Digg Controversy Over Censorship is Overblown
Disclosure: I love digg a lot. I also have the distinction of having the most dugg story ever and belong to the same advertising network, FM Media, as digg.
Well social news site Digg is facing the firing squad of the blogosphere today after earlier this morning the site Forever Geek declared, “Digg Corrupted: Editor’s Playground, not User-Driven Website.” Slashdot chimed in and a whole host of others followed as well. At issue here are a few things. First off digg is being accused of censorship. Digg is being accused of removing stories based on editorial fiat. Digg’s also been accused of banning certain members and sites from their news services.
Earlier today I emailed Kevin Rose on the news asking for a response and Kevin emailed back saying, “It’s clear that we need to show ‘WHY’ stories are pulled. Expect to see that in a future version of digg.” He also pointed me to the post where he addresses the issue formally on the digg blog.
On the digg blog Kevin added: “Missing stories: A common question we receive is the confusion surrounding missing stories. Once a story has received enough user reports it is automatically removed from the digg queue or homepage (depending on where the story is living at that time). The number of reports required varies depending on how many diggs the story has. This system is going to change in the near future. Shortly after the next major launch of digg (v3.1), reported stories will fall into a ‘buried stories’ bin. Users will have the ability to pick through this story bin and vote to have a story reinstated should they believe it was falsely reported. Expect to see this feature in the next few months.”
Now I’ve had a bit of experience with Digg. I’ve had many stories dugg to the front page and have the distinction of having the most dugg story ever on the site. Being pretty familiar with the ways that Digg can be potentially abused it is natural that they would need to have safeguards in place to prevent fraud from taking place. Digg moves traffic like very few other sites today. For many people, traffic means ad revenue. Gaming the system is tempting and if digg did not have internal controls in place then the site could very quickly lose the natural relevancy that social news networking has. It’s smart for Digg to pull stories when they think that there are problems with them.
The issue here as Kevin correctly addresses is that they need to show ‘WHY’ stories are pulled and it sounds like this will be coming shortly. Personally I have no problem with digg pulling stories when they suspect vote fraud or they see spam or they see abuse of their system. Heck I’ve had stories that should have made it on the front page that didn’t or were pulled from the queue for whatever reason etc. While it would be nice to know why I seriously doubt digg is engaging in whimsical censorship. Recently I had a story on Zooomr that hit the front page and then was quickly pulled. The next thing you know a blog post popped up that suggested that Digg pulled the story because of a hosting relationship with Yahoo! and that the article might have seemed to favor Zooomr as a competitor to Yahoo!’s Flickr. This is just crazy.
Look Digg is new. It’s novel. It’s revolutionary. They are going to have growing pains as they mature and they are going to need to figure things out as they go. Is transparency an issue here. Sure. And Kevin Rose says that they are going to address this. As far as I’m concerned that’s good enough for me.
It’s interesting to see the conspiracy theorists pop up everywhere when this thing gets attention saying things like “the original idea of Digg is dead. The apologists are out in force, but social-driven it ain’t.” Just because a small piece of Digg could use a little transparency doesn’t mean that you throw out the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
Flickr is a social network. Does censorship take place at Flickr? You bet your bottom dollar. Flickr has a “may offend” button that will take shots out of the public stream (giving them a similar fate to digg’s news stories that get pulled). If Flickr didn’t have this then Flickr would degenerate into one massive site built around porn. Does this mean that Flickr is not social-driven? Hardly. These types of controls are needed. They are important for the health of the communities. Porn, spam, hate. All of these need to be editorially dealt with even in a basically social driven news site.
Digg could use a little more transparency and they’ll get there. As for me, I’m going to keep digging as I always have. Digg is simply one of the best places to find great stories for a blogger today. I have several feeds set up that I routinely monitor and there’s nothing else out there that breaks quality news as fast.
I say digg on diggers, digg on!