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Wikipedia:Clean start

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A clean start or fresh start is when a user stops using an old account to start fresh with a new account. The two most common reasons for wanting a clean start are recognizing past mistakes and avoiding harassment. The old account must be clearly discontinued and the new account must avoid editing patterns or behaviors that would allow other users to recognize and identify the account. It is expected that the new account will be a true "fresh start", will edit in new areas, will avoid old disputes, and will follow community norms of behavior.

A genuine clean start is not considered improper. However, if an editor uses their new account to resume editing articles or topics in the same manner that resulted in a negative reputation in the first place (becoming involved in disputes, edit warring, or other forms of disruptive editing), the editor will probably be recognized (as a "sockpuppet") and connected to the old account, and will be sanctioned accordingly. Changing accounts to avoid the consequences of past bad behaviors is usually seen as evading scrutiny and may also lead to additional sanctions. The behavior of the new account determines whether it is a legitimate fresh start or a prohibited attempt to evade scrutiny. A clean start is not permitted if there are active bans, blocks, or sanctions (including but not limited to those listed here) in place against the old account.


Users who may have a clean start
Any user in good standing who has no active or unexpired sanctions and who is not being or about to be formally discussed for their conduct, may have a clean start.
Users who may not have a clean start
Any user who has currently active bans, blocks or other sanctions imposed (including, but not limited to, those listed here); or is currently or about to be formally discussed for their conduct (such as at an administrative noticeboard or in an open case with the Arbitration Committee); or is attempting to evade scrutiny, may not have a clean start.

How to "clean start"

If you decide to make a fresh start and do not wish to be connected to a previous account, simply stop using the old account and create a new one that becomes the only account you use. As any editor in good standing may request a rename, you could consider renaming your old account before abandoning it, but this rename will be publicly logged and could draw more attention to you (see Streisand effect). To reduce the chance of misunderstandings, you should note on the user page of the old account (while logged in under that account) that it is inactive, by using the {{retired}} tag or leaving some other message. You may not use more than one account at a time in most circumstances.

Notification and permission

If you are not under Arbitration Committee sanctions, you are not required to notify anyone of your clean start. However, you may find it helpful to notify the Committee or a member of the checkuser team, and get confirmation that there are no obvious problems with you following the clean start procedure. This may reduce the risk of misunderstandings that might result from "behind-the-scenes" discussions and investigations, and may assist you in an appeal of a mistaken block or sanction for creating an alternative account.

Be aware that no one can grant permission for a clean start. The term "permission" carries with it the sense that you will not be held at fault for your actions. If you attempt a clean start but are recognized, you will be held accountable for your actions under both the old and new accounts. The fact that you notified someone of the change will not excuse you from the consequences of your actions or protect you from recognition.

Editing after a clean start

It is assumed that editors who change accounts under the terms of fresh start are seeking exactly that, a fresh start. You are responsible for editing in a manner that respects community norms of behavior and avoids association with disputes or poor behaviors that you might have been involved with under your former account. It is best that you completely avoid articles or topics that you previously edited, especially if you were involved in a dispute with another editor(s). If you do not make positive changes in your behavior, you may be recognized and held accountable for the actions of your past account(s). Likewise, if you want to make a clean start because of harassment from other editors, you should avoid editing articles that may place you in conflict with the same editors, because they will probably recognize you.

Returning to previous articles and topics

It is only natural that editors will want to edit the same topics that drew them to Wikipedia in the first place. However, returning to a favorite topic after a clean start carries a substantial risk that other editors will recognize and connect the old and new accounts. This can result in arguments, further loss of reputation, and blocks or bans, even if your behavior while using the new account was entirely proper. For this reason, it is best to completely avoid old topic areas after a clean start. If you have a favorite topic that you wish to edit, it may be better to continue using the old account, clean up your behavior, and rebuild your reputation the hard way. Alternatively, spend some time editing other areas and building a reputation as a "good" contributor before returning to former topics of interest. Remember that the goal of "clean start" is to make a positive change in your behavior so that you are not recognizable as your former account; returning immediately to areas of editing that were previously contentious makes it more probable that your previous account will be identified.

Contentious and scrutinized topics

Certain articles and topics are particularly contentious, and have attracted additional community scrutiny in the form of requests for comment, community sanctions, or arbitration cases. These areas should be completely avoided by the editor attempting a clean start. Even if the original account is not under a formal editing restriction, changing accounts hides the editor's past relationship to the disputing parties, and interferes with the community's ability to monitor the dispute. It is not an appropriate use of clean start to resume editing contentious or scrutinized topics with a new account. Changing accounts, and then resuming to edit in a contentious area, carries a substantial risk that other editors will recognize you and connect your old and new accounts. You may be viewed as evading scrutiny, which carries a risk of long-term blocks and bans. If you are unsure in a particular situation, you can ask a member of the Arbitration committee or the functionaries team for advice.

The guiding principle is that clean start is not a license to resume editing in areas under heightened scrutiny. It is intended for users who wish to move on to new areas having learned from the past, or who wish to set aside old disputes and poor conduct.

Requests for adminship

You are not obliged to reveal previous accounts; however, it is strongly recommended that you inform the Arbitration Committee (in strictest confidence if you wish) of the existence of a previous account or accounts prior to seeking adminship or similar functionary positions. Failure to do so may be considered deceptive, and be poorly received by the Wikipedia community.

Seeking or accepting a nomination for administrator after a clean start often results in controversy. If the reasons for your clean start no longer apply, then your best option is to simply link the two accounts before your RFA and resolve any outstanding issues relating to the account that ceased editing.

Becoming an administrator without admitting that you had a previous account risks losing the confidence of the community if the former account is subsequently revealed.

If you want to become an administrator without revealing your former account, it is best to wait rather longer than if you had let people check your former account.

See also

  • Wikipedia:Anything to declare? – makes a case for editors with alternate accounts declaring them sooner rather than later.
  • Wikipedia:Consequences of sockpuppetry – discusses how the use of a second account, unless explicitly permitted by the rules, is a violation known to many as sockpuppetry.
  • Wikipedia:Courtesy vanishing – discusses how a user in good standing—upon leaving Wikipedia forever—may request renaming of their account; deletion or blanking of user pages; and possibly the deletion or blanking of discussions related to their conduct.
  • Wikipedia:Retiring – discusses how sometimes active users decide to retire from, or leave, Wikipedia and may return at any point.
  • Wikipedia:Single purpose account – discusses user accounts or IP editors whose editing is limited to one very narrow area or set of articles, or whose edits to many articles appear to be for a common purpose.
  • Wikipedia:Sleeper account – discusses how a sleeper account is still enabled and it is still possible to use it. However, any such use of an account must conform to Wikipedia guidelines, particularly those of sockpuppetry.
  • Right to be forgotten – Legal concept