I'm asking because it seems to be happening. Also, I suspect "sockpuppetry" investigations are complex to conduct, so I'm not trying to rush anything, but I've raised some such flags about a week ago... Does progress on those depend e.g. on cooperation from the SE staff?

A bit of searching found a relevant page on the "big meta"

When should sockpuppets be considered a problem?

[...] if the second account allows you to do something on the site that your normal account would be prevented from doing, it is abuse. Examples of this include (but are not limited to): [...]

Circumventing suspensions, quality bans [...]

  • 2
    No, this is not acceptable and yes, sometimes investigating these requires a Community Manager and there are currently only 4 of them. (I don't know anything about the case you're referring to; I'm speaking as a moderator on other sites in the network.)
    – Glorfindel
    May 20 '20 at 5:25
  • The title and the body of this question seem to be very different. Can you please post one question at once?
    – bytebuster
    May 20 '20 at 6:45

Using a secondary account to evade any kind of block is indeed an abuse of the system.

However, it's also something that we tend to tolerate - at least until the secondary account becomes disruptive. Most times we do this to collect more data points and handle the case a bit more effectively. There's also a small chance the user has learned their lesson. It's rare, but I have seen accounts that started out as sockpuppets grow into model citizens.

Sockpuppet investigations can be particularly complex and time-consuming. The tools we have at our disposal are far from perfect. And there are several cases where we must call upon SE for help - voting fraud and network-wide issues are the more common ones.

When we do involve SE, it may take a while before we hear back. If memory serves the longest I've waited was a couple of months - and this was before the CM team was downsized.

That said if there's any real urgency we can always ping someone directly.

About your flags:

This was me being lazy. We are aware of the situation, I should have cleared the flags earlier.

  • 4
    "Sockpuppet investigations can be particularly complex and time-consuming" I'd love to expand on that but we've been asked to avoid sharing details about the tools and processes, as we could accidentally reveal potential exploits.
    – yannis Mod
    May 20 '20 at 12:09
  • 2
    I guess it depends on the offense, but I'm not all that comfortable with tolerating bypassing a suspension like this. Especially longer suspension normally do not come out of nothing; first there are warnings, short suspension, etc. Especially for CoC violations, in my experience users are unlikely to stop entirely, and will again test out the limits of what is possible. Subjecting the users here to that if it's not absolutely necessary for the process doesn't seem ideal.
    – tim
    May 21 '20 at 7:24
  • 5
    @tim It's case by case. I have in the past removed sockpuppet accounts on sight, with no prior warning (remember the fascism troll?). And yes, CoC violations call for immediate action - I won't knowingly let someone go around insulting people just because I need to collect a few more data points to verify sockpuppetry.
    – yannis Mod
    May 21 '20 at 12:47

This was asked on Meta.SO and the list of bad things to use sockpuppets for includes

  • using multiple accounts to circumvent system-imposed restrictions.
  • using alternative accounts to circumvent suspension by a moderator.
  • Strangely enough, the other A here says 'tolerated, if not also disruptive', and the msg sent is 'your account has been suspended'. From both I'd conclude that alternate personality/account action is allowed? The 'circumvention' would then mean: 'use non-main (main=suspended) account to repeat/continue actions that did cause trouble for main account'? Not: have multiple accounts, get into trouble with one, with susoension, the refrain from all actions as long as the one is 'in jail'? Jun 4 '20 at 22:30

Yes, to balance the iniquity of the StackExchange legal system.

On the StackExchange network, users do not enjoy due process rights. Accusations against a user may be leveled in secret; trials of such accusations are often/always held in secret; decisions are not posted anywhere; no justification for sanctions or punishment is presented to the public; and public appeals are impossible.

Side note: We saw an extreme case of this in 2019 with the famous case of Monica Cellio, but that was an exception in the sense that Ms. Cellio, as a veteran community member and moderator, was able to raise some kind of a public outcry about what had happened. To this day, no evidence in support of the accusations against Ms. Cellio has been presented to the community (AFAICT), nor has SE Inc. withdrawn the accusations. The eventual settlement with Ms. Cellio is also kept secret.

Under these circumstances, we - as users, and even as moderators - should hold suspensions as basically unjustified and users not guilty of misconduct justifying sanctions. I would say this is the case even if we have personally seen some evidence of wrongdoing by the suspended user - as they have not had the opportunity to properly argue in defense of their conduct.

Consequently, measures to circumvent such suspension, in and of themselves, should be tolerated and not reported or called out - unless the other account is misused in itself.

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