Today at blogworld I am speaking on a panel about dealing with spammers, trolls and sockpuppets. Also on the panel with me is John Chow. I think between me and John we have a fair amount of experience with each.
First and foremost I suggest you read my post on why you should embrace negative press. Its one of my better posts and I get a lot of great feedback on it from other people that are in the spotlight and have been attacked a lot.
I think I have talked a lot about how we deal with spammers and trolls but I have never really got into the sock puppet part.
Defining sock puppets:
For those who do not know a sock puppet is someone who “speaks through a sock” if you will. Sock puppets like to remain as anonymous as possible. Depending on their technical ability they minimize all traces that could possibly reveal their real identity. Changing names, emails, and ip addresses by use of public proxies is usually the bare minimum for these puppets. But there are ways in which you can track a sock puppet… My background in computer security comes in handy sometimes. I remember the first time I connected a sock puppet who razes me every day about how I am looking fat or how I’m full of shit or whatever was the same guy emailing me daily who I had been helping build a successful online business. People trip me out! and perhaps I will write about those another day and even give some juicy examples people would give a kick out of 😉 (and probably get me sued)
The bad sock puppets:
Bad sock puppets are anonymous “keyboard warriors” who like to attack and slander people (usually with zero quantification). For instance I recently wrote about my friend John Reese and within minutes in YouTube and my blog there were bad sock puppets coming out of the wood work hating on him. Calling him a scam artist… saying he ripped them off…. etc etc… Amazingly everyone who posted a comment like that on my blog was using a proxy and some anonymous email. I know because every single person who posted that John had “scammed them” I personally emailed them to ask what happened. Not one responded and most emails bounced back. The bottom line is John Reese has built an amazingly successful business with a ton of incredibly quality products and services and if someone did feel they were ripped off John would be the first person to want to know how he could make it right.
Bad sock puppets are all over the internet. Web 2.0 has given every person in the world a soapbox to anonymously slander any public figure and instantly feel better about themselves. Its kind of like that friend you have that always has to find something negative to say about you just so they can justify to themselves the fact they never had the balls to try anything or stick there pecker out (link to post). Well now they don’t even have to leave the host to justify their shitty life.
The good sock puppets:
There are good sock puppets out there and many good reasons why using a sock puppet can be good. Its rare, probably less then 5% of the time, but occasionally someone will leave a helpful comment on ShoeMoney.com masking their information. These people do not have bad intentions but because of their job, public status, or affiliation with a company they feel the need to be anonymous. I can respect that.
It might surprise you but I have used a sock puppet before. In fact lots of times on public forums I will stop using the nickname ShoeMoney and switch to something else that has zero affiliation with ShoeMoney.com.
Why? Well I started on forums helping people and throwing in my 2 cents. But in the last couple years every time I post as my moniker – ShoeMoney the discussion quickly turns into-
- A debate whether or not its the real ShoeMoney. (and my head gets a little bigger)
- The thread goes completely off topic and the user asks me how they can make good money with Adsense like I did 4 years ago…
- I get bombarded with private messages on the forum.
- Bad Sock Puppets come out of the woodwork to attack!
So in general it makes it easier for everyone for me to use a sock puppet. I get to go back to being joe schmoe with 50 posts giving his 2 cents on how to fix your problem and the thread stays on topic.
Alarms for sock puppets:
On your blog obviously its easy for you to spot a sock puppet. You can see the persons username, email, and ip address. But on forums how do you know? I think just some common sense will tell you.
- The poster will have 1 or a couple posts. As a moderator in a pretty popular forum we see this all the time. Someone makes an additional account, makes one post anonymously (they think) to talk smack, then goes back to using their regular account. Digital Point has a ZERO tollerance policy of sock puppetry of any kind and I would wager more people are banned on DP daily then most forums get new users… in a year =P.
- The poster will have an incomplete profile – Nothing will be filled out for home location or homepage… or in the case of DigitalPoint – the “recent blog” feature.
So that covers forums but what about emails?
Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo are very important tools for sock puppets to communicate to you. I don’t think I have ever got a death threat from anything else. Wonder why.
On the plus side though there are good sock puppet wants to reach you without disclosing their information. I have gotten many tips from people working inside companies who wanted their identity to be anonymous. Always be sure to follow up and even inquire with companies before acting on the information. Don’t stick your pecker out only to get it cutoff!
So in closing hopefully this makes it more clearer what sock puppets are, why they exist, how they are used, and even how to identify them.