August 5, 2010
Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered
A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.
“The more liberal stories that were buried the better chance conservative stories have to get to the front page. I’ll continue to bury their submissions until they change their ways and become conservatives.”
-phoenixtx (aka vrayz)
Digg.com is the powerhouse of social media websites. It is ranked 50th among US websites by Alexa (117th in the world), by far the most influential social media site. It reached one million users in 2007 and likely has more than tripled that by this point. Digg generates around 25 million page views per month, over one third of the page views of the NY Times. Front page stories regularly overwhelm and temporarily shut down websites in a process called the “Digg Effect.”
The concept behind the site is simple. Submitted webpages (news, videos, or images) can be voted up (digging) or down (burying) by each user, sort of a democracy in the internet model. If an article gets enough diggs, it leaves the upcoming section and reaches the front page where most users spend their time, and can generate thousands of page views.
This model also made it very susceptible to external gaming whereby users from certain groups attempt to push their viewpoint or articles to the front page to give them traction. This was evident with the daily spamming of the upcoming Political section with white supremacist material from the British National Party (articles which rarely reached the front page). The inverse of this effect is more devastating however. Bury brigades could effectively remove stories from the upcoming sections by collectively burying them.
One bury brigade in particular is a conservative group that 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. When a story is buried, it is removed from the upcoming section (where it is usually at for ~24 hours) and cannot reach the front page, so by doing this, this one group is removing the ability of the community as a whole to judge the merits or interest of these stories on their own (in essence: censoring content). This group is known as the Digg “Patriots”.
A group of nearly one hundred conservatives have banded together on a Yahoo Group called Digg Patriots (DP), and a companion site at coRanks to issue bury orders and discuss strategies to censor Digg and other social media websites. DP was founded on 21 May 2009. Since then, over 40,000 posts have been logged at a steady rate of around 3000-4000 per month. The “Patriots” Network on coRank is a tool to submit Diggs to a group list as opposed to sending an e-mail every time. It also has some tools that make submitting to the list as easy as clicking on a bookmark. The DP membership includes the following Digg users (among others):
Benthedog (ties with diggforwhatever, formerly LeConcierge)
bettverboten (formerly banned as Lizbett, sleeper accounts loquaciouslola, MsBoop)
bossm4n (BP site admin)
CaptCarrot (goes by therjcarter on other websites)
ChronicColonic (Wrote ‘Tools to Be Excellent at Burying’ guide)
emersonbiggins (formerly EdHurl, rjwusa, MightRighty, BurtToast, GangusGreen, esornivek)
EMFK (Social Blade Digger of the Year 2010, 65% popular ratio, DP site admin)
frofisrael (jenalp on Twitter)
jackalgunner (DP site admin, not active on Digg)
Janinco (DP site admin)
JasonQPublic (formerly scarlett0hara)
JeremiahLaments (formerly RightWingAttila, a DP site admin)
libertyalways (formerly KurtHofmann, 45superman)
minarchian (duplicate accounts as Phreedom, CongressCritter, formerly Brewskie)
phoenixtx (formerly vrayz, DP site founder and owner)
pray4sneaux (formerly energizersnobabe, a profile active elsewhere)
raggsat98 (MassRon, DP site admin)
Raycheetah (formerly Browncoat)
SadLisa (formerly mollydog12, GrantPeace, FoolsGoldParty, UrdhvaMukha)
schwartzloenard (formerly NewsGuy2005, NewsGuy2009, ClydePRM)
SethStuck (ConservativeBrawler elsewhere, runs DiggsAndBuries site)
ThePartyStar (formerly LibertyCheeks, MyCarteBlanche)
The ring leader of the group is Bettverboten, who issues multiple digg and bury orders everyday. She is a Digg power user who has dugg 70,000 articles and has 1500 submits of her own (18% have gone popular) in one short year on the site. She was previously known as Lizbett before her lifetime ban for offensive and inappropriate comments, and has two sleeper accounts waiting if she gets banned again at loquaciouslola and MsBoop. She is also on Twitter, although her primary focus is Digg, where she has acquired a huge following of power users who are likely unaware that she is gaming the system, and even calling to bury some of her mutuals.
The other primary members responsible for cheating are CaptCarrot, ChronicColonic, emmersonbiggins (rjwusa), SadLisa (mollydog), Janinco, allisonrose870, asami21, Benthedog, JeremiahLaments (RightWingAttila), libertyalways, phoenixtx, pray4sneaux, quirkopatra, raggsat98, Ramfire98, and ThePartystar. Digg and bury orders are issued multiple times everyday, with most of the members blindly following without question.
The list above is truncated from the larger membership, some of which are inactive. Not every member listed has admitted to violating the Digg Terms of Service in public either, although most are guilty of some abuse or another. This group is the heart of a complicated web on various networks, including Twitter, Propeller, StumbleUpon, YouTube, and Facebook, all dedicated to ramming an extreme right wing viewpoint down the throats of those communities and censoring opposing viewpoints. This includes such means as cyber stalking, bullying, and terror, as exposed on YouTube yesterday (something not one of the DP group condemned). Not surprisingly, there is also a heavy contingent active on the ultraconservative FreeRepublic.
There are a few differences of opinion within DP, although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective. They hate Obama. They hate progressives. They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it. They hate the secular nature of our nation. They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. They hate abortion rights. They hate public schools and really hate higher education. They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. They hate anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. They just love to hate.
Although this is a fringe group of Teabagging wingnuts, many well established figures in the Digg community are also present, such as BalancingAct, EMFK, Janinco, mikeinto, and spindig. 10 members have been part of Digg since 2005-2006, with 43 having their current account there for over 2 years. 19 are in the top 500 all time users as ranked by Social Blade, including 3 in the top 100. They have submitted over 30,000 articles, and dugg over 1,000,000 submits collectively. They regularly front page material, yet have some paranoid delusion that the Digg admins are part of some conspiracy to censor them, not once recognizing the blatant hypocrisy of their organized censorship doing that very thing.
The primary function of the Digg Patriots is to censor politically progressive content from the upcoming Political, Political Opinion, World News, and Business sections, so that conservative stories have a better chance to get more traction. To do this, they constantly monitor these sections, progressive submitters, and news websites.
Whether I agree with Bjornski, Anamaly100, PhilPerspective, Novenator, JanineWallace, UncaJoe, & a couple others I can’t think of right now, I bury `em anyway. *ACTUALLY* each of them has been “dead-on, balls-accurate” (an industry term) at least once in the past week or so, and it sort-of pains me to be dishonest by burying them anyway, but then I remember . . . I’m not up for re-election!
Although many hundreds of users are victims of this political censorship, the targets of choice of the Digg “Patriots” were typically the following: novenator, Anomaly100, Amprather, FreedomJoe, noupsell, PhilPerspective, bjornski, BePeace, Michael9636, MercyPolitics, GonzoMuckraker, LiamFox, BIGOTHER1, capj71, tcbishop12, SolidUncertain, SarahLee, GeorgeClymer, uncajoe, Mizzy, MiddleAmericaMS, rearlgrant, VegetableLamb, MrBabyMan, jrod4040, whiteblackninja, EasyPeasy08, dagnabbit, danholt7, Matt43, penolan, Jaime2000, and mklopez. They even went as far as to bury the submissions of these user’s friends on Digg. Digg power user Bossm4n gave a list to the group of the top 13 power users that are left-leaning that they should target, stating that he has been deliberately trying to ban the last one (nahsrocket) for years:
If any of the usual suspects subbed a story claiming “sky blue/water wet,” I’d BURY IT without question. I’ve been on digg for almost 4 years…
-JeremiahLaments (account says Joined Digg on 21Aug2009)
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).
This censorship is not restricted to political articles either. Articles about education, homophobia, racism, science, the environment, economics, wealth disparity, world events, the media, green energy, and anything even slightly critical of the GOP/Tea Party/FoxNews/corporations are targets. In fact, any articles submitted by the users they hate the most are on their kill lists, including such benign things as SETI Opens All Data To The Public, Celtics Take Lead in N.B.A. Finals, Man Donates Phone He Used to Record Rape of 3-Year-Old Girl, 40,000 BP Australian Rock Art May Depict Giant Extinct Bird, Sarah Ferguson: I Was Drinking At The Time Of Video Sting, Top 10 Real Life Mutants, What is being Taught in a Bible Belt Science Classroom, and Totally Cute Puppy Pictures (buried in less than 30 minutes).
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!
The DP group searches Digg for any articles from websites they want to drown out, sites such as Salon, News Junkie Post, Talking Points Memo, FreakOutNation, Five Thirty Eight, ThePublicRecord, Rawstory, The Nation, Media Matters for America, PoliticusUSA, Alternet, Fire Dog Lake, Political Carnival, TruthOut, DailyKos, The Joshua Blog, The Brad Blog, Huffington Post, Science Blogs, Smirking Chimp, Down With Tyranny, Crooks and Liars, MarioPiperni, Buzzflash, Bob Cesca’s REALLY AWESOME Blog, and The New York Times.
[use the] search site feature, I bury all the subs less than 2 days [old] in matter of seconds. I think we’d be even more effective if we all did this to some degree with consistency or at least with certain sources/sites. From there it’s like shooting ducks…
Further, this is not merely a case of not knowing they are breaking the rules, this is deliberate.
I am concerned that if Skype is directly connected to digg like twitter is …than bury rules probably apply like they do with twitter. If there are monitors in the chat rooms and someone reports we are linking buries and asking for buries on digg with links, it may be reported to digg.
DUPLICATE AND FORMERLY BANNED ACCOUNTS
Beyond censorship, the Digg “Patriots” group regularly discusses strategy on how to either come back after being banned for life from Digg for violating the rules, set up sleeper profiles, and how to utilize multiple accounts at once without getting caught. Digg only functions as a democratic environment when each person is limited to one account. Discussing the time in late 2009 when zacharytelschow was temporarily banned for homophobic hate speech:
Ron AKA Chronic: You can create another account. Worse comes to worse, you can just lay low for a bit and then come back.
JasonQPublic: Zach, if they won’t reinstate your account, you really don’t have to leave digg unless you just want to. Just follow the steps below.
1. Go to whatismyip.com/ and write down the IP address that is displayed at the top of the page.
2. Turn off your cable or DSL modem for approx. 5 minutes then turn it back on.
3. When you are connected to the internet again, make sure that the IP address displayed at the top of the page is different from the one that you wrote down in step 1. If it is not different, go back to step 2 and leave modem off for longer period of time.
4. Create a new email address at your favorite email site.
5. Go to Digg and create a new account using the new email address.
During the undercover investigation, dozens of duplicate or previously banned Digg profiles were uncovered, some with many of each. This is likely the tip of the iceberg as many were reluctant to discuss their past, perhaps recognizing that a leak could be devastating to their censorship ring. Due to the rampant nature of this conduct, it is likely that dozens more previously banned profiles have not been discovered, and many more still exist as sleeper accounts.
I can give a crap if digg bans me again. I’m sick of little Kevin Rose and his bunch of Frisco malcontents
-emersonbiggins (formerly EdHurl, rjwusa, MightRighty, BurtToast, GangusGreen, esornivek, and many more)
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.
When I created a new account, Phreeedom, I changed my IP but they still banned me for having two account. It got me thinking…how’d they know? If you look when a page is loading it also goes to facebook.com I think they are in with FP to compare Ips. So, next time I get banned I’ll also log off FP and twitter first, with the original IP and then create new accounts there with a new IP, then create a new account at digg. Of course you’ll also have to delete all cookies and web bugs from the three sites too.
Google up: How to change your MAC address on -insert your operating system-. This will give you a new IP as many times and as often as you like. Make sure you turn off your modem while doing so. Also, Most sites keep track of you by flash cookies. They don’t delete like regular ones…again Google for your browser.
Another example of abusing the rules against multiple accounts by the DP group was discussed in the confusion behind who exactly was the digg user in their ranks named Benthedog:
Jim used to be Benthedog until he committed Digg suicide and got banned for life. He then became diggforwhatever because his Benthedog profile was banned. A few months later I noticed that Benthedog was back in my friends list again (I think someone at Digg accientally unbanned it.). I emailed Jim and asked him if they let him back. He said that he didn’t know Benthedog was back on Digg but since he was already diggforwhatever he gave me his password in case someone else needed down the line. When Jeff was banned and didn’t plan on creating another profile until he moved to Ohio I gave him the name and password so he could use it until then. Does that help?
I propose that I create a blogger account. [Purpose being to] take a news story and to spin it in such a fashion that we editorialize the submission title and the byline (Description)… to get around the digg Terms of Usage agreement. Editorializing a submission is considered the ‘hijacking’ of a submission by digg. Doing so can (and has gotten me) get you banned.
Note Dp created this blog called the Rattington Post.
So, next time I get banned I’ll also log off [FaceBook] and twitter first, with the original IP and then create new accounts there with a new IP, then create a new account at digg. Of course you’ll also have to delete all cookies and web bugs from the three sites too.
ATTEMPTS AT BANNING OTHERS
Bury and report this comment
Another regular tactic of the DP group is to attempt ban opponents. One method is to deliberately anger other Digg users in an attempt to get them to say something that violates the TOS. There are thousands of examples of this on the Digg discussion pages (there is a comment area for each article).
One of the many DP members that write for the Examiner, blogger Kurt Hoffman who is currently Libertyalways discussed this during his first account as 45superman: “[I] Just noticed that nicegeek got banned, too. I’ll take a 3 hour ban, in exchange for a ban (however short) of itofts and nicegeek.” Another example was when Bossm4n provoked and got an unnamed atheist banned for stating that the country is ready for battle when the christian nationalists try to take over.
In another incident, rjwusa directed other DP members to report and try to ban someone: I reported DDRSkata. I also told a fib and I stated I was African-American. Report to Digg: “As a conservative African-American, I get deeply offended when someone refers to one of my conservative sisters and other conservative African-Americans as, ‘Beulahs and Uncle Toms’. Had I been white, and had used the terms, ‘Fag or Nigger’, I could expect to be banned from digg in a very swift fashion. I trust you will do right by the people of color who use digg.”
THE NEW DIGG
Digg Patriots is the first large scale and protected site that the conservatives use to rig Digg, but it is far from the first place where they have done this. SethStruck runs DiggsAndBuries, an open website devoted to gaming Digg. The Diggcons group was active for a while on Twitter and Facebook, and reported on at a Digg submission. Punx and Sharon (formerly WeAreSparta) run a website called the liberalheretic, where they openly admitted how they cheat on digg (article has since been scrubbed clean to remove any evidence), with one admitting “I’ve probably been through 400-500 Digg ID’s,” as reported by another buried story on Digg. They also ran an unlocked shout-replacement system with very open calls for diggs and buries which is still available for now. Even the FreeRepublic has been attempting to rally it’s brigades to take over Digg for a while now. Out of all of these, DP has been the most insidious and pervasive in manipulating the king of all social media websites.
Digg v4.0 should be released soon, and preliminary analysis suggests that the ability of groups like the Digg “Patriots” will be greatly diminished. The Bury button has been removed, and there is only a Report button, which will at least stop the content censorship caused by the Digg “Patriots”.
Wow–just noticed: 988 Facebook “shares,” and only 29 diggs. When digg changes to the new format, which will supposedly be heavily integrated with Facebook, Anomaly might become much more formidable. Not a happy thought.
In an entertaining twist, this shift to version 4.0 is already being interpreted by many of the DP members as “another” conspiracy to silence them. They latched onto the latest paranoid rumor floating around that all stories that reach the front page are manually selected, and that since they are being “oppressed”, that somehow justifies their cheating.
I chalk it up to the AMA. The AMA stands for Algorithm My Ass – it can work in your favor, but mostly it works against conservative stories. Lately the AMA has been good to us.
There’s no ‘algorithm’ at digg. The ‘algorithm’ most likely consists of a bunch of liberal, bi-sexual, emo-types, who drink mimosas all day, and engage in a circle-jerk by night. When they’re not doing that, they pull a few levers to get a banana payoff from a machine, which they call the digg ‘algorithm’.
-rjwusa (currently emersonbiggins)
On another thread, many in the DP group were whining that the Digg admins had just “removed” a conservative story until someone finally realized the link they provided was misspelled and the submitted story was still there. What they fail to understand is that there was never a conspiracy to censor their content, it was the greater Digg community that did that because their articles are usually unprofessional, fact-challenged fantasies that nobody wants to read. World Net Daily, Fox “News”, Michelle Malkin, newsmax, townhall, newsbusters, redstate, and the various conservative Examiner authors on DP have very little to offer in a rational discussion, and read like what they are: propaganda.
The Digg Patriots have censored hundreds of users, dozens of websites, and thousands of stories from the largest social media website in the world, but as of publishing time, no action has been taken by the Digg.com administrators. Regardless of what action is taken, there is a clear and systematic pattern of censorship, duplicate accounts, dodging lifetime bans, and trying to ban other users by the Digg Patriots Group.
To all of our new group members: We are really happy you have joined us at DiggPatriots! Please remember this is a group that we are trying to keep below the radar. Please do not disclose this group’s existence to anyone outside the group on Digg or elsewhere. The longer we can keep this group on the down low, the better. I know you probably aready knew that, but I wanted to make sure we are all on the same page as far as the keeping this group from being exposed to the public.
-Ron AKA ChronicColonic