What is Sockpuppeting?

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Have you ever happened upon a network of bloggers with content, layout, or opinions that seem suspiciously similar, but they don’t seem to have much engagement from anyone else? If so, you might have just seen sockpuppeting at play.

What is sockpuppeting? On the internet, sockpuppeting is the act of making it appear as though there is more engagement than there actually is. This is usually accomplished when someone makes multiple accounts, then uses those accounts to engage their own content. This can be done by leaving comments, likes, linking posts, just to name a few examples.

But why would a person sockpuppet? There are a few reasons a person might. Perhaps they want to encourage discussion on their posts by making it appear as though a discussion is taking place. Perhaps they want to make it appear as though their ideas are well-supported by the community, in an effort to persuade people to accept their ideas. Perhaps they intend to make the appearance of multiple biases to dissuade people from arguing against them. In some cases, it’s a measure to ensure that the discussion heads in the direction that the puppeteer prefers, perhaps so that they can take on arguments that they’d prefer to, rather than the ones that would pose a significant challenge to their viewpoint.

Of course, it’s very possible that it’s a lonely and sad individual who isn’t getting a lot of real human attention.

Sockpuppeting isn’t as big as it used to be, largely due to the fact that it’s become harder to get away with. Admins on message boards and bloggers can see the IP addresses of individual comments, which contain location-based elements. If a blogger notices a couple commenters shooting it back and forth, and the discussion seems kind-of predictable, the shared IP address of the commenters is a red flag that something is up. And, in case you’re wondering, the FBI and NSA pretty much laugh at your silly VPN.

Have you seen sockpuppeting at play? Or do you have funny stories where sockpuppeting is involved?

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