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  #1  
Old 04-30-2012, 02:43 AM
wheresmymind wheresmymind is offline
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How are "socks" (banned posters with new pseudonyms) discovered?

Mods: Not sure where it's appropriate to ask this question, please move it to the correct forum if need be. Also, I realize that for obvious reasons the mods might not want to answer this question. If this question is inappropriate, feel free to close it right away.

I've pondered this question before, but was reminded of it by some things that were said in this thread about zombies. When I notice someone who is "BANNED" while I'm reading through old threads, I'll sometimes search their history for the offending posts for fun. It's like rubbernecking at a car crash, you just can't look away. Anyway, sometimes there is no juicy "offending" series of posts (booo!), and the poster is just quietly disappeared for apparently no reason. Now obviously, I know the mods on this site don't ban people without good reason, reasons that may not be apparent to someone only reading their posts. It's really none of my business, and I accept that.

I understand that one of the reasons can be that the poster was a "sock," that is, someone who was already banned, only to return with a new pseudonym.

I'm curious as to how the powers that be determine if someone is a "sock?" I assume it starts with someone saying "hmm, ABC seems to be the same kind of jerk that XYZ was." But how can you be even 50% certain that the same person is behind the new name? I suppose you could cross-reference personal details they've dropped about themselves ("Well, IRL both seem to be gay born-again Christian plumbers from rural Arkansas who like Futurama fanfic and are active in SCA. Probably aren't too many people that applies to.") But it could take over a year for someone to casually mention that much personal information about themselves, especially if they were even remotely worried about their identity being discovered. Also, it seems this approach would take a lot of investigative effort. So how are socks discovered?

...and, um, I swear I'm not a sock...
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  #2  
Old 04-30-2012, 02:45 AM
hajario hajario is online now
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1. See if you can compare IP addresses. If they match, you might have a sock.

2. Read the snackpit for clues.
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  #3  
Old 04-30-2012, 03:10 AM
user_hostile user_hostile is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hajario View Post
1. See if you can compare IP addresses. If they match, you might have a sock.

2. Read the snackpit for clues.
What about the case of a DHCP?
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  #4  
Old 04-30-2012, 09:10 AM
hajario hajario is online now
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Originally Posted by user_hostile View Post
What about the case of a DHCP?
You can check if the first three digits of the IP match or if the IPs are from the same provider but then you would probably need more evidence to be sure.

Even if the sock uses a totally different proxy each time, they often aren't smart enough to hide certain patterns. If they really seem like they're a sock, and the IPs are from a selection of obvious proxies, that can clue one in as well.
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  #5  
Old 04-30-2012, 12:29 PM
Doug K. Doug K. is offline
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Originally Posted by hajario View Post
You can check if the first three digits of the IP match or if the IPs are from the same provider but then you would probably need more evidence to be sure.

Even if the sock uses a totally different proxy each time, they often aren't smart enough to hide certain patterns. If they really seem like they're a sock, and the IPs are from a selection of obvious proxies, that can clue one in as well.
I work for a small public school district. With the exception of a handful of machines, the IP of every device on our network is hidden by NAT. The end result is we have hundreds of computers that appear to the outside world to have the same IP. So seeing the same IP is no guarantee it's coming from the same computer.
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  #6  
Old 04-30-2012, 01:16 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
I work for a small public school district. With the exception of a handful of machines, the IP of every device on our network is hidden by NAT. The end result is we have hundreds of computers that appear to the outside world to have the same IP. So seeing the same IP is no guarantee it's coming from the same computer.
And this is why they don't routinely sweep the membership lists to see if two users have the same IP number, and if they do, ban them both. We have plenty of cases where two members live together and use the same computer, and this is not a problem. They only bother to check a user's IP if someone comes to their attention as a troublemaker.
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  #7  
Old 04-30-2012, 03:14 PM
hajario hajario is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
I work for a small public school district. With the exception of a handful of machines, the IP of every device on our network is hidden by NAT. The end result is we have hundreds of computers that appear to the outside world to have the same IP. So seeing the same IP is no guarantee it's coming from the same computer.
Obviously. Two users could also have the same IP if they live in the same house or if they both post from the same smartphone using the same carrier in the same city. The same IP is not proof positive but it's a very good indication if other patterns are there.
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  #8  
Old 04-30-2012, 04:33 PM
TubaDiva TubaDiva is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug K. View Post
I work for a small public school district. With the exception of a handful of machines, the IP of every device on our network is hidden by NAT. The end result is we have hundreds of computers that appear to the outside world to have the same IP. So seeing the same IP is no guarantee it's coming from the same computer.
Yep. This is sometimes a problem and we end up IP blocking an entire something -- a department, a company, a building, a school -- when it's just one jerk.

We do try not to block innocent people but sometimes it happens. We're usually able to sort out the situation and make it right.
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  #9  
Old 04-30-2012, 02:55 AM
Idle Thoughts Idle Thoughts is offline
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Going to move this to ATMB.
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  #10  
Old 04-30-2012, 03:27 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is online now
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I can't speak for the SDMB, but on a board I'm a moderator on, they mainly out themselves by being conspicuously similar to the "old" poster.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 04-30-2012 at 03:28 AM..
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  #11  
Old 04-30-2012, 04:27 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Are there automated tools that compare IPs and usernames and highlight duplicates? If not, is it because few messageboards prohibit socks or is it technically tricky?
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  #12  
Old 04-30-2012, 05:21 AM
sandra_nz sandra_nz is offline
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I used to run a vBulletin board and it definitely captured IP addresses.
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  #13  
Old 04-30-2012, 06:45 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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The thing I don't understand about it is why I haven't been banned. Seriously. I get my IP, which constantly changes, through my university, and I've often referred my students to one thread or other on the SD. How can they tell it's a different person, and not me under a new username?
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  #14  
Old 04-30-2012, 07:41 AM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber View Post
The thing I don't understand about it is why I haven't been banned. Seriously. I get my IP, which constantly changes, through my university, and I've often referred my students to one thread or other on the SD. How can they tell it's a different person, and not me under a new username?
Because there's no reason to look at your posts with the intent of identifying a sock. It's only a tool to help identify socks once you suspect there is something to investigate.
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  #15  
Old 04-30-2012, 09:36 AM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is offline
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Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
Because there's no reason to look at your posts with the intent of identifying a sock.
... until now.

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  #16  
Old 04-30-2012, 06:49 AM
sandra_nz sandra_nz is offline
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<deleted, misunderstood>

Last edited by sandra_nz; 04-30-2012 at 06:49 AM..
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  #17  
Old 04-30-2012, 08:58 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Are there any stats available on bannings and the reason?
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  #18  
Old 04-30-2012, 09:42 AM
kayaker kayaker is offline
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I've seen posters (unaware they are in violation of the rules) mention that they have multiple names.
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  #19  
Old 04-30-2012, 10:06 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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There are a number of techniques, and we're not going to discuss or reveal them all. Why give people ideas on how to evade the rules? The bottom line is that unwashed socks start to smell after a while, and thus become detectible.
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  #20  
Old 04-30-2012, 10:19 AM
hajario hajario is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven View Post
There are a number of techniques, and we're not going to discuss or reveal them all. Why give people ideas on how to evade the rules? The bottom line is that unwashed socks start to smell after a while, and thus become detectible.
Oh c'mon, Dex, it's not like there's anything that hasn't been mentioned so far at least in a general sense. The good socks don't get caught because they hide their tracks well. It's impossible to say how many there are.

The bad ones are caught because they are suspicious and a little bit of research verifies the truth. That is some combination of information revealed by IP locations, patterns in writing style and matching of personal information revealed either here or elsewhere on the net like in blogs. Sometimes you're lucky and the Nonnies do the research for you.

Last edited by hajario; 04-30-2012 at 10:21 AM..
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  #21  
Old 04-30-2012, 10:13 AM
TubaDiva TubaDiva is offline
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To quote from John Prine: "You are who you are and you ain't what you ain't."

Now that doesn't mean that we can't be fooled -- because we can and have been and doubtless will be again -- but ultimately who you are becomes evident.

Not sure if stats on bannings are available and not sure if they would be relevant even so as the system does not differentiate between the reasons for bannings. So someone banned for socking and someone banned for spamming, it's all the same. We do have far, far more banned spammers than offenders for other reasons and actuallyl these days bannings for causes that are not spammers are not so frequent.
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  #22  
Old 04-30-2012, 10:37 AM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Are people with dissociative identity disorder allowed to have mutiple accounts?
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  #23  
Old 04-30-2012, 10:44 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is online now
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Originally Posted by Darth Panda View Post
Are people with dissociative identity disorder allowed to have mutiple accounts?
Can they prove that:
1. They have no way of knowing each other's passwords, and
2. That it would be impossible to change personalities in the middle of posting?

Last edited by Czarcasm; 04-30-2012 at 10:45 AM.. Reason: spelling
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  #24  
Old 04-30-2012, 12:14 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
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Thing is, if you're such an asshole that you get yourself banned, and then start another sock account, you're probably still an asshole. If you could stop being an asshole to not draw attention to your sock account, why couldn't you stop being an asshole the first time and not get yourself banned?

So the problem for a sock puppeteer is that almost by definition they can't stop themselves from acting like an asshole, which means they're going to annoy people, which means they'll come to the attention of the administration, and they'll do a few of their secret tests (hint: they compare your IP to the IP of previously banned assholes), and then they get banned.
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  #25  
Old 04-30-2012, 04:05 PM
Blaster Master Blaster Master is offline
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
Thing is, if you're such an asshole that you get yourself banned, and then start another sock account, you're probably still an asshole. If you could stop being an asshole to not draw attention to your sock account, why couldn't you stop being an asshole the first time and not get yourself banned?

So the problem for a sock puppeteer is that almost by definition they can't stop themselves from acting like an asshole, which means they're going to annoy people, which means they'll come to the attention of the administration, and they'll do a few of their secret tests (hint: they compare your IP to the IP of previously banned assholes), and then they get banned.
I was going to say pretty much the same thing. Someone doesn't get banned for occassionally being a jerk or obnoxious, but usually from repeat behavior. They then usually come back and either repeat the behavior because they just can't really stop or because they deliberately want to prove something or come back deliberately to troll. I imagine those cases are pretty easy to pick out.

If the person is legitimately different, they seem to be harder to pick out, I only recall ever seeing a few long term socks banned, but it's probably difficult to make any sort of judgment about how many of them there actually are because, well, if they can't be traced back because they're acting legitimately different, we're not going to find them, and if they are legitimately contributing now, how much does it really matter anymore?
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  #26  
Old 04-30-2012, 04:20 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
Thing is, if you're such an asshole that you get yourself banned, and then start another sock account, you're probably still an asshole. If you could stop being an asshole to not draw attention to your sock account, why couldn't you stop being an asshole the first time and not get yourself banned?

So the problem for a sock puppeteer is that almost by definition they can't stop themselves from acting like an asshole, which means they're going to annoy people, which means they'll come to the attention of the administration, and they'll do a few of their secret tests (hint: they compare your IP to the IP of previously banned assholes), and then they get banned.
Dammit, our secret is out!

It's true, if a sock could refrain from acting in whatever way got him/her banned in the first place, it's possible that the staff would never notice the footwear. Maybe even likely.
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  #27  
Old 04-30-2012, 04:47 PM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
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Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
Dammit, our secret is out!

It's true, if a sock could refrain from acting in whatever way got him/her banned in the first place, it's possible that the staff would never notice the footwear. Maybe even likely.
Usual progression. Poster, bad poster, banned poster, comes back as sock. Gets caught or not caught but still banned again eventually. Wonder how many of these there are? Good poster, creates sock once in awhile. Sock gets banned. "Good poster" remains. Kinda a Dr Jekyl/Mr Hide poster rather than degenerating asshole poster.
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  #28  
Old 04-30-2012, 12:46 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
So the problem for a sock puppeteer is that almost by definition they can't stop themselves from acting like an asshole, which means they're going to annoy people, which means they'll come to the attention of the administration, and they'll do a few of their secret tests (hint: they compare your IP to the IP of previously banned assholes), and then they get banned.
The super-secret tests don't even necessarily have to come back positive. Often, a previously-banned poster will come back and immediately do something else that would be ban-worthy in its own right.

And then there are those who seem to want to be caught. Many socks use a consistent pattern for all of their usernames. One I remember registered 26 usernames in a row, one for each letter of the alphabet. Another one always had a metal in its username. Other times, they'll jump right back into the threads they were in before and continue the conversation (if it can be called that) as though nothing had ever happened.
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  #29  
Old 04-30-2012, 03:12 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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Getting banned from an internet discussion board is truly lame. That's like being refused access to the bathroom at a gas station.
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  #30  
Old 04-30-2012, 06:40 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Usual progression. Poster, bad poster, banned poster, comes back as sock. Gets caught or not caught but still banned again eventually. Wonder how many of these there are? Good poster, creates sock once in awhile. Sock gets banned. "Good poster" remains. Kinda a Dr Jekyl/Mr Hide poster rather than degenerating asshole poster.
Probably not as common as you think. That alphabet sock I mentioned bragged under several of its other names that it was actually a prolific and well-respected poster, and that everyone would be shocked and amazed when we found out who it actually was. Well, eventually, it got impatient, and confessed under its "established" name. Whereupon everyone responded with "Who are you again? Do we know you?".
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  #31  
Old 04-30-2012, 06:58 PM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
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Now thats funny.
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  #32  
Old 04-30-2012, 08:17 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I was an unintentional sock. In my earlier, naive days, I did not realize it might not be a good idea to use your real name as my user name and so registered like that. Later I realized my mistake and reupped as Siam Sam, then forgot about that first incarnation. Then one day the Dope police caught up with me in the form of an e-mail telling me I'd been discovered and that I could not post under this name anymore. I told them my mistake, and those earlier messages were all changed to my present user name. I still don't know what tipped them off.
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  #33  
Old 04-30-2012, 11:54 PM
Autolycus Autolycus is offline
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I can quite easily imagine somebody creating a sock merely to enjoy the pleasure of posting with two different personas.

Of course, in this case, they would have to be very careful to avoid posting something with the wrong account that would blow their cover and expose their footwear, so to speak.

Regards,
Shodan
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  #34  
Old 05-01-2012, 05:08 AM
TubaDiva TubaDiva is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Autolycus View Post
I can quite easily imagine somebody creating a sock merely to enjoy the pleasure of posting with two different personas.

Of course, in this case, they would have to be very careful to avoid posting something with the wrong account that would blow their cover and expose their footwear, so to speak.

Regards,
Shodan
We've caught a few that way. It's hard work being someone besides yourself and attention to detail is crucial.
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  #35  
Old 05-01-2012, 02:44 PM
etv78 etv78 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TubaDiva View Post
We've caught a few that way. It's hard work being someone besides yourself and attention to detail is crucial.
IMO it's not that hard to masquerade, but it's probably easier on niche boards.
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  #36  
Old 05-01-2012, 07:15 AM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Autolycus View Post
I can quite easily imagine somebody creating a sock merely to enjoy the pleasure of posting with two different personas.

Of course, in this case, they would have to be very careful to avoid posting something with the wrong account that would blow their cover and expose their footwear, so to speak.

Regards,
Shodan
I saw what you did there, Auto.

Here is a thread which might shed further light on the sock mentality.
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  #37  
Old 05-01-2012, 04:33 PM
I_Know_Nothing I_Know_Nothing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Autolycus View Post
I can quite easily imagine somebody creating a sock merely to enjoy the pleasure of posting with two different personas.

Of course, in this case, they would have to be very careful to avoid posting something with the wrong account that would blow their cover and expose their footwear, so to speak.

Regards,
Shodan
Let's go to the quarry and throw some rocks down there!
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  #38  
Old 05-01-2012, 08:49 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Let's go to the quarry and throw some rocks down there!
In Russia, quarries throw rocks at......wait, nevermind.
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  #39  
Old 05-01-2012, 02:08 AM
user_hostile user_hostile is offline
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What is the recidivism rate for banned-to-socks?
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  #40  
Old 05-01-2012, 05:09 AM
TubaDiva TubaDiva is offline
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PS My favorites is when we get socks that get into the same thread and argue with one another. It does make you wonder about multiple personalities, if such a thing really existed. Apparently it can on the internet!
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  #41  
Old 05-01-2012, 12:25 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I'm sure the software could notify of that, but why bother? It's not indicative of breaking any rules.
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  #42  
Old 05-01-2012, 01:28 PM
Morgenstern Morgenstern is offline
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I imagine the join date and the number of posts is a big clue if there is an investigation.
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