A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.
"The more liberal stories that were buried the better chance conservative stories have to get to the front page. I'll continue to bury their submissions until they change their ways and become conservatives." -phoenixtx (aka vrayz)
Digg.com is the powerhouse of social media websites. It is ranked 50th among US websites by Alexa (117th in the world), by far the most influential social media site. It reached one million users in 2007 and likely has more than tripled that by this point. 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 concept behind the site is simple. Submitted webpages (news, videos, or images) can be voted up (digging) or down (burying) by each user, sort of a democracy in the internet model. If an article gets enough diggs, it leaves the upcoming section and reaches the front page where most users spend their time, and can generate thousands of page views.
This model also made it very susceptible to external gaming whereby users from certain groups attempt to push their viewpoint or articles to the front page to give them traction. This was evident with the daily spamming of the upcoming Political section with white supremacist material from the British National Party (articles which rarely reached the front page). The inverse of this effect is more devastating however. Bury brigades could effectively remove stories from the upcoming sections by collectively burying them.
One bury brigade in particular is a conservative group that has become so organized and influential that they are able to bury over 90% of the articles by certain users and websites submitted within 1-3 hours, regardless of subject material. 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). This group is known as the Digg "Patriots."
A group of nearly one hundred conservatives have banded together on a Yahoo Group called Digg Patriots. (DP), and a companion site at coRanks to issue bury orders and discuss strategies to censor Digg and other social media websites. DP was founded on 21 May 2009. Since then, over 40,000 posts have been logged at a steady rate of around 3000-4000 per month. The "Patriots" Network on coRank is a tool to submit Diggs to a group list as opposed to sending an e-mail every time. It also has some tools that make submitting to the list as easy as clicking on a bookmark.
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. She is also on Twitter, although her primary focus is Digg, where she has acquired a huge following of power users who are likely unaware that she is gaming the system, and even calling to bury some of her mutuals. Digg and bury orders are issued multiple times everyday, with most of the members blindly following without question.
This group is the heart of a complicated web on various networks, including Twitter, Propeller, StumbleUpon, YouTube, and Facebook, all dedicated to ramming an extreme right wing viewpoint down the throats of those communities and censoring opposing viewpoints. This includes such means as cyber stalking, bullying, and terror, as exposed on YouTube yesterday (something not one of the DP group condemned). Not surprisingly, there is also a heavy contingent active on the ultraconservative FreeRepublic.
There are a few differences of opinion within DP, although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective. They hate Obama. They hate progressives. They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it. They hate the secular nature of our nation. They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. They hate abortion rights. They hate public schools and really hate higher education. They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. They hate anyone who doesn't think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. They just love to hate.
Although this is a fringe group of Teabagging wingnuts, many well established figures in the Digg community are also present, such as BalancingAct, EMFK, Janinco, mikeinto, and spindig. 10 members have been part of Digg since 2005-2006, with 43 having their current account there for over 2 years. 19 are in the top 500 all time users as ranked by Social Blade, including 3 in the top 100. They have submitted over 30,000 articles, and dugg over 1,000,000 submits collectively. They regularly front page material, yet have some paranoid delusion that the Digg admins are part of some conspiracy to censor them, not once recognizing the blatant hypocrisy of their organized censorship doing that very thing.
The primary function of the Digg Patriots is to censor politically progressive content from the upcoming Political, Political Opinion, World News, and Business sections, so that conservative stories have a better chance to get more traction. To do this, they constantly monitor these sections, progressive submitters, and news websites.
Whether I agree with Bjornski, Anamaly100, PhilPerspective, Novenator, JanineWallace, UncaJoe, & a couple others I can't think of right now, I bury `em anyway. *ACTUALLY* each of them has been dead-on, balls-accurate (an industry term) at least once in the past week or so, and it sort-of pains me to be dishonest by burying them anyway, but then I remember . . . I'm not up for re-election! -BentheDog
This censorship is not restricted to political articles either. Articles about education, homophobia, racism, science, the environment, economics, wealth disparity, world events, the media, green energy, and anything even slightly critical of the GOP/Tea Party/FoxNews/corporations are targets. In fact, any articles submitted by the users they hate the most are on their kill lists, including such benign things as SETI Opens All Data To The Public, Celtics Take Lead in N.B.A. Finals, Man Donates Phone He Used to Record Rape of 3-Year-Old Girl, 40,000 BP Australian Rock Art May Depict Giant Extinct Bird, Sarah Ferguson: I Was Drinking At The Time Of Video Sting, Top 10 Real Life Mutants, What is being Taught in a Bible Belt Science Classroom, and Totally Cute Puppy Pictures (buried in less than 30 minutes).
The DP group searches Digg for any articles from websites they want to drown out, sites such as Salon, News Junkie Post, Talking Points Memo, FreakOutNation, Five Thirty Eight, ThePublicRecord, Rawstory, The Nation, Media Matters for America, PoliticusUSA, Alternet, Fire Dog Lake, Political Carnival, TruthOut, DailyKos, The Joshua Blog, The Brad Blog, Huffington Post, Science Blogs, Smirking Chimp, Down With Tyranny, Crooks and Liars, MarioPiperni, Buzzflash, Bob Cesca's REALLY AWESOME Blog, and The New York Times.
Beyond censorship, the Digg "Patriots" group regularly discusses strategy on how to either come back after being banned for life from Digg for violating the rules, set up sleeper profiles, and how to utilize multiple accounts at once without getting caught.
During the undercover investigation, dozens of duplicate or previously banned Digg profiles were uncovered, some with many of each. This is likely the tip of the iceberg as many were reluctant to discuss their past, perhaps recognizing that a leak could be devastating to their censorship ring. Due to the rampant nature of this conduct, it is likely that dozens more previously banned profiles have not been discovered, and many more still exist as sleeper accounts.
Much, much more (including a list of the ringleaders' Digg usernames) available at the source.