Here’s a story we doubt you’ll see reported on FOX News. AlterNet recently completed a year-long investigation into so-called “gaming the system” at the content aggregator, Digg. A Yahoo group calling itself the Digg Patriots (whose site has since been taken down) figured out how to rig Digg’s voting. If you don’t know, at Digg and many similar sites, you can vote for the stories you want to see featured prominently, or in this case, those you want “buried.” As AlterNet reported:
Literally thousands of stories have already been artificially removed from Digg due to this group. When a story is buried, it is removed from the upcoming section (where it is usually at for ~24 hours) and cannot reach the front page, so by doing this, this one group is removing the ability of the community as a whole to judge the merits or interest of these stories on their own (in essence: censoring content).
The immensity of the impact is commensurate with the reach of Digg. Again, according to Alternet:
It is ranked 50th among US websites by Alexa (117th in the world), by far the most influential social media site…Digg generates around 25 million page views per month, over one third of the page views of the NY Times. Front page stories regularly overwhelm and temporarily shut down websites in a process called the “Digg Effect.”
The site was vulnerable to such a strategy despite controls, described on CNET.
Over the years the company has adjusted its algorithm, a closely guarded company secret that is the determining factor for promoting a story from the site’s user-submitted upcoming section, to the front page. This takes into account a number of things, including how fast the votes are coming in, where they’re coming from, who voted, and how many friends those users have.
…Many of the [Digg Patriot's] members had to go to great lengths to make sure their accounts were not banned or deactivated, including resetting their modems in an effort to get a new IP address, and setting up and maintaining multiple, active accounts so as not to get picked up by some of the site’s activity filters.
And who are those “influential members?” AlterNet lists each user name and says most are linked to the Tea Bagger, Tea Party, and Birther movements. The story goes into detail on the group’s commander.
The ring leader of the group is Bettverboten, who issues multiple digg and bury orders everyday. She is a Digg power user who has dugg 70,000 articles and has 1500 submits of her own (18% have gone popular) in one short year on the site. She was previously known as Lizbett before her lifetime ban for offensive and inappropriate comments, and has two sleeper accounts waiting if she gets banned again at loquaciouslola and MsBoop.
…Digg and bury orders are issued multiple times everyday, with most of the members blindly following without question.
Like the larger Republican party, which shows little daylight between itself and Tea Party extremists, it’s easier to tell you what the group is against than what it’s for. According to AlterNet, that list includes Obama, progressives, diplomacy, health care reform, immigrants, science, the separation of church and state, any acknowledgment of human-induced climate change, the government, pro-choice protections, public schools, and higher education. They also claim to believe Obama is a Muslim and a socialist, and that he was born in Kenya.
Of course, they do like a few people: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin.
The irony is how the Tea Bagger Digg Patriots subverted every intention of the Digg philosophy, as expressed on its “About Us” page.
Because Digg is all about sharing and discovery, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for our community to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on Digg, you’ll always find something interesting and unique. We’re committed to giving every piece of content on the web an equal shot at being the next big thing.
An equal shot is the last thing these Tea Baggers want, if the “next big thing” is named Barack Obama, for example.
At press time, Digg was accepting no new members because it is about to launch a new version.
The new Digg site does away with the “Bury” option.