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While trying to ask a question, one could get:

We are no longer accepting questions from this account. See the Help Center to learn more.

This is of course something counterproductive towards a single user, but for the best of the community. Seeing as individual users are barred from asking further questions they go looking for ways to regain that ability. The solution for that always boils down to getting a positive record again. Something that can be achieved by improving ones existing questions, or adding new positively scored questions to your account.

The latter should not be a viable option, as the user is at that point banned from asking new questions, with the exception for one new question every 6 months.

Recently in a comment thread a user proposed the following way to redeem yourself from a question ban:

...you can ask questions anonymously(without logging in somesites), then after receiving the upvotes (1 is sufficient), you can request a merge which will be done immediately

It is true that in some cases an automated merger is triggered. This is something that isn't very well documented at all (which might be for the best of it).

I wonder if this is currently a viable option to get your question ban lifted. I, for obvious reasons, don't feel like testing this in practice. Therefore any "official" answer is appreciated.

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  • 2
    If the end result is that the quality banned user manages to ask well received questions I see no problem if they apply this trick. Obviously their main account was close to the tip over point so a single well received post would be enough. The quality ban is not a "state" (not like a suspension), it is calculated on the fly. Their total of contributions needs to be well received. How they achieved that well receivedness is irrelevant
    – rene
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:37
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    I think it is a bit more nuanced @rene. If this is a viable option a user would theoretically get infinite tries (until an IP ban sets in), to ask that one good question to add to their main account. Which could then of course be repeated when the desired result wasn't yet reached.
    – Luuklag
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:39
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    Someone had previously asked why users who create accounts to bypass bans receive a more lenient limit of one question per week, and the answer to that is relevant here: What is the reasoning behind limiting "recidivists" to post one question per week? Oct 15 '20 at 7:40
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    The failed attempts still count and would put them deeper in the ban. You can't unmerge accounts.
    – rene
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:40
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    @rene while true, it still feels wrong. People are not allowed to bypass question ban by creating new account, so this thing is a slap in the face of those who follow the rules and don't even try. Oct 15 '20 at 7:43
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    @ShadowWizardWearingMask yes, it is shady. But I tend to focus on content, not on users. The scenario leads to well received content. That is a win.
    – rene
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:45
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    I am, as usual, against rewarding "clever" users that find undocumented ways to bypass restrictions. Either we give a documented way to ask questions during a question ban, or we do not allow it at all. Encouraging shady behavior does not bring many benefits.
    – wimi
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:57
  • @SonictheMaskedWerehog that speaks specifically about users who delete their accounts to start over. Which is different from retaining your account and triggering an automated merger only once you asked a positively scored question.
    – Luuklag
    Oct 15 '20 at 7:58
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    @rene since it involves ban, it's a special case where we should focus on the user, even if the content is good. Was going to say what wimi just said, and in addition: if a user who is suspended can create new account and use it to post questions and answers, what is the purpose of suspension? How will the user learn their lesson? (Question ban is like suspension, in a way) Oct 15 '20 at 7:59
  • @Luuklag I thought the automatic merger was automatic and immediate. How do you trigger it selectively after checking that a question was well received? Oct 15 '20 at 8:19
  • @ShadowWizardWearingMask The problem that a user can evade their question ban by using an anonymous account is somewhat tangential to the issue here. They can do that even if the accounts are not merged, and irrespective of if their questions are well received. Oct 15 '20 at 8:23
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    @EmilJeřábek the thing is that by allowing the merge to lift the ban, we reward the person. That's the problem, as it further encourage such behavior. Oct 15 '20 at 8:25
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    @ShadowWizardWearingMask while true, unfortunately single account merge would be difficult to moderate because in many cases users would have plausible explanation that it was an "unintentional mistake". At second strike though, system should flag it for mod attention, let them dig deeper and suspend if needed (ideally in a way that would somehow feed the abuser data into SpamRam)
    – gnat
    Oct 15 '20 at 9:49
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    @QueenieGoldstein targetted voting isn't solved by creating a second account. You flag a mod, they can investigate or escalate to a CM. I would be very, very dumbfounded if there's enough targetted voting to get someone into the 6 month question ban, yet not enough to prove a case to a mod/CM. Neither having the ban or suspecting targetted voting as being the cause should ever allow anyone to circumvent system restrictions iwith a sock, since socks aren't supposed to be used to do things the master can't do.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Oct 15 '20 at 10:39
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    @Tinkeringbell It could theoretically happen, if the user had already received some negative votes but not enough to get a ban, but then received some targeted votes that just pushed them over the edge. But yes, that's not a valid use of a sock puppet. Oct 15 '20 at 11:11
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This is clear sock-puppet abuse under SE policy.

For an official answer, in the FAQ on when sock-puppets are problematic, Shog9 gives this as an example of abuse:

Circumventing suspensions, quality bans, or the rate limits on posting questions / answers / comments / etc.

This is unquestionably circumventing a quality ban (and/or the associated rate-limits).


From the perspective of whether this is harmful: it is, because the asker gets to make unlimited attempts at asking a good question and only having the good ones credited to their account, impairing the system from properly understanding the quality of questions coming from that user. The system is designed to stop users who repeatedly ask bad questions from asking more of them, and doing this prevents it from doing so.

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  • As a counter argument, Shog9 also mentions (ensuring voters vote for the answer, not the user) . this also inherits automatically to the questions. Oct 15 '20 at 11:17
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    @QueenieGoldstein there is always a fine line between voting on the posts or voting on the user. If one stumbles across a poor post from a user, and the next day finds another poor post from the same user I could understand they go and check the rest of their questions. Luckily there is automated vote detection and reversal in place for cases where users go into these targeted voting sprees. A different case is the Meta Effect. When a user brings one of their poor posts to Meta it can quickly attract downvotes [1/2]
    – Luuklag
    Oct 15 '20 at 11:35
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    but in that case the user mostly is to blame themselves. They brought their poor question under the attention of the community at large by posting about it on Meta. This can also have a desired effect, where questions that were erroneously closed get reopened due to the meta effect. Posting on Meta bout a specific post is always a fine line to balance on in that sense. [2/2]
    – Luuklag
    Oct 15 '20 at 11:36
  • @RyanM How should moderators handle problematic sockpuppets once they've been identified? This depends on the severity of the abuse and the discretion of the moderator handling it. For the typical first occurrence: Send a warning to the primary account, and either suspend or send another warning to the secondary account or simply delete it if the abuse is blatant. If the quality of the post is better, the person may no longer need a sock puppet as well (1 warning evasion of quality ban). Secondly, the sock puppet also gets destroyed as described in the OP's post. Of course multiple is harm. Dec 13 '20 at 19:22
  • and gets punished with the mentioned unlimited tries. Dec 13 '20 at 19:23

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