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So Who’s In Control of DIGG?

So Who’s In Control of DIGG?

The latest buzz on the blogosphere lately is the “revolt” (if you may call it that) of Digg users against what they considered to be a violation of the very nature of Digg itself. Here’s a brief recap via AP/NY Times and BBC News.

An entry containing the encryption key of HD-DVD (which allows users to break the copy protection of HD-DVD discs) was frontpaged. Shortly after, this and similar entries were buried–or taken off the front page and basically hidden from most searches–and the accounts of the submitters were suspended. DIGG’s CEO Jay Adelson later on explained that these actions were done to avoid potential lawsuits by the Advanced Access Content System, “the owners of this intellectual property,” who got in touch with Digg and other sites saying they “believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights.” He added that the suspension and burying were part of Digg’s terms of use and stressed that Digg was not immune from lawsuit and must abide by law.

However, the Digg community, perhaps used to the notion of the community itself having the power to determine what happens to the entries (frontpaged, buried, or simply ignored), acted strongly against what they felt was censorship on the part of Digg. The community also took the HD-DVD Promotion Group‘s sponsorship of Digg’s DiggNation podcast as possibly the real reason behind the banning, and accused Digg of being a sell-out. Users then revolted by flooding the site with entries relating to the encryption key, which filled the front page. Some of these entries garnered record Diggs or votes, even (screencap here).

Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, relented thereafter, and had this to say.

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

My take? For one, that sounds like a hint of sarcasm from Kevin Rose, particularly the last line. It’s as if his creation has more than started a life of his own (which was the original intent); it has grown into a monster. If I were in Mr. Rose’s shoes, I would probably have mixed feelings. One of pride, as Digg has grown so powerful it could no longer be controlled (or guided?), and one of worry that those who apparently control Digg (the crowd) might not be able to wield this newfound power with responsibility.

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This is, after all, one of the drawbacks of social news and social media.

Then again, it seems like Kevin is washing his hands from whatever consequences to Digg that potential legal actions might bring in, at least to the users’ point of view. He has effectively laid the responsibility on the users’ hands, saying that it is the users’ decision to continue with posting about the encryption codes, and Digg management will no longer intervene. And in any case that there would be a “scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down,” Kevin could always just lay the blame on the users.

However, ultimately, who’s in control of Digg? And who will be accountable?

Minic Rivera over at 901am said Kevin Rose should realize that he no longer owns Digg. However, I think ultimately the ones who can pull the plug at will are still in control and are still ultimately accountable.

View Comments (4)
  • I think that the fact that Kevin Rose was bold enough to post the code himself in the title of his blog post that you quoted, along with the word Digg This means that he was clearly putting himself at the forefront of the fight. After doing that, he bound himself to his users and can;t really distance himself anymore.

    As far as control, well, I think he has about as much control over the Digg community as someone riding a bus — he can get off the bus at any stop, but he obviously is not in control of where the bus is heading.

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