Disclaimer: I know self-answers are encouraged. Take extra/illicit/morally reprehensible/dishonest rep gain out of the equation.

This discussion will inform my actions on a similar online community.

"While we discourage opinions on our main sites, questions here are likely to generate discussion and involve opinions." Where is the discussion?

I know sometimes sockpupetting is illegal. I also know it's sometimes legal. So here's the scenario.

Accounts will

  • Disclose association when asked

Accounts may

  • Answer a question asked by another account

Accounts will never

  • Vote
  • Edit
  • Flag
  • Comment (except to disclose association when asked)
  • Talk in chat (except to disclose association when asked)
  • Accept each others answers
  • Offer bounties on each others answers
  • Participate in voting rings etc.
  • Deny association
  • Ask questions twice as to circumvent duplicate flagging process
  • Do anything illegal or morally reprehensible not mentioned above

Ethical? Please discuss ethics.

I have read the entirety of the question and answer that Mr. Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog has very kindly suggested.

closed as off-topic by Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog, Jenayah, Tinkeringbell May 7 at 9:11

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network, within the scope defined in the help center." – Tinkeringbell
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 6
    Question is, why? You are allowed to post self-answers to your own questions, and reputation from votes would be consolidated under one account rather than split across two, which would give you privileges faster. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:19
  • Thought experiment. Also, help understand ethics. – user527923 May 7 at 8:20
  • 3
    The same general policy applies here: How should sockpuppets be handled on Stack Exchange?. In general, if it allows you to do things that you couldn't otherwise do using a single main account, it's not allowed and unethical. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:22
  • No, not duplicate. Very specific case presented here. – user527923 May 7 at 8:22
  • 1
    Edited my comment. Note that here on Meta Stack Exchange, we close questions as duplicates of canonical questions if the answer to that question also addresses this question. See this section of our FAQ on how Meta Stack Exchange works and the last section of our FAQ on duplicate closures. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:23
  • Mr. Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog I want to make sure I don't do anything morally wrong. – user527923 May 7 at 8:24
  • 1
    The moral policy is the same as the site policy. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:25
  • "in general, if it allows you to do things that you couldn't otherwise do using a single main account, it's not allowed and unethical. " Consider specifics of "testing bugs that only show up at low rep levels" Now consider specifics of OP – user527923 May 7 at 8:25
  • Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog: Does Meta not consider specific cases? We talk in chat, better? – user527923 May 7 at 8:28
  • 3
    Can you please edit this with more details about what exactly your purpose is? Right now, your question is extremely vague as there are both legitimate and illegitimate uses of doing what you're doing, and we need more information. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:29
  • Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog: Done. – user527923 May 7 at 8:30
  • 2
    Your new sentence "This discussion will inform my actions on a similar online community" doesn't really explain what specific actions you're planning to take. It would be very nice if you edit this question with specific details on what "experiment" you're going to run, and how your behavior will be influenced. As currently written, there isn't much more to say than what's in the site policy. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:31
  • 1
    In all honesty, it would be less time-consuming for us if we knew what specific thing you're planning to do so we can tell you if it fits the policy, rather than keeping it from us and thus keeping your question vague. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:35
  • 7
    Hi SuperHeliPower! If this is about a competing Q&A site, please ask there. This site is for questions about the Stack Exchange Network, not for helping you understand the ethics of competitors. – Tinkeringbell May 7 at 9:11
  • 3
    Welp, at least they deleted their account. That was probably the best result we could have hoped for – n8te May 7 at 10:16

Answer a question asked by another account

I would advise against this. Technically, it shouldn't make a difference, but users tend to judge self-answers differently than situations where the answerer and the questioner are two different persons. Since that's a given, you're essentially misleading other users, which is heavily frowned upon if not outright forbidden. In any case, most people here consider it unethical.

Disclose association when asked

Yes, it might work when put a giant disclaimer at the top the answer. But why are you posting the answer under a different account then? I can't think of a proper reason to do so. If you need your sockpuppet to earn some reputation, just ask and answer the question with the sockpuppet account. If you want to do it to "circumvent implicit moderator biases due to nickname choices", that's misleading, so the first paragraph explains that it's unethical.

  • ? Accounts will never accept each others answers; to circumvent implicit moderator biases due to nickname – user527923 May 7 at 8:10
  • Glorfindel: See edits – user527923 May 7 at 8:14
  • I'm not saying it's unethical, under the very strict conditions you mention. I'm just wondering what's the point in doing so... – Glorfindel May 7 at 8:15
  • <s>Thought experiment and potential use in circumventing implicit moderator biases due to nickname choices.</s> Thought experiment. – user527923 May 7 at 8:17
  • 4
    @SuperHeliPower Circumvention of any type falls under the definition of being able to do something that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do under a single account you own, and thus the general sock puppet policy is applicable here. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog May 7 at 8:21
  • My b, circumvent nothing. Consider situation as posed in the OP. – user527923 May 7 at 8:22
  • Glorfindel: What is one illegal action that fits the constraints? One legal action? – user527923 May 7 at 8:35
  • Glorfindel: Please clarify might. Suppose I always put a giant disclaimer at the top the answer. Why "might" work? What is a case where might not work? – user527923 May 7 at 8:43
  • 1
    Be prepared to receive downvotes on such an answer because some other users dislike sockpuppets. – Glorfindel May 7 at 8:44
  • Glorfindel: "some other users dislike sockpuppets" Can you please expand on that? – user527923 May 7 at 8:52
  • 6
    No, I can't. Please read up on other sockpuppet questions on this site, the topic has its own tag. Then draw your own conclusions... – Glorfindel May 7 at 8:53

Just to reiterate and emphasise what others have written. This:

Accounts may

  • Answer a question asked by another account

is not allowed on any Stack Exchange site.

There is nothing wrong with self answering so there is no need to create a second account to do this.

If you are found doing this then you risk having the second account deleted and the main account suspended.


I see the following drawback for future visitors due to the following

  • The accounts may answer each other's questions
  • These sockpuppet answers would not be accepted (to avoid giving reputation to the sockpuppet)

It's possible to accept self-answers, but you don't gain reputation. So why should you accept your own answer then?

According to the FAQ:

Accepting an answer is important as it both rewards posters for solving your problem and informs others that your issue is resolved.

The latter part is crucial here - in your hypothetical scenario you indeed avoid giving reputation to your sockpuppet, but other visitors will be denied the information that your sockpuppet's answer solved your issue.

I do think that it is not good to withhold that information from others. You may call it unethical or not, but it is unnecessary. Either let another user write the correct answer or write an actual self-answer and accept them, if they solved the issue.

  • Anne Daunted: Take this Q&A site as an example, "Good answers are voted up and rise to the top. The best answers show up first so that they are always easy to find." Consider the quote. Still a drawback? – user527923 May 7 at 8:38