Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Digital Democracy in Cyberspace

Instapundit notes the following:
BRIAN FLEMMING REPORTS ON more YouTube censorship. Flemming comments: "If YouTube turns into a war of various interest groups organizing to red-flag expressions of ideas they don't like -- and YouTube's policy is to give in to that pressure automatically whenever it gets high enough -- then YouTube is going to suck. YouTube really needs to fix their complaint system."
I'd go further. You could simply switch YouTube for or any other social networking site that allows a single poster (or small group) to bury or hide postings - and that digg is already at war using the bury feature quite liberally and without regard to the quality or newsworthiness of the postings.
"If digg turns into a war of various interest groups organizing to red-flag expressions of ideas they don't like -- and digg's policy is to give in to that pressure automatically whenever it gets high enough -- then digg is going to suck. Digg really needs to fix their complaint system."
Indeed, the war against various ideas has already been ongoing at digg. LGF and Hot Air, among others, have noted how every single posting has been flagged and buried nearly as soon as they're posted. They even buried a posting on the 14th Anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing claiming that it was lame.

When posts get buried, they do not appear on the digg front page and the traffic drops off. For sites that rely on digg for traffic, this could be a major hit for exposure and monetization of postings. When they're buried for less than honorable reasons, such as silencing the opposition simply because they do not like what they hear, it is cause for concern. It should be a cause for concern regardless of which side of the political or ideological debate you're on.

Indeed, it was the burying of the story about the 14th anniversary of the WTC bombing that really rubbed me the wrong way - partially because I was the one who brought this story to the attention of Charles at LGF and Michelle Malkin, both of whom featured the story on their front page. Both of their postings were quickly buried.

I wrote digg the following email, though I do not expect a response:
I am writing to express my extreme displeasure with learning that the bury feature enables a small cadre of people to eliminate a story, any story, from prominence because they may disagree with the author, the opinions or links contained therein, or for no reason other than to eliminate links to that particular article.

While I have witnessed this happen to other websites, I have experienced it first-hand with a blog posting that covers the rebuilding efforts at Ground Zero and the fact that yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing.


Someone found this not newsworthy? Someone found this lame? Someone found this sufficient to be buried? On what rational and reasonable grounds should this posting be buried? None.

Yet, this kind of behavior is rampant and actually getting worse.

I have three suggestions here: eliminate the bury feature as it enables a small group of people to take any story and make it vanish from site with little to no effort. The idea of digg is supposedly to make interesting stories rise to the surface. It isn't to squelch speech and debate, which is precisely what is happening through the ongoing and persistent abuse of the bury feature.

Second, provide the names on the digg page of those who have buried a particular story. Their identities are just as relevant to a story as those who have sought to digg a story. Failing that, eliminate the names from the digg page altogether.

Third, I would suggest suspending the accounts of those who go around burying stories by the dozen. They do nothing except undermine the reliability of your product and your company is nothing without the customers who rely on it for exposure.

I look forward to a prompt response.
I do not expect to hear back from them, though if I do, I'll be sure to post it here.

It would appear that digg has suspended at least one website for violating the digg terms of service. Maybe they're just slow to react to the crisis with their product?

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