13

Lately, a few times I ran into situations in which I had the strong impression a single user represented himself in multiple user accounts, for example:

  • A user asks a question. The question is answered, and another user communicates extensively about the answer (with the answerer), giving the impression he is the "owner" of the question. The answer is altered a few times until the (seemingly "third party"-) person is satisfied, and immediately after that, the answer is accepted by OP.
  • Another situation is this one where I saw (In my opinion) a not-so-good edit. Curious to who might have approved it, I found out OP had. I also noticed the use of language of the edit was quite similar to OP's.

Apart from the question if these two cases were done from one and the same person or not (of one it became clear in the meantime), it raises the question: is it allowed to have multiple representations of one user?

15

I haven't talked to the other mods about this post explicitly but I believe The "AU Approach" to sockpuppets is usually shoot on sight.

There aren't terms-and-conditions rules that explicitly make one person owning more than one account an automatically bad thing. At least not since the last time I checked. Back in 2014 I asked for a clarification but points were made that people abusing the system aren't going to read the rules anyway, with the official line being:

if the second account allows you to do something on the site that your normal account would be prevented from doing, it is abuse

We usually only notice and act on accounts that are actively doing things together, the same way we do when multiple real people collude to gain reputation together.

I've only just noticed that that Shog9 does say "allows you to". Technically speaking that does also encompass people who start secondary accounts to start chatbot accounts but we usually leave those alone unless they're also doing something bad on-site.

In terms of what to do if you suspect something being fishy, flag one of the posts up to a moderator. We can very quickly check to see if they're interacting with the other accounts in unnatural patterns. We'll take it seriously and act appropriately.

  • Thanks a lot, that's clear. – Jacob Vlijm Nov 28 '15 at 13:30
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    On SE generally the guidance is "multiple accounts are OK as long as they don't interact" so you can have a low-rep sock puppet for looking at stuff or a bot account and not violate the terms; but having one of your accounts vote on the other is clearly undesirable, and I believe explicitly banned. – tripleee Dec 4 '15 at 9:49

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