Sockpuppet ban

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:

S. Haines
Phyllis P.
Jake Bowden
Belgian Dentist
Milton Keynes
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.

41 thoughts on “Sockpuppet ban

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.)

  11. “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.

    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.

    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*.

    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.

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



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