. Probably if the offender's account is deleted on total of 3 sites, then the network suspension is placed. I think deleted account on 3 sites should give strong indicator that they're not welcomed on SE overall. May also be extended to deleted 3 times on the same site. – No Distraction Wizard Mar 22 '16 at 7:47
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    To the above deletion reasons, I'd also add the relatively new "this user is a sock puppet of" one. While it doesn't impose the same penalties as the others, sock puppets aren't legitimate accounts and are often recreated using the same credentials. Moderators wouldn't be deleting accounts for that reason if we thought they were real users who would come back and behave better later. – Brad Larson Mar 22 '16 at 14:54
  • I'm sympathetic to the sockpuppet use-case, but those are also potentially the most error-prone deletions, @Brad. Let's give this a bit of time and see how it pans out; I can pull numbers on the remaining deletions after a few months of this and see how many problems we're overlooking. – Shog9 Apr 25 '16 at 20:50

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