Research:Anonymity and Peer Production

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21:04, 5 January 2015‎
Rachel Greenstadt
Nazanin Andalibi
Duration:  2015-01 – 2015-09
Open access project  Open access
no url provided
This page documents a completed research project.

The belief that a free and open Internet enables people to accomplish great things together is at the core of projects like Wikipedia, open-source software, and online political activism. The term “peer production” has been used for years to describe a new kind of collaborative project-—one that is facilitated by the Internet and in which people self-organize to create things they value, whether that’s software, encyclopedias, news, maps, or just about anything else. But research about these projects and how they work generally doesn’t take into account the value of "anonymous" participation. We want to understand privacy-related behavior of Wikipedia editors who seek to protect their identity while contributing to the project.


As in our prior studies, we intend to interview Wikipedia editors to understand their practices. We will recruit up to 30 editors. Any adult editor (18 or older) who has taken measures to protect their privacy while editing is eligible to participate in the study. Because our potential participant pool is large and participants must self-identify, we will recruit via public channels like mailing lists and by word of mouth.


All our publications, Wikipedia-related and otherwise, can be found on the website of the PI:

This project yielded the following publication: Andrea Forte, Nazanin Andalibi, Rachel Greenstadt. (2017) Privacy, Anonymity, and Perceived Risk in Open Collaboration: A Study of Tor Users and Wikipedians Proceedings of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW) Portland, OR, USA.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects Protection[edit]

IRB approval received from Drexel University on 2/26/2015.

Benefits for the Wikimedia community[edit]

This interview study is the first in a series of studies, including potential design experimentation, intended to develop technical and social solutions to help people protect their privacy while helping sites like Wikipedia manage abuse. Our goal is to support productive "anonymous" contributors to Wikipedia and other peer production projects (whatever steps they may take to protect their identity); understanding their goals, reasons for seeking some measure of anonymity, and the steps they take to protect their identities will provide a foundation for doing so.


interviews - winter/spring 2015 analysis/writing - summer 2015


This project is supported by NSF grant #1253302.

See also[edit]