Sockpuppet (Internet)

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For information on sock puppets in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Sock puppetry.
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Image:Mugshot Puppet S.png
A sock puppet, after which Internet sock puppets are named.

A sockpuppet (sometimes known also as a mule, glove puppet, alternate account, or joke account) is an additional account of an existing member of an Internet community to invent a separate user. This may be used for fictional support of separate people in a vote or argument by falsely using the account as a separate user, or for acting without consequence to one's "main" account. It is often considered dishonest by online communities, and such pretending individuals are often labeled as trolls.

Although the "sock puppet" concept has been applied to different sender names of the same e-mail account on different computers, such alternate IDs to identify a particular computer may not always be for deception.

[edit] Characteristics

Typically, the user has more knowledge than would be expected of a newcomer regarding the site's methods, rules, and community members; takes part in similar discussions and has mostly same opinions as the user's main account; may have the same IP address and/or Internet Service Provider; sometimes has an account name similar to those of other suspected sockpuppets: for example SollogSockPuppet, SollogSock, SollogHasAPuppet, BigSockBigWilly, etc.

[edit] Examples

While examples abound, most are of non-public figures. Notable exceptions in recent years include:

  • L.A. Times Columnist Michael Hiltzik, who was forced to give up his column and Times blog in April 2006 when it was revealed that he was anonymously posting under the "sock puppet" name of "Mikekoshi", and possibly "Nofanofcablecos", to attack those critical of his writings.[1] He did this both on the blogs of his critics, and even on his own blog in response to hostile commenters.
  • John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, who, between 2000 and 2003, posted under the "sock puppet" name of "Mary Rosh"[2], praising Lott's teaching, and arguing with Lott's critics on Usenet. The name was also used to post outstanding reviews of his books, and panning books of rivals on online book sites. Lott admitted he had frequently used the name "Mary Rosh" to defend himself, but claimed the book reviews by "Mary Rosh" were written by his son and wife.
  • Lee Siegel, writer for The New Republic magazine, was suspended for defending his articles and blog comments using the user name "sprezzatura".[3]
  • Cyrus Nowrasteh, screenwriter for The Path to 9/11, was identified as having created a sock puppet on internet movie website IMDB to post a rave review of an obscure film he had made that did not have a distributor or video/DVD release. The sock puppet was named "ysteb" - the name of his wife Betsy spelled backwards. [4] [5]
  • Brian Krebs, writer for the washingtonpost.com, was identified as posing as an anonymous commentator on a website criticizing his coverage of the "Hijack a MacBook in 60 Seconds" story [6]

[edit] Combatting Sockpuppets

Fighting sock puppetry has become more difficult in recent years due to the advent of several new technologies—two key ones being internet proxies and NAT (Network Address Translation).

[edit] Proxies

Proxies as they relate to sock puppetry are online services through which users can surf the Internet, making it appear to web servers that they have a different IP address, are located in a different city (even country), or are otherwise not the same person they were before they began using the proxy.

[edit] NAT

Network address translation has a similar, but reverse effect. That is, NAT allows many users, usually those behind corporate or home firewalls, to appear at the same IP address. If one person behind a NAT is banned on the basis of their IP address, no individuals behind that NAT will be able to access the website. Since the use of NAT has grown by incredible proportions in recent years, banning by IP address is often harmful to innocent users who are also behind a banned NAT device.

[edit] Additional and related terms

[edit] Strawman sockpuppet

Another type of sockpuppet is sometimes referred to as a “strawman sockpuppet”. They are created by users with one point of view, but act as though they have an opposing point of view, in order to make that point of view look bad. Such sockpuppets will typically advance foolish straw man arguments which their “opponents” can then easily refute. They often act in an unintelligent, uninformed, or bigoted manner. The effect is to discredit more rational arguments for the same side.

Suspicion of strawman sockpuppets is often hard to verify, as there are people who naturally behave in such a manner with the same effects.

[edit] Concern troll

A concern troll is also a fictitious online identity whose proclaimed beliefs are not those its creator really believes and is trying to push.

The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view (for example, Democrats or fans of the Prius), and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals but with some "concerns".

For example, in 2006 a top staffer for Congressman Charlie Bass (R-NH) was caught posing as a "concerned" supporter of Bass's opponent Democrat Paul Hodes on several liberal NH blogs, using the pseudonyms "IndieNH" or "IndyNH." "IndyNH" was "concerned" that Democrats might just be wasting their time or money on Hodes, because Bass was unbeatable. <ref>[7] "Bass Aide Posed as Opponent's Supporter on Blogs"</ref>

Suspicion of concern trolls is hard to verify without clearcut information about the IP number from which their posts originate, as there are people who naturally behave in such a manner.

[edit] Shills and Astroturfing

Another type of sockpuppet is an account created by the manufacturer of a product or the author of a book for the sole purpose of recommending the product/book by posing as an enthusiastic consumer or reader. (The tactic is bears some resemblance to virtual marketing). A single such sock puppet is a shill; creating large numbers of them to fake a "grass-roots" upswelling of support is known as astroturfing.

[edit] Meatpuppet

The term meatpuppet is used by some as a variation of a sockpuppet; a new Internet community member account, created by another person at the request of a user solely for the purposes of influencing the community on a given issue or issues acting essentially as a puppet of the first user without having independent views and actual or potential contributions. While less overtly deceptive than sockpuppetry, the effect of meatpuppetry and sockpuppetry on the community as a whole may be similar.

[edit] Sock Puppet Troll

A sock puppet troll is used by an Internet troll to attempt to lure others into a heated debate.


[edit] Origin of the term

The precise reason the term "Sock Puppet" came to be used in this manner is likely lost to antiquity. At least two possibilities have been offered:

  • That the term "sock puppet" reflects what a real sock puppet is: a fake personality operated by an actual personality. A sock puppet also happens to be the cheapest and easiest puppet to make, alluding to the glibness of the technique.
  • That it relates to the term "socket" as used in the computer industry.

The first known usage of the term on July 9, 1993 in a posting to bit.listserv.fnord-l, but was not in common usage in USENET groups until 1996. The term tentacle was also commonly used with similar meaning in Usenet through the mid 90s.

[edit] References

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[edit] See also

fr:Faux-nez it:Sockpuppet ja:自作自演 (インターネット) nl:Sokpop ru:Виртуал zh:馬甲 (網路名詞)

Sockpuppet (Internet)

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