Sock puppet (internet)

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What? I'm not supposed to post as a sock puppet???

A sockpuppet is a false identity used on the Internet intended to hide a person's real identity.[1] Another word to describe a sock puppet would be alter ego. Often a sock puppet identity is used to promote ideas or gather intelligence anonymously.[2] Very often they are used by individuals on the Internet praising themselves while pretending to be someone else.[3] Politicians have frequently been accused of using sock puppets.[4] Straw man sockpuppets are designed to create political mischief (making fun of an opponent's position for example).[4] It can make it appear many people hold a certain opinion, when in fact that is false. Many online communities attempt to block sockpuppets.

History[change | change source]

The term "sockpuppet" was used as early as July 9, 1993.[5] By 1996 it was in general use.[5] The Oxford English Dictionary at first defined it as "a person whose actions are controlled by another".[5] In 2000 the U.S. News and World Report associated the word minion with a sock puppet.[5] In 2006, an aide to a Republican congressman was caught posting messages on Democratic Party sites. Using a false identity the aide was trying to convince Democrats not to support a certain candidate.[6]

Other examples[change | change source]

  • Benjamin Franklin was known to have used many pseudonyms. Some were invented to avoid censorship. Other alter egos were to invent people to argue every side of an issue.[8] Some of his invented names were for the purpose of satire. Others were for humor to entertain his readers.[8]
  • US Intelligence agencies use sockpuppets to hide the identities of people collecting intelligence.[2] The Huffington Post ran an article a software provider working with the US agencies on software to help manage multiple online identities.[2]

Meatpuppet[change | change source]

A meatpuppet is similar to a sockpuppet, except a person joins users to a website, such as Wikipedia, to be used with sockpuppet behaviors. Such users are actually real individuals that come to support another user. If a person uses real people to create accounts that support that person's opinions, this form of meatpuppetry is often called "astroturfing", a type of false impression of support.[10]

References[change | change source]

  1. William Safire, Safire's Political Dictionary (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 589
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ted Claypoole; Theresa Payton, Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online? (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012), p. 198
  3. Editorial (13 September 2006). "Sock Puppet Bites Man". The New York Times.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Obama, Clinton, Palin: Making History in Election 2008, ed. Liette Gidlow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011), p. 136
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Encyclopedia of Deception, Volume 1, ed. Timothy R. Levine (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014), p. 854
  6. Encyclopedia of Public Relations, Second edition, ed. Robert L. Heath (Thousand Oaks, CA; London; New Delhi; Singapore: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2013), p. 858
  7. Amy Harmon, "Amazon Glitch Unmasks War Of Reviewers," New York Times, February 14, 2004.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Benjamin Franklin's Intellectual World, eds. Paul E. Kerry; Matthew S. Holland (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; Lanham, MD: Co-published with Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2012), pp. 111–112
  9. Matthew Roth (19 November 2013). "Wikimedia Foundation sends cease and desist letter to WikiPR". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  10. "meat puppet Definition: TechEncyclopedia from TechWeb". The Computer Language Company. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2012.

Other websites[change | change source]