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Digg geeks overwhelm ‘censorship’ website May 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Blogging, Internet.

One of the world’s most popular news websites was forced to pull the plug yesterday after a massive revolt from its readers over the censorship of a story about hacking into high-definition DVDs.

Digg.com, which accounts for 1 per cent of all internet traffic in America, built its success on allowing its own users, primarily technology enthusiasts, to post their own stories and rank them according to a voting system. That same “news democracy” brought the website to its knees when users began resubmitting the censored story by the thousands, along with the computer code necessary to hack into the discs.

Before the website collapsed, the third-most-popular story on Digg.com’s home page was headlined “Every single story on the front page is the key”, which was a reference to the censored HD-DVD code being inserted into every story. Another story on the front page had the headline: “HD-DVD key fiasco is an example of 21st Century digital revolt”.

More than 6,000 users had voted on each item to ensure that the rigged stories remained at the top of the news agenda. Under normal circumstances, stories rarely get more than a few hundred votes, or “diggs”. Those same users accused Digg.com of censoring the HD-DVD story because of a sponsorship deal with the HD-DVD Promotion Group, an organisation backed by 230 DVD companies.

Digg.com’s chief executive, Jay Adelson, responded to the rebellion by saying that the website would comply with requests from an unnamed HD-DVD manufacturer to remove the hacking stories. “We’ve been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights,” he wrote. Eight hours later, the website had a change of heart.

Kevin Rose, the 30-year-old Californian founder of Digg. com, whose career has included jobs as a security advisor at a Department of Energy test site in Nevada and as a co-host on a TV show called The Screen Savers, wrote to users saying that he had been wrong to censor the story. “After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear,” he wrote in his blog. “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 [to hack into the HD-DVDs] and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.”

It was too late, however, to the stop the criticism from rival websites.

“Digg’s oligarchy wants to wash its hands of this matter and try and pass it off as though it never happened,” wrote one anonymous poster. Another user put it more bluntly: “Kevin Rose is a sell-out. F*** Digg.”

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