Wikidata:Alternate accounts

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While editors are generally expected to primarily use one account, there may be reasons to have multiple user accounts. Such additional accounts are called alternate accounts.

Overview[edit]

Editors are expected to edit primarily from a single account, used by a single person. There are a number of circumstances, listed below, where having alternate accounts is considered acceptable. Alternate accounts may have names that do not make it immediate obvious that they are alternate accounts, and may have names that do not make it immediately obvious to which main account they are related, but they must prominently link to the main account on their userpages. All alternate accounts must be declared if the main account is running for any position that requires a community discussion (translation administrator, bot, administrator, bureaucrat, checkuser, or oversighter).

With the exception of the confirmed, IP block exempt, bot, flooder, property creator, and rollbacker user rights, editors may only have user rights and advanced permissions on their main account. If an editor is discovered to have user rights or advanced permissions such as translation administrator, administrator, bureaucrat, checkuser, or oversighter on more than one account that they control, it is grounds for immediate removal of those rights on all accounts that the editor controls. Wikimedia and WMDE staff accounts are not included in this section for the purposes of multiple accounts with advanced permissions; otherwise, the sole exception is that an administrator may operate an "adminbot" with the sysop flag on an alternate account after approval from the community according to the bot policy.

Legitimate uses of alternate accounts[edit]

Note: The list below is not a full and complete list. Other uses may exist not mentioned below.
  • Security: Since public computers can have password-stealing trojans or keyloggers installed, users may register an alternative account to prevent the hijacking of their main accounts.
  • 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 Wikidata's default appearance when training new users.
  • Doppelgänger accounts: A doppelgänger account is a second account created with a username similar to one's main account to prevent impersonation. Such accounts should not be used for editing.
  • Flooders: Users that undertake high volume manual or semi-automatic edits, and are frequent use of the flooder flag, may wish to create a second account for those tasks for organizational reasons.
  • Bots: Users that operate bots, or automatic edit scripts, are required to run their bots off of alternate accounts.

Alternate accounts must be publicly declared, and the userpages of the alternate accounts must link back to the main account in an obvious fashion. Common ways of doing this include redirecting the user and talk pages of the alternate to the user and talk pages of the main account, using a template such as {{Bot}} that specifies the master account, or leaving a linked message in text at the top of the user page. If alternate accounts do not link to the main account, they are not considered legitimate alternate accounts.

Illegitimate uses of alternate accounts[edit]

The use of multiple Wikidata user accounts for an improper purpose is called sock puppetry (often abbreviated in discussion as "socking"). Improper purposes include attempts to deceive or mislead other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus, avoid sanctions, or otherwise violate community standards and policies.

  • Manipulating discussions: Attempting to sway the outcome of a discussion through the use of multiple accounts is, regardless of intent, never acceptable. Examples of using alternate accounts to manipulate discussions include using multiple accounts to stack votes, using an account to make straw man arguments, or using an alternate account to appear as a neutral third-party or neutral observer.
  • Circumventing sanctions or blocks: Alternate accounts, even legitimate alternate accounts, may not be used to circumvent a block or editing restriction. Unless otherwise stated by the admin placing the block or restriction, a block or editing restriction placed on the main account applies to the person behind the account, regardless of which account they use. It should go without saying that creating an account ahead of time to commit vandalism or harassment, or otherwise improperly or maliciously edit, in the hopes that the burn account will not be traced back to the original user is unacceptable.
  • Accounts that do not serve a productive purpose: With the exception of doppelgänger accounts, the expectation is that alternate accounts will be used to constructively edit the project. Creating an account just to joke around with, or just to have an alternate account, while not as serious as the above two points, is still considered an illegitimate use of alternate accounts.

It should also be noted that simply logging out or otherwise using an IP address instead of an account to do any of these things will also be treated as an illegitimate use.

Handling illegitimate accounts[edit]

In the absence of local CheckUsers, Wikidata will rely on the stewards as needed and file requests for CheckUser at m:Steward requests/CheckUser. Administrators can also rely on publicized results of CheckUsers run on other projects, such as sockpuppet investigations, and behavioral evidence, in determining whether or not multiple accounts are being operated by the same person.

Illegitimate alternate accounts are almost always indefinitely blocked. IPs used in socking are generally blocked for a period of between a few weeks and a year, as indefinitely blocking an IP address is discouraged.

Depending on the individual circumstances, including what actions were taken by the illegitimate alternate accounts and whether or not it is a first offense, Wikidata administrators can choose to warn a sockmaster (operator of illegitimate accounts), block the main account for a defined period of time, or block the main account indefinitely, in addition to the indefinite blocks of the alternate accounts.

Admin policies