In today’s issue, Wikipedia Review determines whether there is such a thing as a “good sock puppet”. According to Wikipedia, its perfectly acceptable to have multiple accounts, so long as you don’t abuse it. But what counts as abuse? Apparently if you were banned for some obscure reason, and come back with a new account to edit productively, then that’s an abuse, while if you are an “editor in good standing” and/or an administrator, and have multiple accounts to either secretly push an agenda or to secretly create a new account, then that’s not abusive at all. It is, however, apparently a severe abuse for Wikipedia Review critics to say to the world what these sock puppet accounts are.
Cast Study 1: User:Until (1==2) suddenly has sysop powers. Who is he?
On 26 July 2007, Wikipedia Review user C H questioned who Until (1==2) might be. As discovered by Wikipedia Review user Infoboy, it was in fact User:H, who in turn was previously known as User:HighInBC. Apparently the rationale for this is that he felt that he was being stalked. So they create a mystery new account that suddenly has sysop powers, and in response to questions that that might be abuse, they say that it’s not because he is being stalked. You’d think that if he was being stalked then he’d either not use Wikipedia, or at least give up his sysop rights, wouldn’t you?
Case Study 2: SlimVirgin had used an old account, Sweet Blue Water, to abuse Wikipedia
On 22 August 2007, Wikipedia Review user Word Bomb discovered that in 2004 SlimVirgin had abused the sock puppet rules using an account called Sweet Blue Water to pretend that she had consensus in important articles such as the Lockerbie Bombing, and ultimately to pervert truth. The result of this is that an administrator called Cyde (who up to that point was hated by Wikipedia Review) decided to ban Sweet Blue Water and label the account as an abusive sock puppet of SlimVirgin. This in turn led to Word Bomb’s site AntiSocialMedia being labelled as an attack site in an official Request for Arbitration (in which Wikipedia Review was verified as not being an attack site), as well as suggestions that Cyde should be de-sysopped (which were ultimately quashed). They are an attack site because they accurately described that SlimVirgin was abusing a sock puppet.
Case Study 3: SlimVirgin creates a new sock puppet, Sunsplash, as a new identity, and while at it, to abuse LaRouche supporters
On 17 October 2007, Wikipedia Review user Herschellekrustofsky suggested that Sunsplash, a new user who had in their user profile that they were a “legitimate sock puppet” was secretly SlimVirgin, and pointed to their abuse of LaRouche articles, which few other editors have ever done (about the only other one being Chip Berlet). After some investigation, it was discovered with certainty that this was true. But JzG, an administrator on Wikipedia, insists that this discovery of her new sock puppet is itself stalking.
Case Study 4: WordBomb discovered one of JzG’s sock puppets, and considered exposing it.
On 8 October 2007, Wikipedia Review user Word Bomb discovered one of JzG’s sock puppets and considered exposing it. Ultimately he didn’t, but amidst all of this JzG was insisting that as someone who isn’t banned, he is allowed to have as many sock puppets as he likes, while banned users aren’t allowed to.
Case Study 5: Wikipedia have finally created a page which at least partially outlines the abuse caused by Amorrow.
On 19 October 2007, Wikipedia Review user LamontStormstar discovered that Wikipedia had recently created a “long term abuse” page on Amorrow, a user who Wikipedia Review had discovered was a cyber stalker and possibly real life stalker, who had created an entire web site dedicated to finding out the real life identities of female Wikipedia users. The problem previously, of course, was that Wikipedia refused to say what he had actually done. Indeed, they still don’t. He now has sock puppets, but Wikipedia say that it is “beyond their powers” to do anything about it since he just creates new ones. In turn, they have banned many people who weren’t him at all “just in case”, and also deleted all of their entries.
Wikipedia has this strange fascination with sock puppets, which has led to them having their own definitions of them. Why doesn’t Wikipedia simply require for everyone to use an e-mail address to identify who they are? Why don’t they go to lengths to try to prevent people from using multiple accounts? But Wikipedia insist that its okay, except when it is convenient for them to say that it is not. If you forget to log in (or are yet to create an account), then your IP address is listed, and if you have an ISP that uses dynamic IP addresses, then you may use multiple IP addresses (or alternatively if you log in from work etc), and Wikipedia insists that these are also “sock puppets” and are abusive - even if you were using the same computer and same ISP every single time. They can ban people for “abusive sock puppetry” when they did nothing to try to hide who they were, and didn’t try to harm Wikipedia, whilst in the same breath excusing some people who seriously abuse sock puppets. Merely for pointing out sock puppetry, some on Wikipedia label Wikipedia Review as an attack site. And in cases of serious abuse, which both sides agree are abusive, Wikipedia fails abysmally, yet still somehow manages to pretend that it is all Wikipedia Review’s fault.
I think that Wikitruth says it best. Wikipedia could go to more effort to stop sock puppetry, but they choose not to, because, by allowing sock puppetry it then allows admins (and others) to abuse people legitimately, and thus to hide their rather less legitimate abuses of power. As with vandalism, it is a handy method for them to hide what they are really doing.