Home > Metablogging > Sockpuppet ban

Sockpuppet ban

July 26th, 2009

I’ve had an increase in disruptive troll comments here and at Crooked Timber, and have now discovered that a large number of them appear to be from someone who has posted here and elsewhere in the past as “John/Jack Greenfield”. I discovered it when “Greenfield” put up a comment at Catallaxy identical to one posted by a trollish commenter here posting as “S. Haines”. I challenged Haines on the point and he/she/it promptly disappeared. An IP check has now revealed numerous similar trolls several of whom had already been banned. The list includes:

Greenfield
S. Haines
Phyllis P.
Jake Bowden
Belgian Dentist
Methusela
Milton Keynes
Myron
Mark Milankovitch
Ian. Mc

IP numbers vary, but all begin with 203.171.192 or 203.171.195. If any of the above want to dispute their sock puppet status, they are welcome to email me. Bloggers who don’t wish to encourage trolls, sockpuppets and other such lowlifes are welcome to contact me for further details, and are urged to ban “Greenfield” and associated socks.

A few more points. A sockpuppeteer is, by definition, a liar and a fraud. I’m going to leave the comments made by “Greenfield” and socks to remind everyone that these are the kind of comments that even their own author, despite freely available use of pseudonymity, is ashamed to own.

Leaving aside the personally shameful aspect of sockpuppetry, it’s important to recognise how disruptive and destructive the activities of sockpuppeteers are to the discussion that takes place here and in the blogosphere. People who want to discuss the issues are deceived into engaging in side debates with dishonest actors seeking only to do damage. Any sanction available to bloggers against such activity, including legal action and public exposure, should be employed as necessary.

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  1. melaleuca
    July 26th, 2009 at 17:03 | #1

    Larvatus Prodeo has the exact same problem with John Greenfield.

    I note with interest that John Greenfield has admitted to mixing Xanax (a sedative-hypnotic) with alcohol prior to blogging. I suspect Mr Greenfield is sick rather than sinister.

  2. melaleuca
    July 26th, 2009 at 17:13 | #2

    btw PrQ, Greenfield’s admission is here: http://www.catallaxyfiles.com/blog/?p=5710#comment-140573

  3. FDB
    July 26th, 2009 at 17:24 | #3

    Bah! He stole that Milton Keynes gag from me too.

  4. July 26th, 2009 at 17:57 | #4

    Oh dear. Cue outraged rants from the usual suspects about censorship, denial of the right to free speech, suppression of alternative viewpoints, echo chambers etc.

    I wonder if the likes of Greenfield (whose comments I also deleted from ‘Road to Surfdom’ back in the day) shoulder uninvited into conversations in public places in order to insult people and disrupt the discussion. I suspect they do.

  5. jquiggin
    July 26th, 2009 at 19:37 | #5

    KL, Indeed. It’s striking how little regard some conservative/libertarian commenters have for the property rights of bloggers.

  6. Alice
    July 26th, 2009 at 21:02 | #6

    Ill comment on this because I had a melee with that s.haines. tell him not come back (the little coward)…I didnt get to round three…doesnt matter though. He was dead at round one (really he was that bad). I also identify Milton Keynes on that list of troublemakers JQ.

  7. July 26th, 2009 at 21:07 | #7

    It’s striking how little regard some conservative/libertarian commenters have for the property rights of bloggers.

    I suspect that if you were not indulging in some home turf trolling of your own you would have actually said:-

    It’s striking how little regard some people have for the property rights of bloggers.

    In any case I’m happy you have had some success in hunting this socket puppet, libertarian, conservative, socialist or otherwise.

  8. paul walter
    July 26th, 2009 at 21:16 | #8

    Ah!
    Poor old Jack Grenfield again.
    Yes, he admitted years ago at Web Diary that he was turpsed up on some of his forays.
    Definitely pro Zionist and conservative, but not THE worst of blogging Trolls.
    Most bloggers now know who he is and what he thinks and sometimes you can get into a good argument with him.
    For heaven’s sake, don’t exile him even if he’s not PC; far more interesting to find out what’s on his mind, as representative of a currently marginal grouping. .
    Let him play devils advocate.
    Then work out what it is these people will or won’t budge on, regardless of info presented them. If they are are only out to take the mickey, move on- ignoring them is probably more painful for the mentality than getting sucked into an argument with them.
    It is peculiar tho. Some times you are forced back to the conclusion that many of these identities can be traced back to a few bods with some sort of agenda beyond the proffered one of engaging in meaningful discourse, particularly on subjects like Palestine and trades unions.

  9. Jill Rush
    July 26th, 2009 at 21:55 | #9

    Paul White #8. Life is too short for that kind of indulgence. There are plenty of fine minds and writers to read. There is no need to encourage the bad, mad or chemically altered.

  10. philip travers
    July 26th, 2009 at 23:24 | #10

    I got erased.That must be different ,intellectually speaking, than censored.Unless the Zionist quotient in our beloved security people were looking for a lizard tongue removalist!

  11. paul walter
    July 26th, 2009 at 23:38 | #11

    Jill Rush: “There are plent of fine minds and writers to read”. (rather than rightie populists, presumably )
    Right on, back to my “Batman” comic.
    Actually, am writing this just after the doco on ABC about Salman Rushdie.
    Please, no book burnings, etc. Leave that to the various religious, ideological and even secularist, fundies with bees in their bonnets.

  12. paul walter
    July 26th, 2009 at 23:51 | #12

    An after thought. The thread was elucidating on the real problem of organised Troll attacks on sites to disrupt discussion, under a welter of irrelevant commments. This is a different problem to the ventilations or musings of individuals on issues.
    Who are we really looking for?
    Young Lib flying squads?
    Zionist groups?
    These ARE vermin. They have no interest in discourse, only its suppression.

  13. July 27th, 2009 at 00:25 | #13

    I note with interest that John Greenfield has admitted to mixing Xanax (a sedative-hypnotic) with alcohol prior to blogging.

    IMO being off the show is no excuse for trolling or sock-puppeting.

  14. Jill Rush
    July 27th, 2009 at 08:46 | #14

    Paul Waler #11. This does illustrate the point rather well. To take a leap into illogic from the suggestion that there is some writing that doesn’t deserve to be read to suggesting that this equates to book burning is not rational. There is no need to burn bad books because they will first of all be remaindered and secondly pulped. However when there are trolls who are mischievous and write and think poorly then why should they be indulged?

  15. paul walter
    July 27th, 2009 at 09:16 | #15

    Jill, comtempt prior to investigation again- my point is not “illogical”, when over-enthusiastic website moderators ban or censor bloggers on no more basis than than the indulgence of their own peccadillos and prejudices ( why would they be any different than other bloggers or humans in general, on this score? )- I’ve had this done to me and what’s more on am utterly malicious and blatant inversion of a point I was making om a thread at a particular site.
    Bookburning was a bit nebulous; had I said “censorship” instead, that would have sufficed?

  16. Alice
    July 27th, 2009 at 09:25 | #16

    Well I went to greenfields happy home blog ground (why do a greater percentage of sock puppets come from there?) and gave him a serve and they didnt waste any time in getting rid of my post. Id say JQ has been far more tolerant than their blogmaster is….

  17. Uncle Milton
    July 27th, 2009 at 09:39 | #17

    It’s a sign of blogging maturity that the owners of blogs are prepared to ban the rude and disruptive. Blogging until now has been plagued by the nonsensical idea that anyone can write anything they like on any blog, constrained only by the weak remit of the defamation laws, and sometimes not even then.

    If a guest in your own home behaved like that, you would ask them to leave and never invite them back. Likewise a student in your lecture theatre. And in a work place, they’d be warned, and if they persisted, shown the door.

    Freedom of speech doesn’t come into it. Anyone is free to start their own blog.

  18. paul walter
    July 27th, 2009 at 10:56 | #18

    Uncle Milton, in particular. Do not share your notion that blog moderation should be conducted on the basis of personal prejudice at the expense of legitimate inquiry.
    But thanks for the glimpse into what Germany would have been like; post 1933.

  19. Jim Birch
    July 27th, 2009 at 10:57 | #19

    TergeP@7, aren’t you being a bit disingenuous here? If conservatives and libertarians believe in the primacy of property rights then aren’t they breaking the rules of their own book? The comment was about their capacity to operate consistently with their own declared principles, and your rewrite misses this point.

  20. Uncle Milton
    July 27th, 2009 at 11:04 | #20

    Paul, you are guilty of preposterous hyperbole, and much more importantly, have violated Godwin’s Law.

    If you don’t like the rules on this or any other blog, start your own. No one can or will stop you from expressing your opinions on anything.

  21. July 27th, 2009 at 11:55 | #21

    Jim,
    Just a quick clarification. It is generally only the libertarians that believe in the fundamental importance of private property rights. Conservatives tend to believe they can be violated for “good” social purposes, such as the prevention of immorality or other “socially important” tasks (banning brothels for example).

  22. melaleuca
    July 27th, 2009 at 12:24 | #22

    AR is correct of course.

  23. Fran Barlow
    July 27th, 2009 at 12:52 | #23

    It’s interesting Mel. Until about 1986 it had never occurred to me that one could be a non-leftist libertarian. The term “libertarian” always referred to anarchists.

  24. Alice
    July 27th, 2009 at 12:55 | #24

    Not Godwins Law again…..
    However, I find that certain types of bloggers must find their own type (or politically inclined) a little boring if the truth be known otherwise why do they have such a fatal attraction to jumping under sock puppet names and stirring up the folks chatting in JQs blog with often bizarre arguments? Guess they like dropping in JQ even if they dont agree (its like a barbarian raid at times isnt it?) – you could take it as a compliment. Maybe their blogmasters arent as interesting.

  25. Jim Birch
    July 27th, 2009 at 13:00 | #25

    AR does that mean that a (right wing) libertarian couldn’t troll a blog and hold his head up, while the conservative could, but only if he’d decided the blog was unethical. I guess the anarchist can do what he likes and still respect himself.

  26. zoot
    July 27th, 2009 at 13:03 | #26

    I may be mistaken, but I understand Prof Q to be “censoring” (if you must) sock puppets; ie trolls (or others) with multiple personality disorder. Instead of invoking Godwin’s maybe his critics should base their arguments on discrimination against people with psychiatric illnesses?

  27. Alice
    July 27th, 2009 at 13:24 | #27

    Are you insinuating Sock puppets are really Psych puppets Zoot? Careful – you might get censored but some of them do leave you wondering about their state of intellectual equilibrium.

  28. jquiggin
    July 27th, 2009 at 13:24 | #28

    AR, I don’t think this helps the case for conservative sockpuppeteers at all. Conservatives believe that the appropriate authorities can override property rights and “natural rights”, for good purposes. In particular, they typically support censorship. So, a conservative individual who violates someone else’s property rights to evade censorship is in an even worse case than a (propertarian) libertarian.

    As Jim says, it’s anarchists who don’t face a hypocrisy problem here whereas they would if, for example, they sued for defamation.

    Paul Walter, take a break for a day or so. A Godwin violation is a pretty clear sign that you are letting emotion run away with you.

  29. July 27th, 2009 at 13:33 | #29

    Jim,
    If I had to characterise JG’s views they would be those of a conservative, so, if he is in fact guilty of sockpuppetry (and it looks like he is) then I would guess he would have to regard this blog as unethical to rationalise his activities.
    Personally I would regard trolling as being unethical under any circumstances (generally it is pretty close to, if not actually, lying) but I can see how those who deprecate private property rights may self-justify sockpuppetry.

  30. July 27th, 2009 at 14:24 | #30

    PrQ,
    I should add that I in no way agree with the behaviour and support absolutely your right to administer this blog in any way you choose. I make no case in their favour, I am merely putting forward a case as to how they may be able to rationalise their behaviour.
    Perhaps, though, in the absence of “proper authorities” they believe they can override the rights.
    OTOH, they may just be guilty of hypocracy.

  31. Alice
    July 27th, 2009 at 15:08 | #31

    I agree slightly with AR only to the extent I think some conservatives think THEY ARE the sole “appropriate authorities” in lots of areas, not just in riding ramshackle in disguise over other people in JQs blogs with insulting sneerings and comments. Thats what they do. Thats what is so annoying.

    I doubt whether they would get away with that sort of rudeness in their own blogs so why should they get away with it here? I was once handing out at an election and some smartly dressed well coiffed sprayed and starched skinny matron came over and started abusing me for the handing out for a party she apparently didnt like. Now I am a swinging voter and this was around the time of Iraq and I was there doing a public service. I gave as good as I got – extremely sarcastically but very elegantly, and what surprised me was the look of shock on her face as if I had no right to respond. Well thats how some conservative sock puppets carry on in here. Absolute turkeys stuffed and ready to be baked.

  32. paul walter
    July 27th, 2009 at 15:11 | #32

    I’m too busy to be bothered with this kind of thing. Take a week off, and cool down. Any attempt to post before that will be met with a permanent ban – JQ

  33. July 27th, 2009 at 15:23 | #33

    Alice,
    We are all guilty of that at times. There are those that abuse me for holding the views I do and try to impute nefarious motives for holding those views. It is normally a substitute for any actual argument on the point.

  34. July 27th, 2009 at 15:26 | #34

    PrQ,
    BTW – the link in th epost pointing to “S.Haines” comment points to your admin pages, not to the comment itself.

  35. Alice
    July 27th, 2009 at 15:44 | #35

    oh oh…I fell in a trap Andy…nicely executed, you got me!

  36. July 27th, 2009 at 15:47 | #36

    [bows]

  37. 2 tanners
    July 27th, 2009 at 17:30 | #37

    1. This is a forum for discussion. I publish it at my own expense and in my own time. It is not a public place. There is no automatic right to comment here.

    ….

    2. The purpose of the comments section is to allow constructive discussion….

    ….

    6. Commenting under multiple names (sock puppets) or the use of multiple email accounts to evade bans is strictly prohibited and will lead to an immediate and permanent ban.

    Pretty clear, really, regardless of political affiliation or mental state.

  38. Socrates
    July 27th, 2009 at 21:59 | #38

    Good riddance. There is no moral law that says the right to free speech is absolute. Like almost all rights, it comes with responsibilities. Pragmatically, I have come to think that pandering to such people helps nobody in the end. (Even them, and they often need help.)

  39. John Mashey
    July 28th, 2009 at 04:08 | #39

    “2 tanners” quotes JQ’s discussion policy. It’s one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve pointed at it several times for bloggers to think about their own policies.

    GOOD DISCUSSIONS
    The very best discussions offer more than “yes, we all agree”
    a) People may learn facts they didn’t know.
    b) People may learn that a problem they thought was simple, isn’t.
    c) People may discover some simplifying insights about a complex problem, that make it more tractable.
    d) Two people may start by disagreeing on X, and still disagree on X, but the definition of X may get sharpened.
    e) People may still disagree on X, but find some elements of X on which they agree.
    f) People may decide that X is really not the right topic/question.
    g) The discussion may give feedback to the framer of X about the quality of explanation used. [Really good communicators use the feedback from any interactions to improve what they say].
    h) The discussion may generate ideas for further study.
    i) I always consider the most valuable discussions as those where someone convinces me that strongly-held opinion was actually wrong or has higher uncertainty than I thought. The next best is when they convince me that a lightly-held opinion is worth more study.
    Blog discussion usually aren’t expected to settle weighty issues. Elsewhere, people in {business, government, military} have serious discussions that inform decisions, and sometimes have serious consequences.

    DISCUSSIONS IN REAL WORLD
    It is well worth studying military history because the consequences of decisions are often immediate. Business decision processes take longer to evaluate, but at least tend to be visible. For many decades, the computer business moved so fast (with yearly product cycles) that bad decisions were visible quite quickly. I’ve been in/managed many discussions of that sort, some of which were rather intense, as they might determine whether or not a company might survive. With smart people working 60+ hours/week, there could be strong differences of opinion. That was fine, as long as people kept a high Signal-to-Noise Ratio, and often produced the effects listed above.
    What wasn’t fine were people who purposefully or accidentally degrade the SNR, wasting time with irrelevancies, diverting every discussion into side-tracks, obscuring real issues rather than sharpening them, generating endless conversation.
    Smart managers control this during meetings, try to help them behave more productively, but if not, move them elsewhere, or finally, fire them.
    Their problem was not in expressing their opinions, it’s that they seriously degraded the SNRs for *everybody*.

    BACK TO THE NET
    Trolls, sock-puppets, et al do this *purposefully*, taking advantage of the Internet in ways that do not survive very long in face-to-face interactions.
    This may be new for many, and to some extent, the technical tools haven’t caught up. Real old-timers (i.e., people who participated in USENET Netnews in the 1980s) remember when many newsgroups offered high-SNR discussions, sometimes among world-class experts, and with most participants identified by name and visible email address.
    In 1993, there was an “invasion of AOL newbies”, see Eternal September, which was both good (more access to more people), and bad (SNR degradation). In some case, over the following years SNR degraded so badly that previously-useful newsgroups lost most of their good posters, drowned out by bad ones, and msot good ones just quit.
    (This is “Gresham’s Law” of money applied the the Internet.)

    In the last decade blogs have taken over, for both better and worse, but certainly, with a vast expansion of audience. In some cases, technical tools haven’t kept up with the social behavior.
    USENET newsreaders usually supported a KILLFILE feature in which one could decide that someone’s comments were worthless, and with one command, one would never see them again, in *any* newsgroup discussion.
    Firefox+Greasemonkey+Killfile does that somewhat, for some blogs, but the existence of aliases and sockpuppets makes it harder.

    Likewise, the tools for managing blogs seem not as strong as I hope they’ll get.

    But meanwhile, I applaud JQ for:
    - Offering a clear discussion policy.
    - Spending the serious effort to enforce it.

  40. Bingo Bango Boingo
    July 29th, 2009 at 23:40 | #40

    From paul walter: “Zionist groups? These ARE vermin.” and then… “But thanks for the glimpse into what Germany would have been like; post 1933.”

    Err…

    BBB

  41. July 30th, 2009 at 00:49 | #41

    BBB,
    I think it was stuff like that that prompted PrQ to tell him to take a week off.

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