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‘Tis the Season to be Banning at Wikipedia

By Mason

We’re at the end of October, and banning season is in full swing on Wikipedia. Two of Wikipedia’s most colorful characters, Jack Merridew and Malleus Fatuorum, have been put on trial this month, with Jack getting the axe and Malleus squeaking through with only a “topic” ban.

The Queen turned angrily away from him and said to the Knave: "Turn them over."

Bans are a tricky thing for a site that bills itself as “the encyclopedia anyone can edit.” If literally anyone can edit, how is it possible to prohibit specific unwelcome individuals from wandering over to a library or Internet café and editing anonymously to their heart’s content?

Well, it isn’t possible, of course, and many so-called “banned editors” are merrily editing away as you read this. Nonetheless, much of the culture of the site is pervaded by a “sock-hunting” mentality, where eagle-eyed sock-hunters keep close watch for any edits that look like they might be coming from a banned editor.[1] If they find such an edit, they’ll quickly undo it (without regard to whether the edit itself was helpful or accurate) and get the account blocked as a “sockpuppet” of the banned editor. There are a variety of helpful templates one can slap on such an editor’s user page, scarlet-letter-style, that announce to the world that this editor is Banned and/or a Sockpuppet. The templates typically come complete with a helpful red stop sign icon to signal to readers that this is Serious Business.

Part of the ritual when an editor is banned is to wipe whatever awards, photos and other trinkets they’ve decorated their user pages with, and replace them with one of these “banned” banners. However, as always, there are exceptions: some editors who are both popular

…continue reading ‘Tis the Season to be Banning at Wikipedia