Say there's a person who has registered more than one account on the same social network and writes from these accounts pretending they belong to different people. What would you call such accounts?

My best guess is "bots", but that sounds more like when something is automatically posted from these accounts.


7 Answers 7


Sometimes called a sock puppet account. Lexico has

2 A false online identity, typically created by a person or group in order to promote their own opinions or views.

Sock puppets are banned in many online venues.

These bloggers marshaled their legion of sock puppets to engage in intellectual combat.

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    It should be emphasised that this term is used only when the accounts are used to create an illusion that one's views are widely supported. If the accounts are opened for some benign purpose, or accidentally, they would probably be called duplicate accounts
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:09
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    @jsw29 Slight nitpick because you used "only when the accounts are used to...". I'd say sock-puppet also applies if someone is using them to try to create the illusion of mass opposition to another's views, or, indeed, any kind of activity intended to stir up trouble (trolling).
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:32
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    Here on Stack Exchange, the term is also used for someone who creates another account because their previous account was suspended. Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 17:05
  • @jsw29: I've also seen it used to refer to a situation where a user wants to discuss a sensitive matter that they don't want to be associated with their "main" account. For example, they might want to discuss drug use or other illegal activity, but their primary account is associated with their full name and other identifying details. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 14:08
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    @Michael Seifert that kind of account is more often called a 'throwaway', even if a person keeps using the same account for some time. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 20:35

Also, alternate account, or “alt”. Wiktionary has:

  1. (Internet, gaming) An alternate or secondary character.

    • 1996, "Jonobie D. Baker", Survey of MUSHers. (on newsgroup rec.games.mud.tiny)

      Of these alts, how many of them are a gender other than your own?

    • 2000, "KaVir", Code Bases - why release buggy crap? (on newsgroup alt.mud)

      Yes, I have many alts, and no, none of the others have any unusual capitalisation.

  2. (Internet) An alternate account.

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    This is somewhat different from a sock puppet account as an alt may still make use of a user's real identity. (Still a valid answer to the OP's question either way.) Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 18:49
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    KaVir. Ah yes. Great guy. Well I never chatted with him but from what I've seen on the MUD forums he is - and a good programmer too. I always have considered 'alt' to be for characters however. As in your main character is this or that and your alt characters (plural) are ... Etc.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 21:54

They are certainly not bots. As this Wkipedia article explains a bot is either completely or largely automated and is used to make a certain product or point of view look more popular than it actually is. Someone with more than one account on a given social media platform is still, usually, managing the accounts manually. There might be a certain amount of copying and pasting going on but the process is usually manual.

The accounts could be described as duplicate accounts although this term is usually applied to accounts with businesses or official entities which have been created in error. @RobJarvis suggests "alias account" which is good since alias is defined by Lexico as

a false or assumed identity.

Quite often aliases are adopted for nefarious reasons but some are legitimate, good examples being stage names of performers and pen names of writers. People working under stage or pen names are often better known by their pen name than by their real one.

In fact it is easy to imagine that a person famous under their pen name might well choose to have two social media accounts, one under their assumed name which is used to communicate with their fans and one under their 'real' or 'birth' name which is used to communicate with family and close friends.

Depending on the reason for having more than one account you can make a choice of term for an account which is not associated with the 'real' identity from alias account, duplicate account and false (or fake) account.

  • By analogy with other uses of alias in computing-related contexts, one may argue that alias account is more apt for what appears to be a separate account (e.g. it has a different screen name), but is at some level connected with the user's first account. Duplicate account, on the other hand, may be more apt for an account that is completely independent, particularly if no attempt is made to create an impression that it belongs to a different person.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 16:21
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    The term alt account is often used as well, particularly by gamers who have a primary account and a number of secondary accounts. They might want to replay through the game with a fresh account to find things they've missed, or do things differently the second time around for example. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 4:37

Upvoted the existing answers for "sock puppet" and "alt," but since I have thoughts that are too long for a comment...

A well-maintained "second online life" on some platform is termed an alt account. The most common connotation of an "alt account" in my experience is when someone has, for example, one account where they post things "safe for prospective employers" and a second, probably private, account where they post pics of their wild weekend or their hot takes on national politics or whatever. Or maybe they have one Reddit account for /r/politics and an alt account for /r/hentai (so that the people who know their political views can't easily discover their tastes in pornography, and vice versa).

Alt accounts seem to be especially common among artists — you have a general-purpose account and then an alt account where you post nothing but art, so that people who like your art can just follow the alt. In that sense, an "alt account" is just a poor man's mechanism to achieve something like "post tags" on a platform that doesn't allow it: instead of having your art-followers subscribe to "posts by @Bella tagged #art", you just have them follow @BellaArt.

A related (slightly ironic) use of "alt account" I've seen is to describe the relationship between a writer and one of their online "characters"; for example, comedian Max Miller might refer to @HalfOnionInABag as an "alt account" under the preceding definition; and @HalfOnionInABag, in character, might ironically refer to Max Miller's real account as the onion's "alt."

What OP is describing — using multiple accounts to gin up the appearance of support for one's own position — is indeed sockpuppetry. The fake account itself is referred to as a sockpuppet — at least that's the spelling I would use. I see that other people in this very thread have already used the spellings sock puppet and sock-puppet; there may be some regional variation. (I'm an American thirtysomething with no experience of actual sock puppets; in fact I had to look up to confirm the difference between a sock puppet and a sock monkey.)

Wikipedia claims:

The first Oxford English Dictionary entry [for "sockpuppet" with any similar meaning] was "a person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion", with a citation from U.S. News and World Report, March 27, 2000. [However, the citation had nothing to do with online behavior.]


I would call them "alias accounts."

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    Can you support your answer by citing evidence (e.g. a dictionary definition or example of its use)?
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 2:24
  • @V2Blast, see BoldBen's answer, where he cites alias as meaning "a false or assumed identity."
    – RobJarvis
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 12:54
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    Please put your evidence in your answer. If your answer is simply reinforcing another answer, it might not be necessary. Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 9:35

One possibility is a Ghost Account, though it does not have any kind of official definition. It seems to be more of a colloquial term; users of social media may be likely to use it, but it may not mean the same thing outside of those circles.

There is a definition that perfectly matches the question on Urban Dictionary (Ghost Account), if you trust that as a source.

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    My impression is that this term is used principally for the pseudonymous accounts (on a site where users are expected to use real-life names) that do not contribute much, but are used mostly to obtain information about others by 'following' them. Although the same person (or organisation) may operate several, possibly many, ghost accounts (and sometimes also a non-ghost account, in addition to them), I don't think that the multiplicity of the accounts is a defining characteristic of the term.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 0:44
  • @jsw29 That is why I said it would mean something different outside of social media. With a Facebook friend, they aren’t very likely to equate that with a non contributing user. For example if someone said “Bob has a ghost account”, I would take that to mean a fake identity. That identity may very well be only for gathering information, but could also be used to post an opinion they would otherwise not want people to see. Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 2:35

Non-pejorative: "alt account" or "backup account"

Pejorative: "sock/sock puppet" or "bot"

  • What exactly does this add to the answers that have already been posted (in a much more elaborate form)?
    – jsw29
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 15:01

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