Sock Puppets: Not Just for Kids Anymore
We have uncovered overwhelming evidence of no fewer than 8 sockpuppets operated by a single individual, each with its own persona. In the process, we have also determined that our list of bannees is not 4, but in fact only 3 individuals (for what it’s worth, one of the previously banned sock puppets had the persona of an uncompromising movement conservative, the other of a similar movement liberal). Specifics of the investigation are below the fold, but we will be making substantial efforts in the coming days and weeks to limit the puppeteer’s ability to cause additional problems. We ask for our legitimate readers’ cooperation in this regard by notifying us of any future suspected sock puppetry by this individual.
In the context of the League, which is so heavily dependent on the need to assume at least a modicum of good faith by one’s interlocutors, sock puppetry that adopts numerous different personae with varying points of view that the puppeteer may or may not actually hold directly undermines the entire purpose of the site, and will not be tolerated. In the case of this particular puppeteer, the problem was compounded by an extraordinarily high percentage of comments making blanket accusations of bad faith and/or dishonesty at contributors and other commenters. Yes, that’s correct: a person engaged in widespread sock puppetry was repeatedly and regularly and vociferously accusing others of bad faith and dishonesty.
In this case, the puppetry was eventually discovered when it was finally realized exactly why numerous comments submitted under a wide array of names were ending up in the spam filter, with the user in most cases subsequently submitting an immediate follow up comment, which usually got around the spam filter, complaining about being censored.
We had initially believed that this was just a minor issue with the spam filter that has, at various points, affected many regular commenters. However, after noticing numerous similarities in the complaints about the comments being blocked, I looked into the issue a little more closely and determined that in these cases, the problem was not that the commenter was running afoul of the spam filter, but instead was that the commenter was posting from multiple IP addresses that had previously been banned.
The banned accounts with which the sock puppet accounts shared IP addresses were the conservative persona “Good Grief, the Comedian’s Incompetent,” banned about a year ago, and the liberal persona “Mike,” banned just a month or two ago.* At least one of the sock puppet accounts shared at least one IP address with each of these banned personae.
What follows is a list of the other sock puppet accounts, along with a general description of the persona adopted for some of them (a few did not post enough to provide a basis to describe their persona):
James K. Polk – a conservative allegedly living in Saudi Arabia who had experienced waterboarding.
Jennifer – a pro-choice woman from Bozeman, Montana and a patron of the (apparently fictional) Planned Parenthood facility there
Kenneth – a Koch Brothers-obsessed liberal who showed up here in the last week for the first time yet somehow was deeply interested about the circumstances regarding “Mike’s” banning nearly two months ago.
David – a Brit with a desire to learn about American politics (and to vindicate “Mike”)
Matt – a rural liberal with a bit of a potty mouth
In addition to the identical IP addresses, which would otherwise, in and of itself, be sufficient to warrant a conclusion that these all are likely to be the same person, there are some additional factors that support the conclusion.
Specifically each of the above listed accounts contains at least one, and usually more, characteristics that are highly unusual in the LoOG community:
1. All of the most prolific accounts appeared for the first time within minutes or days, not weeks or months of the last post from another one of these accounts.
2. Immediately upon the first comment from a given account getting held up, the next comment from the account is a somewhat similarly worded complaint about being censored.
3. A peculiar interest in the circumstances surrounding “Mike”‘s banning, with a purported knowledge of “Mike’s” activities extending well prior to the sock puppet account’s creation.
4. Blanket and unprovoked accusations of dishonesty directed towards other commenters or contributors. No, the irony of this is not lost on me.
5. Juvenile attempts to juxtapose elements of the word “retard” into claims about supposed opponents, ie: “Retardican,” “libtard.”
6. An ability to post from numerous IP addresses within the span of a few minutes.
Importantly, I am not aware of a single other account that has ever been held up as a result of sharing an IP address with a banned commenter.
Given the direct evidence on the IP address issue, the above circumstantial evidence makes it nearly impossible to avoid the conclusion that these are all the same person.
*And yes, there is a certain amount of personal vindication in this for me, in that I was accused of banning “Mike” solely because he was a liberal even though he was banned for effectively the same reasons as I had banned the Limbaugh-conservative persona “Good Grief.” As it turns out, they were the same person.
P.S. This is Erik speaking. You know, your fascist, lying cowardly, effete liberal dictator-in-chief. I promise one more thing going forward: this site is growing bigger, and with more traffic come more trolls. And I am not afraid to swing my ban-hammer. After all, I’m basically just Evil Incarnate anyways, I might as well act like it.
Thanks to Mark for the work he’s done here, and to Tod as well.
[Update by Mark]: I forgot to mention that in the case of one of the more prolific of the above-referenced identities, around half of the many IP addresses used matched up with an IP address used at least once for at least one of the other 7 identities, with the overwhelming majority of those matching up with a specific one of those identities.