Check User

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Check User is a tool that may be added to any Wiki to allow selected people to see which IPs are used by any editor, and what edits have been made from a given IP. The version installed on Wikipedia also allows these selected people to see the full user agent of the PC or Mac. It is used primarily to determine what IPs different accounts used and to check to see if two accounts are related. It is presumed that the tool also has an IP range scanner which returns edits made by large batches of IP addresses.

This checkuser information is retained on the system for anywhere between one and six months. Thus, if a machine has not been used to edit Wikipedia for three months, it should be possible to use it for another account with no fear of sock puppet accusations. However, if the earlier account was checkusered, the person who did it may have kept a copy of the results.

Even if the IP has changed, an identification may be made if there is the same user agent (though there are often false identifications because user agents are not as unique as is often claimed). Further, Checkusers may claim identity of two users on other grounds, known as "technical evidence", such as that they live in England in a very similar way or they both put "RV" rather than "rv" in edit summaries. Note that identification is useless since the person can still create as many accounts as they wish through the magic usage of dynamic IP addresses. The only effective thing which could, in theory, stop the "abusive" behavior is a report to the provider of the "abuser", but in 95% of the cases, the provider doesn't take any steps to force their customer to stop said behavior, probably because of the blatantly open and abusable nature of Wikipedia. Even in dramatic cases such as with Grawp, the provider has declined to help the volunteers who defend the site from vandalism.

The concept of Check User is very strange. In most places on the internet an administrator of the site would be able to see what the IP address of all of the users were. Why you don't get such access on Wikipedia is quite strange. It seems that Jimbo Wales decided to adopt a libertarian approach whereby everyone had freedom and protection from privacy. Unfortunately, it seems that this libertarian approach wasn't followed through and it has since ended up being the reverse of the aims.

Check User results are almost always private. They do not ever show their proof to everyone, because there is no proof. Even if requested by the person who had been falsely accused of sock puppetry, they still refuse to say what the proof is. Instead, they are simply expected to be trusted. And, oddly enough, they are.

This differs greatly from the Arbitration cases, whereby a user does not want the false information to be displayed, and yet their names are smeared to no end. It seems as if Wikipedia has things in reverse.

Sometimes, it can be helpful, but not usually.