Please comment on how this question could be improved. It is at a -1 score yet the different answers imply it was worth asking.

The meta-question "How do we react to (possible) sock puppets?" contains an answer by a moderator that "it is perfectly acceptable for one individual to have 2 accounts on Genealogy.SE". Typically sites with voting don't allow individuals to have multiple persona's (ie multiple votes). The wikipedia sock puppet definition is "A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception". One person with two accounts seems like deceiving to me (ie I always assumed the different users were unique individuals).

I tried searching the rest of stack exchange since I find it hard to believe this is the first time it came up. But I couldn't find a precedent for this discussion. Some of the other sites have questions/answers that imply a second account by any user is a sock puppet, but they don't say it explicitly. There is also discussion on the association of your accounts between sites but that is a different topic.

The stack exchange terms of use state you violate the terms if you "create a false identity or to impersonate another person". They appear to equate "user" to "account" so is a second persona (one user has two accounts) a false identity? Based on answers received, I believe it reinforces that multiple accounts is a bad thing to do and not supported by SE.

There are many situations where one person has multiple online persona's. For example you could have separate work and home telephones. Or work and home emails. But in those cases, the persona's are for different environments, not for operating in one environment so I do not believe work/home applies to

My question is 'should one person be allowed to have multiple accounts on' (no). If the answer is yes:

  • doesn't that mean one person is allowed multiple votes? (no)
  • does it stop at 2? are you allowed 100 accounts? (no)
  • are there restrictions if you do have two (ie can you vote for yourself)? (YES - they can't interact in any way)
From the meta FAQ: What does voting mean here? Voting here works a bit differently from the main site. On Meta, voting is often used to express agreement or disagreement, not to point out a lack of quality or helpfulness. Please don't be concerned if you receive downvotes – members of the community may simply disagree with your bug, feature request, support issue, or the nature of the discussion. –  ColeValleyGirl Jan 22 '13 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Multiple accounts are generally not allowed, but we (Stack Exchange) have yet to take an absolute, hard-line statement against having multiple accounts. Some feel they have a need to separate (for example) their public from their personal lives. I can't think of another valid use case, but know that neither our system nor our Terms of Service support having multiple accounts and they are subject to removal or merging at any time.

So if you want to live on that bleeding-edge case, there are some absolute, immutable rules you have to be vigilant about if you want to continue using the system.

The Golden Rule
The #1 absolute rule is that those accounts should *NEVER* in no way interact with each other in any way. Period; exclamation point. Trying to do anything with a second account that you could not do with one account is a good way to get your account suspended and deleted unceremoniously. That includes voting multiple times for a post, casting multiple close votes or flags, exceeding your personal allotment of activities (daily voting limits, questions, close votes, etc)… and this prohibition goes triple-y so for sock puppet voting (i.e. voting for your own posts). That is a big, huuuge no-no.

#2, Don't fake it
Our Terms of Service prohibits impersonating another person. If someone were to suspect your intentions, don't exasperate it by "faking" a bunch of phony profile information. The response may be stronger than warranted by your actual intentions.

"Faking it" also includes pretending to be two people where the content is concerned. Don't support yourself in comments, don't answer your own questions, don't stir up staged controversy (or quell it by playing a supportive peer) and — I say this again because it is so important — do not up-vote your own comments (or posts!).

The more I write this up, the more I realize just how problematic it is. I would really prefer just to say "don't do it"… at least until we implement a way to gain the benefits without all the potential for abuse.

Thank you! This is what I thought was the case and I like this answer better than what people were assuming (ie that if it wasn't totally banned then it was fine to do). –  Duncan Jan 22 '13 at 11:49

This has been extensively discussed elsewhere; I googled for "metastackoverflow" "sock". You could also go to Meta Stack Overflow and look at the tag sock-puppets.

Of note among the results: I am a sockpuppet, may I exist if I have a real purpose?. The answer is by shog9, which makes it as definitive as we're going to get.

Edited to add: It's what I based on.

Edited further to add: This is not something on which we can make our own rules. If it's a real concern for you, I suggest you take it up on Meta Stack Overflow.

Technically, Shog wasn't an SE employee at the time, so it's not as definitive as you can get. But that is the current policy as far as I can tell, so...yeah :) –  Manishearth Jan 21 '13 at 12:40
As explained in the question, apparently there is a difference between a sock puppet and someone having multiple accounts (although personally I don't know the difference). Can you edit your answer to explicitly answer the question? Ie either say 'Yes a single person can have multiple accounts and is allowed to vote for themselves' or say whatever. –  Duncan Jan 21 '13 at 19:12
@Duncan Or –  ColeValleyGirl Jan 21 '13 at 19:44

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