Sockpuppet (Internet) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For Wikipedia policy on sockpuppets, see Wikipedia:Sock puppetry
A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person. The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization, or to circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer. Many online communities have a policy of blocking sockpuppets.
The term "sockpuppet" was used as early as July 9, 1993 but did not become common in USENET groups until 1996. The first Oxford English Dictionary example of the term, defined as "a person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion," is taken from U.S. News and World Report, March 27, 2000.
The history of reviewing one's own work under another name predates the internet. Walt Whitman and Anthony Burgess were both famous for having reviewed their books under pseudonyms. Another famous example was Benjamin Franklin.
Notable public examples
- In November 2012, Lisa Jackson, who headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during President Barack Obama's first administration, was caught writing "numerous" emails under a fake name to dodge congressional oversight and public records laws. Jackson used the name “Richard Windsor,” a name that was derived from the family dog's name. The use of the private emails under the pseudonym only came to light after Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sued the EPA for documents pertaining to Jackson's use of alias email accounts. That suit brought scrutiny by congressional Republicans and eventually an audit by the EPA's inspector general. When Jackson announced that she was leaving the administration at the end of Obama's first term neither she nor the president made any references to her use of the pseudonym to hide information.
- John Rechy, who wrote the best-selling 1963 novel City of Night, was caught writing numerous reviews of his books giving them five-stars on Amazon.com. A computer glitch in 2004 revealed the names of many authors who had written reviews of their books using pseudonyms. Rechy, who was a winner of the PEN-USA West lifetime achievement award, was one of the more famous authors caught.
- The British mystery writer Roger Jon Ellory was outed for the numerous 5-star reviews using pseudonyms by writer and journalistJeremy Duns. Among Ellory's numerous books are "A Quiet Vendetta," "A Quiet Belief in Angels," "The Anniversary Man: A Thriller," and "A Simple Act of Violence." Ellory used pseudonyms such as "Nicodemus Jones" to post both positive reviews of his own work and negative ones of competing authors. Ellory most recently won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award in 2010 for "A Simple Act of Violence." A group of notable authors were sufficiently upset by Ellory's negative reviews of other authors' work that they launched a petition to condemn his actions.
- Orlando Figes, an award-winning historian who has done work on the Russian Revolution, wrote anonymous Amazon reviews praising his own books and condemning the work of his fellow historians Dr Rachel Polonsky and Professor Robert Service. The two historians who were Figes' competitors sued him and won money damages for his false claims in court.
- Stephen Leather, one of the UK's most successful fiction writers, was also found to be using many pseudonyms to praise his books. Among Leather's numerous books are "False Friends," "Hard Landing: The First Spider Shepherd Thriller," "Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish," and "Short Fuses." "You build this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself … I have friends who are sockpuppets … One person on their own, difficult to create a buzz. If you’ve got ten friends, and they’ve got friends, and you can get them all as one creating a buzz, then hopefully you’ll be all right," Leather told the UK Telelgraph. Leather claimed: "everyone does it."
- Frequent New York Times best-selling author and "Mega-seller" John Locke was caught paying for over three hundred reviews of his books. Reviewers were paid on the basis of whether the reviewers gave the books four or five stars, and many of the reviewers wrote multiple reviews using pseudonyms. Locke has written 14 books.
- Lee Siegel, a writer for The New Republic magazine, was suspended for defending his articles and blog comments under the user name "Sprezzatura." In one such comment, "Sprezzatura" defended Siegel's bad reviews of Jon Stewart: "Siegel is brave, brilliant and wittier than Stewart will ever be."
- American reporter Michael A. Hiltzik was temporarily suspended from posting to his blog on the Los Angeles Times (entitled "The Golden State") after he admitted "posting there, as well as on other sites, under false names". He used the pseudonyms to attack online conservative nemeses like Hugh Hewitt and L.A. prosecutor Patrick Frey (who eventually exposed him)."  Hiltzik blog at the LA Times was the newspaper's first blog. While he was suspended, he still wrote regularly for the newspaper. When Hiltzik returned to the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper released a glowing memo that highlighted his career accomplishments without any reference to Hiltzik's use of the pseudonym.
- In 2007, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, was discovered to have posted as "Rahodeb" on the Yahoo Finance Message Board, extolling his own company and predicting a dire future for its rival, Wild Oats Markets, while concealing his relationship to both companies. Whole Foods argued that nothing that Mackey did broke the law.
- Conrad Black, chief executive of Hollinger International, posted messages on a Yahoo Finance chat room using the name “nspector.” He used his postings to attack short sellers and blame them for his company’s stock performance. Prosecutors provided evidence of these postings in Black's criminal trial where he was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction. The postings were raised at multiple points in the trial.
- Patrick M. Byrne, who founded and served as chief executive of online retailer Overstock.com, spent years anonymously posting on the Internet to do battle with his company’s critics. “Nothing about being a public figure compels one to surrender one’s First Amendment rights,” he said.
- Sam Millar, a popular Belfast crime writer, was also found to have written positive reviews of his own work and negative reviews of Declan Hughes, Laura Wilson, and others. Millar has won the prestigious Aisling Award for Art and Culture, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories, and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition.
- Over 13 months between 2001 and 2003, John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, made posts arguing issues in his book under the sockpuppet name "maryrosh."
- A top staffer for then-US Congressman Charlie Bass (R-NH) was caught posing as a "concerned" supporter of Bass's opponent Democrat Paul Hodes on several liberal New Hampshire blogs. Using the identities "IndieNH" or "IndyNH," the aide argued thatDemocrats might be wasting their time and money supporting Hodes, because Bass was "unbeatable."
- Peter Ragone, the press secretary of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, admitted that he had posted pro-Newsom comments to the blog SFist as "Byorn" or "John Nelson" (a friend). Ragone said "he answered Newsom's critics using others' names because being online 'was fun – it's where people are having fun." Ragone was not punished for his actions.
- On January 13, 2009, Ben Grower, a councillor from Bournemouth, England, was exposed by the Bournemouth Daily Echo for repeatedly posting comments praising himself and fellow Labour councillors on the newspaper's website using a number of sockpuppets including the screen name "Omegaman." When questioned, Grower was initially ambiguous but later admitted the truth of the allegations, saying "I have done nothing against the law. And probably next time I will just use a different pseudonym."
- In April 2010 British historian Orlando Figes was discovered to have written critical reviews of books by professional rivals on theAmazon.com website under the names "orlando-birkbeck" and "historian."
- In April 2011, the American cartoonist Scott Adams admitted using the name "PlannedChaos" to pose as one of his fans on the link-sharing sites Reddit and MetaFilter.
- In September 2011, Johann Hari, a leading columnist for the British newspaper The Independent, publicly apologized for having used a pseudonym, David Rose, with Wikipedia screen name David r of Meth productions, to add positive material to the Wikipedia article about himself and negative material to Wikipedia articles about people with whom he had had disputes.
- In September 2012, British crime author R. J. Ellory admitted to using fake usernames on Amazon.com to write glowing reviews of his own works and bad reviews of those of two competitors.