Digg Patriots: A Response

Diggileaks? Digggate? Diggournolist?

I normally don’t blog about politics, but have little choice today. I just discovered that I am part of a conservative censorship group on Digg.com that has been

caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives.

Digg Patriots?At first, I thought it might be a joke because of the premise that a group of conservatives have nearly succeeded in wrestling control of Digg away from the overwhelmingly progressive audience. But, the Alternet.org post went popular on Digg yesterday. It now has over 9000 diggs and 2500 comments–more than I recall ever seeing. The news is getting mainstream media attention this morning with a post at guardian.co.uk.

The organizer of the investigation and likely Digg Patriots’ infiltrator is said to be Digg user novenator. The timing of the release is probably due to the fact that buries are going away in the very soon to be released new version of Digg.

The writer of the post, oleoleolson, says that the group:

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.

Joining the Digg Patriots

Long and short. Did I join the Digg Patriots? Yes. Did I participate in burying progressive stories posted to the group? No.

I can’t tell you much about the Digg Patriots because I don’t know much about it. Digg Patriots are conservative diggers. I am flattered to be part of such a feared right wing conspiracy, but there are some things you must know.

  • I am a conservative with strong Libertarian sympathies. Guilty.
  • I am deeply disturbed about government spending, taxes, waste, erosion of freedoms, weakness in foreign policy and many other policy shifts over the past twenty years.
  • I don’t speak for the Digg Patriots Yahoo Group.
  • I enjoy Digg. But I try not to take it too seriously.
  • I use one Digg user name, clickfire.
  • I spend about 10 to 15 minutes per day reading, digging or submitting stories to Digg.
  • Occassionally, I bury a story if it is blatantly untrue or offensive.
  • Most of my Digg submissions are technology related.
  • I have a lot of awesome friends on Digg of various political persuasions.
  • I believe and hope that real truth will always triumph over popular truth.
  • I don’t bury or digg because someone in a Yahoo group says to.
  • If I were going to participate in a group that gamed Digg, it wouldn’t be a Yahoo hosted Group.
  • The users listed in the story as Digg Patriots who I know are exceptionally nice people, especially EMFK, alanocu, gbudavid, thoughtsonthis, phoenixtx and ChronicColonic (I don’t know that all of these people are Digg Patriots, I’m just going on the assumption of the story).

Back in May of 2009, I received an invitation from a Digg friend:

About 50 of us conservatives from Digg have got together to shout at a yahoo group that I created.

I signed up and noticed a few other friends there, read a few posts, exchanged greetings, and left it there after about the first week.  I dugg many of my Digg Patriots friends stories when I saw them on Digg, liked the stories and had time. I still do. But, I barely have time to digg my friends stories, much less bury ostensible enemies’ stories.

Criticisms

The most obvious problem with the story is the absence of sources or corroboration of the information. I don’t even know if what he is saying is true or not because I wasn’t an active member. It may be good enough for the sympathetic audience but why not go a step further and be a journalist?

His guilt by association take is troubling to me. The notion that if you become a member of a Yahoo group with a few clicks of the mouse, you must agree with everything that everyone in the group posts. And you must be active and guilty of cheating. The writer makes no distinction in friends who simply joined the group and those active members who may be violating the Digg terms of service. An important distinction, don’t you think? Who wants to spend time sifting through pesky details? Researching individual user data on Digg? Are you kidding? Do you realize how long it would take to verify if each one of the Digg Patriots members names published were actually active in the group and doing what they were accused of?  No, I’d rather wikileak it, sit back and watch the viral oil spew into the social ocean.

Another problem is exagerration. The writer seems to be trying very hard to sell his story, using superlatives and shock speech. I suppose some audiences respond to this approach but cutting this close to mendacity does more harm than good to me. I wondered earlier this week if the patriots’ group was still active and was a bit surprised to hear a friend say it was still in existence, but not as strong.

What are the ethics of infiltrating a private group to publish personal information for gain?

I don’t know if a “Digg Patriots’ Hit List” exists and if so who would be on one. There are at least two different versions of hit lists that have been published, a short one by  oleoleolson and another longer one by FreakOutNation.

I recognize many of the people on the list. Except for Novenator, they are not the sort of flaming liberal zealot types that one would expect to be on a conservative hit list. How do I know? I know because several of them are my friends and people I digg regularly because I like their stories. In fact, several of them work in the search marketing industry and have interests that supersede politics as has been pointed out.

Smurfz, ZetaDog, VTbarera, nahsrocketeer75, Mwtapp, kplo, Blinker1315, Bukowsky

To the above, I want to say to you that I would never bury your stories because of someone asked me to. I consider you my friends. I know that you know that, but I just wanted to say it publicly.

Being active in social media and having been a serious news consumer before sites like Digg and Reddit appeared, I often think about how popular news differs from traditional reporting. My observation is that people believe what they want to believe. Not always what is true. This is the essence of social media news sites where you vote the stories you want to believe to the top. No need to verify facts. Just click that button and make it true for the moment.

Should Digg ban everyone in Digg Patriots? Should Yahoo Groups ban novenator? Should Facebook ban certain likers? I hope that Digg will do the right thing and dust off their powerful spam sniffing tools and look at who was actually going against the TOS on an individual basies instead of just banning everyone who ever signed up for Digg Patriots. They seem to be occupied with the launch of the new bury-free version of Digg. A bury-free Digg. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

Update: This post appeared on Digg here with some counter comments.

A few other conservatives have spoken out on the Digg Patriots issue:

Emory Rowland

Emory Rowland is editor and keeper of the flame at Clickfire. He's a fanatical blogger, entrepreneur and builder of Internet things from way back. Emory's love for social media and success with organic search led him to start a SEO consulting venture. Apart from the Internet, he could be considered by many as pretty worthless. More...

24 comments

  1. Dave Jeffries

    Just the cyber equivalent of book burning. I hope you enjoy your especially reserved spot in hell.

    • Emory Rowland

      Interesting theology, there, Dave.

  2. RB

    FYI… Novenator is Ole Ole Olson… aka, the guy who wrote the “expose”.

    http://newsjunkiepost.com/twitter/

  3. Emory Rowland

    I suspected so, RB, but didn’t want to say it because I wasn’t sure. Thanks for confirming.

  4. Lani

    Wow. That’s quite a statement there, Dave. “Cyber book burning”– That kind of made me chuckle. Emory is innocent in his beliefs. He’s genuine and heck, he even has liberal friends.

    Did you even read this right, or are you going blind in your old age?

    He CLEARLY stated that he was not a part of the burying.

    Wow… some people are just so mean.

  5. SEO Lair

    The entire original post on Digg makes me laugh. The idea that there is a group that buries liberal stories is true, sure; however, I would mention that the entire Digg site serves to promote the same themes over and over…and yes, one of these are liberal politics. Don’t believe me? 80% of stories on Digg fall into 1 of 4 themes: liberal politics and/or articles that bash conservatives, Apple products, Sony PS3 articles, or plain funny pictures/videos/info graphics.

    The bottom line is that yes, users go around and bury things, yet the entire political section of Digg is the liberal equivalent. Don’t believe me? Find 5 articles during the last election that went hot that said anything positive about conservatives…and no articles about how people want to do Sara Palin don’t count. :)

    Finally, Dave – from the looks of your picture you hate your life and your taking it out on others. Save it for people who care please. Emory is a great contributor to an online community you seem to be a part of, so take your hatred somewhere else…I’m sure the masses on Digg will agree with you. :)

    • Emory Rowland

      Appreciate your thoughts, SEO Lair. The mathematical hurdle that a handful of buryiers would have to overcome in the Digg political category would be very great. It will be interesting to see how many and what types of political articles appear during this election season.

  6. Clickfire,

    I agree that tossing out the bury feature is a good idea. I don’t bother burying posts except for perhaps a handful in the entire time I’ve been there. No one is looking to ban everyone on that list. We do want to have those that participated and were active to be banned. You seem like a nice enough person. I think I am too, which brings me to the fact that I was stalked, harassed and buried within minutes of anything I posted, even when they agreed with it. They had me banned by reporting en mass on a comment which wasn’t offensive.

    They congratulated themselves after burying a post of mine in 10 minutes with only 5 Diggs. I wrote a post about Helen Thomas. My view was that I found her to be a bigot and if we hold the right wing to a standard of no bigotry, we must do the same. We are not the exception to the rule. Still, they buried it quickly. I submitted posts about animals, one about a car…they buried them rapidly.

    While you may not have participated, wouldn’t you like to clear this up? The end result would be that Digg is once again a fun and useful resource which is voted on by the majority and not the fringe element of Digg. Obviously, I do not include you as the fringe element, but knowing what I’ve told you now, do you think these people that participated are representing their preferred political party well?

    They left messages at my blog creating a rumor that my site gives a virus to people in the Republican party. Someone named ‘Rebel’ was banned from Digg for that exact reason. Others piled in echoing the same rumor over and over again. RJ Carter for example aka: CaptCarrot continued this rumor in my site and on the pages of Digg.

    What is the typical defense I’ve heard? “The libtards do it too!” Well this girl does not and I do not know another person that does, except for the Digg Patriots.

    Do you feel what they have done is just? Why are they still there, yet I got banned for something so insignificant? Countless others were banned by these people yet there they are!

    Aside from that, I like your site and I wish you luck.

    • Emory Rowland

      Anomaly100, I am sorry to hear about stalking, harassing, rumors and burying stories not even related to political views–that is shocking. I didn’t know that stuff like this was happening. This type of activity is unthinkable in my world and the DP friends that I have regular interaction with would never do anything like this; I am sure.

      I would feel more comfortable accepting some of the assertions if the investigators would be more open about who they are, what methodology was used (are they revealing all, some, editing) and how they handled personal info like real names and addresses. Also, don’t you think it would help if the investigators would speak up and allow themselves to be interviewed? I heard that the Social Blade Show is trying to get someone on the show to answer questions like this.

      About the task of clearing things up. This may sound selfish, but I have been busy enough clearing my name from the damage done to worry about improving the Digg user experience. I trust the Digg Admins will get to the bottom of who to ban and unban. Why do you think FreakOutNation published the names of members who were never active?

      I really appreciate what you posted here. I think you are a nice person with good motives in this matter. Best of luck to you as well.

  7. It’s a great post and clears the air on a number of issues. Thanks for bringing this to my attention – sorry I didn’t get to it earlier, was out of town this weekend.

    I’m enormously grateful to many conservatives, libertarians and liberals on Digg, and many of the names that are associated with “Digg Patriots” are awesome people who I wish the best for.

  8. Hitscan

    Pathetic attempt at damage control, liar. How does it feel to have everything you’ve worked for crumble around you? :)

    • Emory Rowland

      I’ll let you know when it happens :)

  9. Craig

    “The writer makes no distinction in friends who simply joined the group and those active members who may be violating the Digg terms of service.”

    Joining the group IS a violation of the TOS. Which was his main point – no matter what you think of the DP’s actions, merely organizing that group was a permaban offense.

    • Emory Rowland

      “Joining the group IS a violation of the TOS. Which was his main point – no matter what you think of the DP’s actions, merely organizing that group was a permaban offense.”

      Nope. Joining a conservative Yahoo Group is not a violation of the Digg terms of service. Even if I knew Digg Patriots to be that kind of group when I joined, being in the group does not equal violation. If so, the investigators who ostensibly joined are in violation themselves and should publish their own user names along with the Digg Patriots’ names.

      The Digg TOS states not associating, but “participating in any other organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg’s services” is a violation. Who knows who participated? The Digg Administrators. Because they have access to the data. Not the group who performed this “investigation.”

  10. Rebel

    @ Anomaly100

    “They left messages at my blog creating a rumor that my site gives a virus to people in the Republican party. Someone named ‘Rebel’ was banned from Digg for that exact reason. Others piled in echoing the same rumor over and over again. RJ Carter for example aka: CaptCarrot continued this rumor in my site and on the pages of Digg.”

    Please allow me to clear this issue up one last time. I was posting comments at your site and I was having a problem with the smiley faced popup that said “you won”. It got worse and worse until one day my computer was hijacked by antivirus malware while I was in the comments section. I complained to you and rather than address the problem, you attacked me. You posted two hit pieces about me in which you lied about me and tried to humiliate me. You kept accusing me of being a “digger”. At the time, I did not know what you were talking about. I did join digg later and I was happy to bury your submissions, but I was not part of digg until after you accussed me of being on there. My curiosity got the better me and I decided to see what digg was all about. It’s all there in the comments section on your site for anyone to read if they really want to take the time to sift through it all.

    I did join the facebook page “conservative diggs and buries” when you mentioned Seth Struck on your blog. I was never a member of the yahoo group and I never received any directive to bury submissions. For the brief period I was on digg, I was quite happy to bury your submissions as they are 99.9% false and misleading and they do a disservice to those who go to digg to look for interesting stories.

    I asked you over and over what all the nonsense about digg was about and you refused to answer me. Instead, you assumed I was someone else and posted lies about me.

    You and Ole Ole Olson are whiny liberal crybabys. You can’t stand it when you are defeated in the arena of ideas by facts and logic and you resort to screaming insults and lying about people.

  11. Stanman

    Man. Bad rap.

  12. Homer

    @rebel,

    “You can’t stand it when you are defeated in the arena of ideas by facts and logic…”

    What? You cant be serious. You cheat. Then claim victory? What world do you live in? Clearly not a world of logic and facts. You live in a world where cheating is the same thing as winning. Disgusting.

  13. Rebel

    @homer

    I cheated? Please elaborate.

  14. What do you guys think about the new digg? Just an off topic question. I really dont like it personally..The old one is much much better

  15. Emory Rowland

    I don’t like the new digg at all. It is worse than I had thought it would be. Seems there has been a firestorm whipped up over the direction digg is taking. I have some ideas and may do a post. Anyone like the new digg better?

  16. adrian

    You seem like a nice guy, and I’m sorry that you’re getting harassed and the like of that. No one deserves that.

    I do think it’s somewhat silly to not want to be affiliated with a group that you joined knowingly. The sole act of the group is to censor liberal posts, without reading them or making a personal opinion of the matter. Why join if you didn’t agree with what they were doing?

    It’s like being caught as a member of the KKK and going “I like black people, its ok!”.

    Maybe you’ll chose your allies a little better next time.

    • Emory Rowland

      “The sole act of the group is to censor liberal posts, without reading them or making a personal opinion of the matter.”

      If that were true, not many people would have joined, including myself.

  17. Just went through the images at http://www.clickfire.com/viewpoints/cartoons/
    They are absolutely hilarious. This is an absolutely different way of presentation. Much appreciated. I’ve promoted the link in my social network as well.

    Well done.

  18. buyer structured settlement

    I know those pesky truth details always get in my way too. Why bother looking at so much miniscule things? And, we all know that if you join a group, then you are completely under their control and thoughts. You no longer are allowed to think anything except what you are told. This has to be the truth….uh huh. Great article!

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