A forensic qualitative analysis of contributions to Wikipedia from anonymity seeking users

Kaylea Champion, Nora McDonald, Stephanie Bankes, Joseph Zhang, Rachel Greenstadt, Andrea Forte, Benjamin Mako Hill

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    By choice or by necessity, some contributors to commons-based peer production sites use privacy-protecting services to remain anonymous. As anonymity seekers, users of the Tor network have been cast both as ill-intentioned vandals and as vulnerable populations concerned with their privacy. In this study, we use a dataset drawn from a corpus of Tor edits to Wikipedia to uncover the character of Tor users’ contributions. We build in-depth narrative descriptions of Tor users’ actions and conduct a thematic analysis that places their editing activity into seven broad groups. We find that although their use of a privacy-protecting service marks them as unusual within Wikipedia, the character of many Tor users’ contributions is in line with the expectations and norms of Wikipedia. However, our themes point to several important places where lack of trust promotes disorder, and to contributions where risks to contributors, service providers, and communities are unaligned.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number53
    JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
    Issue numberCSCW
    StatePublished - Nov 2019


    • Anonymity
    • Forensic analysis
    • Forensic qualitative analysis
    • Online communities
    • Peer production
    • Privacy
    • Thematic analysis
    • Threat models
    • Tor
    • User-generated content
    • Wikipedia

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Human-Computer Interaction
    • Computer Networks and Communications


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