“Emotional strip-mining”: Sympathy sockpuppets in online communities

Devon Greyson, Kaitlin L. Costello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sympathy sockpuppets are false online identities used for purposes of extracting care work from others. While online community infiltration for nefarious purposes is a well-documented phenomenon, people may also join online communities using deceptive personas (“sockpuppet” accounts) for non-nefarious reasons, such as to gain sympathy or cultivate a sense of belonging in a group. In comparison with scamming and trolling, this more subtle form of online deception is not well understood, and to date, its impacts on individuals and communities have not been fully articulated. This knowledge gap leaves communities without guidance when managing the impacts of this sympathy sockpuppet deception. We interviewed people who had been members of online communities that discovered sympathy sockpuppets in their midst to explore and characterize the phenomenon of sympathy sockpuppetry and to provide guidance for other individuals and communities that encounter similar forms of online deception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3328-3349
Number of pages22
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Interpersonal deception theory
  • online communities
  • online deception
  • online trust
  • sockpuppet accounts


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