7

Over the past week or so, I've run into some accounts that seem questionable. I understand that they may not actually be sock puppets as defined below, but they do appear to be users masking their actual account to avoid reprisals for making "rude or unkind" comments.

What are the rules governing multiple accounts (i.e. sockpuppets)?

The first one I ran into was a comment on this answer, where I made a reply to user 134121. The comments were then turned into a chat room, where the username for that comment turned into fredsbend, and you can still see this by looking on the right hand pane of the chat, where it lists fredsbend as the author of a comment now attributed to user 22286 in the chat thread.

As you can see, neither user 134121 or user 22286 have any other accounts on other stacks, and they don't have enough actions to warrant their reputation points. User fredsbend doesn't have a Workplace account, or any other account, so how can they have posted a comment there?

On another site, I answered a question and got a comment from user76284, who also apparently doesn't have enough interactions for their reputation.

Maybe I don't have the reputation to see everything they are doing, but these accounts seem to be used for actions that go against normal SE/SO rules.

I've already flagged one comment as "rude or unkind", but that doesn't seem to cover how questionable these accounts seem to be. I've this read this question, but the answers don't seem to fit, since I don't have proof for questioning these account.

motosubatsu made a comment in the chat (linked previously) on how to report a moderator, but that doesn't seem to fit with reporting an apparent low rep user.

So my real question is: What can be done when we run into accounts like this?

8
  • 1
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? Prevent repeat offenders from using association bonus / nuke all acounts network wide is possible, but it could also be: meta.stackexchange.com/a/367105/282094 - not a "sock puppet" just different names on different sites, for the same network account.
    – Rob
    May 17 at 1:09
  • Sorry but I really fail to see what you have against using more than one account by same person, and even so, that's not even the case here. If you see a rude or unfriendly comment, flag it. It does not matter who posted it. It might be some new 1 rep user (on their own posts), and it might be the CEO of Stack Overflow. It just doesn't matter. May 17 at 5:56
  • Re "...how to report a moderator...": Do you mean "...how to report to a moderator..."? May 17 at 12:35
  • 1
    @This_is_NOT_a_forum, no, one of the comments was questioning why a diamond moderator was allowed to be a moderator while being so negative towards an asker. I can confirm that the moderator in question is often negative towards others in many of the comments and answers they post, and that the answer they posted is fairly typical of the moderator. May 17 at 14:48
  • 1
    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar, I don't have a problem with people having more than one account, but it's against SE/SO policy to have more than one account to do shady things, like avoiding penalties for not following SE/SO policy. Evidently I don't have the ability to see how these accounts are connected to other accounts, like you do. And if someone is trying to get around site policy, it does matter, at least it should, to moderators to make sure it doesn't continue to happen. May 17 at 14:52
  • @computercarguy actually I'm ordinary user exactly as you, I'm not a moderator on any SE site. And from what you describe, I see nothing shady in the way accounts are used. (Once you understand how it works, which Catija's answer explains perfectly.) May 17 at 15:28
  • 1
    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar, without knowing what Catija said in their answer, it seemed suspicious. Now that I know more, it doesn't seem suspicious. That's why I asked this question. May 17 at 15:30

2 Answers 2

14

So, this is a bit of a perfect storm but this is, as far as I can tell, all pretty much legitimate usage of the site - that said, I can understand it being confusing because... well, it's somewhat unusual, in my experience, anyway.

So... here's a breakdown of what's going on here:

1. Different usernames

While it's a bit confusing, we actually don't care what your username is on our sites - any of them. We tie your site profiles to a profile ID number and the username is just flavor text on top of that. Then each of those profile IDs are tied to an account ID, which is - again - a number we assign sequentially based on when you create your account.

Within some restrictions, we let people set usernames on a per-site basis. While most people do not, some do and that's OK. It can end up looking confusing when their profile links to an account that has a different username but - it's one of the tidbits about the site that I think is nice and it pairs with the idea that our network has many sites - some of which are more professional and others are more fun. Someone may want to use a pseudonym on some sites while using their professional name on others - and that's cool with us.

2. Hidden profiles

In conjunction with allowing different usernames per site, we also allow people to hide any or all of their profiles from their network account. While these aren't completely hidden - there are some ways to connect the dots - the average user isn't aware of them and won't necessarily be able to identify the network account of a profile that is hidden.

You can access the feature by going to "edit profile" and selecting "Hide communities" - or just click here.

While these profiles are hidden from regular users, moderators and staff with moderation abilities can see them - they're greyed out on the network account page to indicate to mods that they're hidden.

3. Chat accounts are weird

With the exception of MSE and Stack Overflow, the rest of the network shares a single chat server. As such, another place where a user's hidden profiles can become visible is in chat. Each user has a single "chat parent", which is a specific site the user sets as their primary chat profile. The content in the profile including the username is taken from this site.

As such, someone with a chat parent different from the site you're on may appear to have a different username if they set different usernames per site - which I've previously explained here.

So... that's about it. But it's a lot, so no shade for not being aware. I can confirm that these users are legitimate and not sockpuppeting.

0
4

There's no evidence of sock puppetry here. The two The Workplace (TWP) accounts that you saw have earned the association bonus on other sites and then hid their accounts. This makes it harder for regular users to find the other accounts (but hey, you did find some for one of the users).

Site moderators, on the other hand, can still easily find all these connected accounts, even when they're hidden. It's still a single network profile that exists for each user.

This is a tool given to allow people some privacy; you may not want all your work problems on TWP associated with the account on another site that you use to show off your technical prowess. There are definitely hundreds of unrelated users who use this tool.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .