Group 4 Accused of Sock Puppetry

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Suspected sockpuppeteer


Suspected sockpuppets


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Jehochman Talk 21:25, 8 January 2008 (UTC)


All four accounts were made their first edits within 24 hours of each other [1][2][3][4] at four different pages, and then about five days later they all appeared at Talk:Waterboarding/Definition in rapid succession, expressing the same POV and supporting each other.[5][6][7][8] This may be a case of newly recruited editors who are unaware of our social norms that prohibit canvassing in order to establish a false consensus, or it could be outright sock puppetry. Other editors may be involved, but I will not name them since it is unclear who may be doing the canvassing.

See also the recent case, Wikipedia:Requests for checkuser/Case/GooseCreek which focused on the same locus of dispute. Jehochman Talk 21:25, 8 January 2008 (UTC)


None of these users are sockpuppets. They are four seperate individuals who are participating in Wikipedia as part of a course project. The first assignment was to create a username and edit a Wikipedia entry, which is why they all did so at the same time. (Right before the assignment was due). I explained my own participation in this class clearly on my own userpage.

The second assignment was to participate in a dispute. The only required coordination was that we agreed to choose a single dispute to weigh in on. At each step of the way, each person has been contributing according to their own personal opinions, evinced by the fact that we do not all agree. The fact that we happen to agree is incidental. No one person, including myself, had an opinion on the subject until after we had chosen this AfC and began reading and participating in it. Indeed, I was originally of the opinion that the lead section should stand. My mind was changed when I read the BBC and Wall Street Journal references.

Our professor, Jonathan Zittrain is actively involved in Wikipedia and was a presenter at Wikimania. The parameters of the assignment in no way implicate the Canvassing and Sockpuppet policies you mentioned; I doubt if he would have given us a task that violated Wikipedia social norms. As a longstanding Wikipedian myself, I also participated in a manner carefull to obey general Wikipedia standards, such as ensuring that each person came to their position independently and felt free to voice their opinions on Wikipedia without defering to the positions of any other group member.

I understand that is is very distressing for you that so many people are taking a position contrary to your own. However, since no Wikipedia norms have been violated, the fact that several law students happen to disagree with you is just something you'll have to live with, and handle through the normal channels of debate and discussion. -Lciaccio (talk) 22:07, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

This sounds dubious. Where on that wiki does it mention this Waterboarding article as part of it's coursework or project? Lawrence Cohen 22:11, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
I think there is an unintentional tendency for newcomers who know each other in real life to support each other on-wiki. This is due to sympathy, not conspiracy. Jonathan Zittrain and I attended Yale together. Please ask him to contact me via email so we can debug this. By the way, conducting experiments on high profile Wikipedia articles is not acceptable in any way. Jehochman Talk 22:22, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
This Harvard project

I think this needs wider admin review on AN or ANI:

These people are debating and affecting encyclopedia content as part of a class project. How long has this been going on, with this string of new SPAs flooding the Waterboarding article that we've seen? It's been highly disruptive, especially as this "project" was not disclosed. Lawrence Cohen 22:14, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Commentary like this on this Harvard page:

  • "# Should we weigh in on whether Wikipedia should keep the statement "waterboarding is a form of torture"? If so, what is our position? Khoffman 19:53, 7 January 2008 (EST)"

Make me EXTREMELY uncomfortable, especially given the comments on that page that the class "orally" decided to pursue the Waterboarding article. If a class decides to take a matching position orally, that is meatpuppetry. Lawrence Cohen 22:18, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

As a courtesy to Jonathan Zittrain, my old friend, I ask that his students not be blocked. This matter should be discussed, and a consensus achieved as to how we will handle this. At minimum we need full disclosure of any coordinated editing that has occurred so we can correct the discussion. A considerable amount of time and effort may have been wasted here. I am not amused. Jehochman Talk 22:26, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Sent to ANI. Lawrence Cohen 22:31, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

  • This is under discussion at WP:ANI, and further comments should be made at that location. The actions described here probably do violate Wikipedia's policy against sock/meat puppetry, but the class members do not appear to be intentionally violating policy. --Akhilleus (talk) 22:40, 8 January 2008 (UTC)