Conservative Digg Users Caught in Censorship Scandal

A one-year undercover investigation has exposed a long-running censorship campaign run by a group of conservative Digg users. While Digg encourages individuals to vote stories up or down, this group engaged in concerted “bury” attacks on progressive and liberal stories and users, violating Digg’s terms of service. Known as the Digg Patriots, this group is responsible for buying thousands of stories and preventing them from reaching the front page, getting certain progressive Diggers banned, and attempting to monopolize Digg’s content to favor their own, conservative, political views. Read on for more details from this breaking story.


Alternet first reported this story yesterday. According to Alternet, the Digg Patriots were able to bury 90% of the stories they targeted within one to three hours of their being submitted. They discussed which stories to bury on a Yahoo Group and a website a coRanks, established May 21, 2009. The Alternet story lists the names of all of the Diggers involved in the censorship efforts, including naming the ringleader, currently Bettverboten, as a woman who created multiple accounts to act as backups for when hers got banned.

Bettverboten and her fellow conspirators issued orders to bury specific stories on their Yahoo group dozens of times a day. Alternet reports that the leaders would issue commands for the group to Digg up conservative stories and bury liberal or progressive stories, and most would respond blindly, without questioning the orders. This group is tied to a larger conservative network on the social web that uses cyberstalking and terror to ensure a conservative viewpoint is maintained across networks including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The image above is an example of the emails that were regularly sent to the Digg Yahoo group, issuing Bury commands for 13 stories and one Digg user in this instance.

The following quotes illustrate the general mentality of the members of Digg Patriots:

I personally vote for a complete blackout on lib subs: Bury every comment (including the conservatives “helping” to pop the story). No up-votes (no matter how much you agree).
-asami21

The following a transcript of a DP conversation:
Bettverboten (Lizbett): Check back here you late nighters to see when and who subs this [article just published on targeted website]. I am sure it is coming our way.
Phoenixtx: Good recon Liz! Thanks! Let’s keep our eyes open.
LibertyAlways: It’s up – bury! [link]
JeremiahLaments: Think we can bury it in record time? I think we CAN!
[10 minutes later] We did it! Buried it with only 5 diggs – might be a record!

I’ve been permanently banned 4 or 5 times. You gotta make sure you got a month or so between [accounts]. …The libs make a big deal out of start dates on profiles after one of us returns from getting permanently banned. Maybe we should have 10 or 15 identities created so the next time one of us gets a permanent ban we could come back with an identity that was created weeks or months before. Kind of like Jeff came back as Benthedog and they had no clue.
-Phoenixtx

Stories related to politics were the number one targets of this censorship campaign, but Alternet reports that they targeted anything that was critical of their right-wing perspective. And while censorship is a despicable activity in itself, the group also frequently discussed ways to work around their repeated violations of Digg’s terms of service by creating “sleeper accounts” to move to once their main account was banned for their illicit activities. They also worked together to get certain liberal users banned, voting down and reporting comments or attempting to anger users so that they write something that violates Digg’s terms of service.

This is a huge story, one that throws into question the ability of news aggregation sites to maintain the democratic structure that they were founded upon. Digg’s power lies in its ability to give each user a single “vote” per article, thus popularizing news stories based on the aggregate consensus of the community. If groups like the Digg Patriots are able to usurp the voting system to push their own agenda – violating terms of services no doubt, but able to work around this with sleeper accounts and other cheats – there might be an inherent flaw online voting systems. Time will tell what repercussions the uncovering of the Digg Patriot’s shameful censorship will bring to Digg and similar services. We’ll keep you up to date on developments related to this story as they unfold.

Images and quotations via Alternet.

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