Does "sock-puppet" always carry the meaning of abusive, non-main accounts? Is there such thing as a "benign sock-puppet"?

The source of my confusion is that the post "What are the rules governing multiple accounts (i.e. sockpuppets)?" lays out rules for having multiple accounts, and in the title, says "(i.e. sockpuppets)", which seems inconsistent with the tag wiki for sock-puppets on MSE, which says "A sock puppet is an extra account created in addition to the user's normal account, especially with abusive purposes.", and the Wikipedia page for sock-puppetry, which says: "often used to refer to alternative online identities or user accounts used for purposes of deception".

Is it wrong to call a non-main account that follows the rules for having multiple accounts (i.e., that isn't abusive) a "sock-puppet"?

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    Personally I see "sock-puppet" as derogatory (but well-deserved in the cases where it's being used accurately). If you had two accounts in, say, World of Warcraft, it would be pretty strange to call one of them a "sock-puppet". Multiple accounts are just multiple accounts. Sock-puppets are when you have a second account pretending to be someone else, but it's actually just you again. (i.e. it is your hand, in the sock, pretending to speak)
    – JamieB
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 1:00
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    @Rob It does inadvertanly/indirectly! Thanks. I'm not sure if closing as a duplicate of that one really makes sense. Perhaps an answer linking to it with an explanation would be more appropriate?
    – starball
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 3:36
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    I tend to refer to my other account as an 'alternate account' - which if this is a language thing is a good alternative. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 6:40

1 Answer 1


I have a test account that explicitly uses the term ‘sock’ and my name in the email address plus “… footwear is stinky” in a description field. It’s nice and descriptive, and fellow mods know who the owner is and why it exists. It’s not my main account; I sometimes need to test stuff at low rep, and not necessarily be recognised as “Martijn, the scary moderator”. It is a benign sock.

So yes, sockpuppets are not necessarily abusive. It’s a sock pretending to be a person. It just isn’t there to defraud.

However, that doesn’t mean that all extra accounts are sock puppets, nor is the term so ubiquitous that you can expect everyone to immediately understand what is meant by the term. So, I’d recommend sticking to “extra accounts” or other, similar more generic terms.

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    If that's the case, I wonder if the tag wiki could use a bit of re-phrasing to make it a bit more clear that the "especially" does not mean "necessarily". Someone with a better grasp of english than me could probably understand that, but I did not :P
    – starball
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 1:23
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    @starball the English is fine to my ears, actually. Paraphrasing: “Such accounts are often referred to as sockpuppets, especially when those accounts are used to defraud or abuse”. It’s about the likelihood of the term being applied, abuse is more likely to such an account being “branded” as a sock. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 1:27

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