This page in a nutshell: The general rule is one editor, one account. Do not use multiple accounts to mislead, deceive, vandalize or disrupt; to create the illusion of greater support for a position; to stir up controversy; or to circumvent a block, ban, or sanction. Do not ask your family or friends to create accounts to support you. Do not revive old unused accounts and use them as different users, or use another person's account. Do not log out just to vandalize as an IP address editor.
The origin of the term sockpuppet is a type of toy puppet.
On Wikipedia, sockpuppetry, or socking, refers to the misuse of multiple Wikipedia accounts. To maintain accountability and increase community trust, editors are generally expected to use only one account. While there are some valid reasons for maintaining multiple accounts, it is improper to use multiple accounts to deceive or mislead other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus, avoid sanctions, evade blocks, or otherwise violate community standards and policies.
Sockpuppetry takes various forms:
Logging out to make problematic edits as an IP address
Creating new accounts to avoid detection or sanctions
a ban of the user (the sockmaster or sockpuppeteer) behind the accounts (each of which is a sockpuppet or sock)
on-project exposure of all accounts and IP addresses used across Wikipedia and its sister projects
the (potential) public exposure of any "real-world" activities or personal information deemed relevant to preventing future sockpuppetry or certain other abuses.
An editor using multiple accounts for valid reasons should, on each account's user page, list all the other accounts with an explanation of their purpose (see below). Optionally, the user and user talk pages of some of the accounts can be redirected to those of another. Editors who use unlinked alternative accounts, or who edit as an IP address editor separate from their account, should carefully avoid any crossover on articles or topics because even innocuous activities such as copy editing, wikifying, or linking might be considered sockpuppetry in some cases and innocuous intentions will not usually serve as an excuse.
While there are legitimate use of alternative accounts, undisclosed alternative accounts might be connected publicly through a variety of means.
Internal discussions: Undisclosed alternative accounts generally may not be used in discussions internal to the project outside of limited circumstance. A legitimate undisclosed alternative account is permitted to contribute to project space discussions that directly affect the account.
Circumventing policies: Policies apply per person, not per account. Policies such as the three-revert rule are for each person's edits. Using a second account to violate policy will cause any penalties to be applied to your main account.
Contributing to the same page or discussion with multiple accounts: Editors may not use more than one account to contribute to the same page or discussion in a way that suggests they are multiple people. Contributing to the same page with clearly linked, legitimate, alternative accounts (e.g. editing the same page with your main and public computer account or editing a page using your main account that your bot account edited) is not forbidden.
Avoiding scrutiny: Using alternative accounts that are not fully and openly disclosed to split your editing history means that other editors may not be able to detect patterns in your contributions. While this is permitted in certain circumstances (see legitimate uses), it is a violation of this policy to create alternative accounts to confuse or deceive editors who may have a legitimate interest in reviewing your contributions.
Editing while logged out in order to mislead: Editing under multiple IP addresses, or editing under both a named account and as an IP, when done deceptively or otherwise violates the principles of this policy, may be treated as the same level of disruption as editing under multiple accounts. When editors log out by mistake, they may wish to contact an editor with oversight access to ensure there is no misunderstanding.
Misusing a clean start: By switching accounts or concealing a clean start in a way that avoids scrutiny is considered a breach of this policy; see Wikipedia:Clean start.
Role accounts: Because an account represents your edits as an individual, "role accounts", or accounts shared by multiple people, are as a rule forbidden and blocked. Many first-time editors may sign up an account with a username that implies it is a role account or is being shared. Such accounts are permitted only if the account information is forever limited to one individual; however, policy recommends that usernames avoid being misleading or disruptive. As such, if you edit for an organization, please refer to Wikipedia's username policy for guidance on choosing a name or a replacement name that can avoid these problems. Role account exceptions can be made for non-editing accounts approved to provide email access, accounts approved by the Wikimedia Foundation (list below), and approved bots with multiple managers. See Username policy – Sharing accounts.
Deceptively seeking positions of community trust. You may not run for positions of trust without disclosing that you have previously edited under another account. Adminship reflects the community's trust in an individual, not an account, so when applying for adminship, it is expected that you will disclose past accounts openly, or email the arbitration committee if the accounts must be kept private. Administrators who fail to disclose past accounts risk being desysopped, particularly if knowledge of them would have influenced the outcome of the RfA.
Using more than one administrator account: Editors may not have more than one account with administrator user rights, except for bots with administrator privileges. However, Foundation staff may operate more than one admin account, though they must make known who they are. If an administrator leaves the project, returns under a new username, and is nominated for adminship, they must resign or give up the administrator access of their old account.
Posing as a neutral or uninvolved commentator: Using an alternative account to participate in a discussion about another account operated by the same person.
Alternative accounts have legitimate uses. For example, editors who contribute using their real name may wish to use a pseudonym for contributions with which they do not want their real name to be associated, or long-term users might create a new account to better understand the editing experience from a new user's perspective. These accounts are not considered sockpuppets. If you use a legitimate alternative account, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not use it in an illegitimate manner according to this policy.
Operating a legitimate alternative account, even for a reason listed in this policy, does not prevent the accounts from being connected to one another publicly. Individuals operating undisclosed alternative accounts do so at their own risk and against the recommended operating processes of this project.
Security: You may register an alternative account for use when accessing Wikipedia through a public computer, connecting to an unsecured network, or other scenarios when there's a risk of your account being compromised. Such accounts should be publicly connected to the main account or use an easily identified name. For example, User:Mickey might use User:Mickey (alt) or User:Mouse, and redirect that account's user and talk pages to their main account.
Privacy: A person editing an article that is highly controversial within their family, social or professional circle, and whose Wikipedia identity is known within that circle, or traceable to their real-world identity, may wish to use an alternative account to avoid real-world consequences from their editing or other Wikipedia actions in that area. Although a privacy-based alternative account is not publicly connected to your main account, it should not be used in ways outlined in the inappropriate uses section of this page, and if it is, the account may be publicly linked to your main account for sanctions. If you are considering using an alternative account under this provision, please read the notification section below.
Doppelgänger accounts: A doppelgänger account is an account created with a username similar to your main account to prevent impersonation. Such accounts should not be used for editing. Doppelgänger accounts may be marked with the ((doppelganger)) or ((doppelganger-other)) tag, or can simply redirect to the main account's userpage.
Pseudonyms used to edit sister projects in a different language: Although SUL no longer requires Wikimedians to register different accounts to edit different projects, users who wish to have a separate account to edit a sister project written in a different script may do so. The other account should be treated as a Doppelgänger on the English Wikipedia, and vice-versa. These accounts may be marked with the ((User Alias)) tag to show a connection.
Clean start under a new name: A clean start is when a user stops using an old account in order to start afresh with a new account, usually due to past mistakes or to avoid harassment. A clean start is permitted only if there are no active bans, blocks, or sanctions in place against the old account. Do not use your new account to return to topic areas, disputes, editing patterns, or behaviors previously identified as problematic, and you should be careful not to do anything that looks like an attempt to evade scrutiny. A clean start requires that you no longer use your old account(s), which should note on their user pages that they are inactive—for example, with the ((retired)) tag—to prevent the switch being seen as an attempt to sockpuppet.
Username violations: If you are soft-blocked for having an inappropriate username, and that is the sole reason for the block, you are permitted to create a new account with an appropriate username.
Compromised accounts: If you are unable to access your account because you have lost the password or because someone has obtained or guessed your password, you may create a new account with a clean password. In such a case, you should post a note on the user page of each account indicating that they are alternative accounts for the same person. If necessary, you should also ask for an admin to block the compromised account. You may want to consider using a committed identity in advance to help deal with this rare situation should it arise later.
Maintenance: An editor might use an alternative account to carry out maintenance tasks, or to segregate functions so as to maintain a user talk page dedicated to the purpose. The second account should be clearly linked to the main account.
Bots: Bots are programs that edit automatically or semi-automatically. Editors who use bots are encouraged to create separate accounts, and ask that they be marked as bot accounts via Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval, so that the automated edits can be filtered out of recent changes. Bots should be clearly linked to their owner's account. See Wikipedia:Bot policy.
Testing and training: Users who use a lot of scripts and other tools may wish to keep a second, vanilla account, for testing how things appear to others; or for demonstrating Wikipedia's default appearance when training new users. The second account should be clearly linked to the main account, except where doing so would interfere with testing or training.
Education: Educators and students are encouraged to create a separate account that does not have to be linked to their main account for the purpose of managing or participating in student assignments. Use of the account should be limited to articles and other pages directly related to students and classwork.
There is no policy against someone with an account editing the encyclopedia while logged out, per se. This happens for many reasons, including not noticing that the login session had expired, changing computers, going to a Wikipedia page directly from a link, and forgetting passwords. Editors who are not logged in must not actively try to deceive other editors, such as by directly saying that they do not have an account or by using the session for the inappropriate uses of alternative accounts listed earlier in this policy. To protect their privacy, editors who have edited while logged out are never required to connect their usernames to their IP addresses on-wiki.
If you have concerns that an IP editor is actually a user with an account who is editing while logged out in a way that is inappropriate, you can give the IP editor notice of this policy (((subst:uw-login)) is available for this purpose), and if the behavior continues, you should contact a CheckUser privately and present the evidence to them.
Except when doing so would defeat the purpose of having a legitimate alternative account, editors using alternative accounts should provide links between the accounts. Links should ideally take the form of all three of the following:
Links in the alternative account signature: if not linking to both the alternative and main account, link to the alternative account, and if necessary provide a note there requesting contact be made via the main account, or simply redirect the user talk page.
Editors who have multiple accounts for privacy reasons should considernotifying the arbitration committee if they believe editing will attract scrutiny. Editors who heavily edit controversial material, those who maintain single purpose accounts, and editors considering becoming an administrator are among the groups of editors who attract scrutiny even if their editing behavior itself is not problematic or only marginally so. However, it is worth noting that making such notifications does not in any way protect the user or allow them to otherwise violate this policy. Properly maintaining separation between the main account and the alternative account is entirely the responsibility of the user. If the connection is discovered, prior notification is not a "get out of jail free card" and users should not expect that checkusers nor arbitrators will act to conceal the connection if it is made on-wiki. Conversely, neither checkusers nor arbitrators monitor disclosed accounts to ensure compliance with policy. This is also entirely the responsibility of the user.
Editors who have abandoned an account and are editing under a new identity are required to comply with the clean start policy.
This section in a nutshell: Do not recruit your friends, family members, or communities of people who agree with you for the purpose of coming to Wikipedia and supporting your side of a debate. If you feel that a debate is ignoring your voice, remain civil, and seek comments from other Wikipedians or pursue dispute resolution. These are well-tested processes, designed to avoid the problem of exchanging bias in one direction for bias in another.
High-profile disputes on Wikipedia often bring new editors to the site. Some individuals may promote their causes by bringing like-minded editors into the dispute, including enlisting assistance off-Wiki. These editors are sometimes referred to as meatpuppets, following a common Internet usage. While Wikipedia assumes good faith, especially for new users, recruiting new editors to influence decisions on Wikipedia is prohibited. A new user who engages in the same behavior as another user in the same context, and who appears to be editing Wikipedia solely for that purpose, may be subject to the remedies applied to the user whose behavior they are joining. Sanctions have been applied to editors of longer standing who have not, in the opinion of Wikipedia's administrative bodies, consistently exercised independent judgment.
Wikipedia has processes in place to mitigate the disruption caused by an influx of single-purpose editors:
Consensus in many debates and discussions should ideally not be based upon number of votes, but upon policy-related points made by editors.
In votes or vote-like discussions, new users may be disregarded or given significantly less weight, especially if there are many of them expressing the same opinion. Their comments may be tagged with a note pointing out that they have made few or no other edits outside of the discussion.
A 2005 Arbitration Committee decision established: "For the purpose of dispute resolution when there is uncertainty whether a party is one user with sockpuppets or several users with similar editing habits they may be treated as one user with sockpuppets."
The term meatpuppet may be seen by some as derogatory and should be used with care, in keeping with Wikipedia:Civility. Because of the processes above, it may be counterproductive to directly accuse someone of being a "meatpuppet", and doing so will often only inflame the dispute.
If two or more registered editors use the same computer or network connection, their accounts may be linked by a CheckUser. Editors in this position are advised to declare such connections on their user pages to avoid accusations of sockpuppetry. There are userboxes available for this; see ((User shared IP address)).
Closely connected users may be considered a single user for Wikipedia's purposes if they edit with the same objectives. When editing the same articles, participating in the same community discussion, or supporting each other in any sort of dispute, closely related accounts should disclose the connection and observe relevant policies such as edit warring as if they were a single account. If they do not wish to disclose the connection, they should avoid editing in the same areas, particularly on controversial topics.
Editors with access to the CheckUser tool may consult the server log to see which IP addresses are linked to which accounts. The CheckUser tool cannot confirm with certainty that two accounts are not connected; it can only show whether there is a technical link at the time of the investigation. In accordance with the Wikimedia Foundation's Privacy and CheckUser policies, checks are only conducted with good cause, and (subject to the exceptions in those policies) results are reported in such a way as to avoid or minimize disclosure of personal identifying information. Particularly, "fishing" — the use of the CheckUser tools without good cause specific to a given user account — is prohibited.
If a person is found to be using a sockpuppet, the sockpuppet account(s) should be blocked indefinitely. The main account may be blocked at the discretion of any uninvolved administrator. IP addresses used for sockpuppetry may be blocked, but are subject to certain restrictions for indefinite blocks.
"We hope that this never comes up, but we may disclose your personal information if we believe that it's reasonably necessary […] to protect our organization, employees, contractors, users, or the public. We may also disclose your personal information if we reasonably believe it necessary to detect, prevent, or otherwise assess and address potential spam, malware, fraud, abuse, unlawful activity, and security or technical concerns."
Information under this policy is not gratuitously released, but may be made public at times in the context of detecting, confirming, preventing, and resolving issues related to actual or possible abuse.