Is Digg Using Secret Moderators to Censor It's Users

33 comments

Neil Patel at Pronet Advertising published an expose on how Digg is using unseen and unamed moderators to control which stories get promoted to it's homepage. The real problem is they are "blaming" it on their users, which unfortunately for Digg, doesn't corroborate with the data they are publishing Digg is Censoring Content by Burying Stories Internally

You probably think users buried the story, but it actually was one of the Digg employees who buried it or an algorithm that is targeting specific content topics/sites. If you don't believe me, here is a document that contains 10,000 buries from that day and none of them seem to be buries for the I'm in like with You story.

My own research agrees with what Neil is seeing. If Digg wants to employ moderators to editorially guide the stories on their site that's all well and good and within their rights as owners of the site. However what they need is the same level of transparency for 'bury votes' as they have for Digg votes, and they need to take accountability for those decisions instead of blaming it on their users.

Comments

I can vouch that it's happening.

And no, not based on a hunch, based on the same evidence Neil is using, and seen across several different domains and user accounts.

Just admit to regularly doing hand jobs Digg, it's not the end of the world, lying isn't very Web 2.0 ;-)

Yes, yes & yes

As we have discussed Gray - its happening everyday. I am basing this on what I see with my own sites, other sites and talking to people who are "in the trenches" so to speak.

I have had stories last about 4 minutes

I have about 60-70 stories that made the main page of digg... about 1/2 of them last about 4 minutes on Digg..

It's fishy beyond belief.

Honestly

I think the web was better before Digg. Even before this report I had a feeling it was rigged. No proof of course but it's had a cult like quality to it from the start.
Who are those kids and would someone take away their rattles?

Oh and btw, that "captcha" program below is a guessing game as to what letters are showing. Is that a damn C or o, a d or a?
Whatever!!
I think the web was better before Captcha too.

Hand Edits?

Out of the thousands of stories submitted to Digg daily, do you really think Digg has editors that just have it out for random articles? And if so, what is this perceived bias against?

It seems to me that it's algorithmic, and it's targeting those who game Digg. My guess is that many of those 20 Diggs came from the same diggers who get IMd and asked to Digg an article whenever a friend puts a new post up. Just looking at the history of some of those who Dugg the article, they seem to all Digg each other's stuff. If I can pick that up in 3 minutes of looking, I think a decent algorithm would be able to spot it too.

If only...

Quote:
Just looking at the history of some of those who Dugg the article, they seem to all Digg each other's stuff. If I can pick that up in 3 minutes of looking, I think a decent algorithm would be able to spot it too.

I would agree if that was the case for ALL stories but if its a story from the AP, Yahoo! News, ABC, etc and the same people vote - it doesn't get buried...

Quote:

Quote:
I would agree if that was the case for ALL stories but if its a story from the AP, Yahoo! News, ABC, etc and the same people vote - it doesn't get buried...

Those stories come from domains that have a history of Dugg stories without gaming involved. If I was building an algorithm for Digg, the source of the articles would be one of the strongest factors in it. It's why you see runs of articles from specific sites.

I couldn't fathom they'd trust an article from pronetadvertising.com the same as they would from ABC which has seen a long history of Digging without gaming. They also probably receive Diggs from other sources outside of their IM circle of Digg friends.

Yes but...

There are a tremendous amount of domains on Digg that have had their trust profiles built up exactly this same way and by the same people (and they aren't the AP, ABC, etc).

No New Domains

If I was building an algorithm for Digg, the source of the articles would be one of the strongest factors in it.

Digg is supposed to be about user submitting and voting great stories from around the web. If people only wanted to read AP, ABC, Yahoo News etc why would they need Digg? Yahoo News and Google News already promote those stories.

The second things that's irksome is the constant denial on Digg's part they are using moderators/editors to 'bury' stories. Netscape uses them and is straight forward about it, Digg sidesteps the issue every opportunity they get saying the users voted it lame/duplicate/spam or whatever. Of course having a mission statement that reads:

Digg is all about user powered content. Everything is submitted and voted on by the Digg community.

is a lot better than :

Digg is all about user powered content. Everything is submitted and voted on by the Digg community, unless of course we don't like it, in which case we'll quietly sweep it under the rug.

So what is the perceived

So what is the perceived bias then? Does Digg not like sites with green backgrounds? Sites with the word pro in it? I'm all for a good conspiracy theory, but there doesn't seem to be a logical conclusion to what their mystery editors are censoring.

The only thing I could conclude from looking at the example above was that the same people who Dugg that article, Dugg everyone else's articles. It wasn't hard to spot the group.

So the choices would seem to be a mysterious bias toward articles with no consistency whatsoever, or an improved algorithm that has thwarted gaming of Digg (which was taking place). Occam's Razor tells me that I'll stick with the latter until more facts surface.

Gaming Digg

Ok let's assume hypothetically it was about stopping Digg from being gamed ...

if that's the case why are stories from AP/ABC/Yahoo ok? Is Digg saying go ahead spam us the exact same way as it's from these "whitelisted" domains we don't care? Is that any different from Google saying BMW and Volkswagen you can spam us all you want you're on the "good guy list"?

How many?

How many people do you really think are gaming Digg by getting stories from the AP/Yahoo/ABC on top? Pull up a set of their articles and tell me if you can spot any trends.

Now show me some examples of articles that have been censored. That have a ton of Diggs and never made it up there. That aren't being Dugg by the same people who Dugg each other's articles. The only example I've seen is a page with 20 some odd Diggs from a Digg IM group. You can't tell me that you really think that article deserved to be on the front page.

And why is it so hard to believe that Digg has a smarter algorithm? The technology has been used for years in poker software to stop collusion. Digg isn't running out of some kid's garage, they have a lot of money behind it and a lot of skilled minds who can spot these paths.

what does the evidence say

Quote:
Occam's Razor tells me that I'll stick with the latter until more facts surface.

Well with the current opacity you have to go on evidence. And all of Neil's evidence (which is pretty darn credible) points to hand jobs:

Story is about to hit the homepage.
Story gets buried.
Yet not a single bury for that story appears in the last 10,000 user-buries.

It has been observed in several contexts and the experiment is repeatable :-)

do the research

How many people do you really think are gaming Digg by getting stories from the AP/Yahoo/ABC on top?

A lot of the power users are driven by the 'pride' of making it to the homepage, and they do indeed hit up their AIM lists to hit stories from sites they aren't even associated with.

I'll go with Neil on this one, he's done the research, and no one, including Digg themselves, have refuted it.

Evidence

Quote:
Story is about to hit the homepage.
Story gets buried.
Yet not a single bury for that story appears in the last 10,000 user-buries.

It has been observed in several contexts and the experiment is repeatable :-)

Story was dugg by the same group of people that dugg other stories by the group.
Digg discredits it as gaming.
Story gets buried by the algorithm.

Neil's evidence is one story that was clearly gaming Digg that didn't end up on the front page. Show me an article that was not part of some Digg group that suffered the same consequences and I'm on board.

Neil's evidence is one story

Neil's evidence is one story that was clearly gaming Digg that didn't end up on the front page

Nearly every story that makes it to upcoming/most--whether it makes it to the homepage, or gets buried--has a 'gaming' group that votes together. Like I said even top users without site affiliations will plug stories to friend, and nevermind the 'fanboys' that vote together.

If anything, the good SEOs I know riding the Digg horse are extra paranoid about voting patterns. (With a few very dumb exceptions.)

Show me an article that was not part of some Digg group that suffered the same consequences and I'm on board.

Would prefer not to out myself just to prove a point :-)

this one

This one got over 800 diggs but never made the front page because it was moderator buried

http://digg.com/politics/Corporate_Media_Censor_Ron_Paul_s_Debate_Success

it was actually pretty funny watching it sit on the upcoming/most page with over 100+ diggs. Here's another ...

http://digg.com/politics/Only_Ron_Paul_Can_Defeat_Hillary_Clinton

and another

http://digg.com/politics/Presidential_Candidate_U_S_In_Danger_of_Dictatorship

and another

http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Get_Ron_Paul_on_The_Daily_Show_with_Jon_Stewart_2

and another

http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Go_Ron_Paul

I fully admit to totally watching the politics category. I don't know a thing about Ron Paul others than he is really big with large active subsection of the social media crowds

So all those stories didn't

So all those stories didn't receive any buries at all?

Ron Paul is an interesting character. He's a Libertarian, and Digg is fairly Libertarian themselves, so it makes a good match. I like a lot of his ideas since my views are Libertarian, and he is the only candidate that stands for small government. But he's also got a lot of crazy ideas that Diggers seem to overlook. He wants to abolish the CIA, give juries tribunal status, and have state legislatures vote in Senators. They conveniently look past those topics though.

As I said, I'm not against the theory. I'm just saying that the evidence above really doesn't do much for me. Whether other stories have digging circles or not, this was one of the most blatant ones I've seen. Perhaps their collusion detection has had the effect of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in some cases (much as some of Google's filters sometimes hurt legit sites).

But the biggest issue I have is that no one has given a single reason for why they do it. There has to be motive behind it if they do. I don't believe they sit in front of a dartboard and just pluck out stories for no reason. There has been 2 Ron Paul articles on the homepage of Digg for the past month, so I can't fathom it's some bias against him. If they are blocking out some content, there has to be some rhyme or reason to it.

Things that make you go hmmm

There have been lots of Ron Paul stories that make popular, however there seem to be certain domains which get buried right off the bat. Here's an interesting domain these are all the stories that were not buried and here's the same domain including buried stories. Heck even Vanessa Fox of Google has been buried on Digg

TW is on the list

Oh I'm pretty sure TW is on "the list"

I've seen it (maybe)

Not too long ago, I dugg the Halloween Documents. They hit the front page, got buried and after it was buried it still received an additional 100+ diggs. Seems to me that the community as a whole appreciated the link. It could have been Digg, Microsoft, or some Microsoft fan club that did it, I'll never really know.

Digg seems to be the one tech site that doesn't host much negative Microsoft content - that could be an editorial decision or like I said - MS or over-zealous MS end users. Judging from other popular tech sites, it certainly isn't because the audience at large doesn't want to see that kind of news.

If they have all these

If they have all these secret moderators why weren't they able to bury that DVD crack code a couple weeks back?

HD-DVD Story

IMHO before the HD-DVD story they were mostly using an automated list, post DVD story things have gotten incredibly more "aggressive" at burying stories.

Buried with no bury votes

Ok the story was buried between 4:30 AM EST and 8:30AM EST (hey a guy's gotta sleep) and there were no no 'bury' votes in the digg spy log

with all the marketers out there

trying to game Digg, I think they need to have both:

  1. automated tools to catch collusion as Brian suggests
  2. manual checks going on

Think about the alternative - from the Digg perspective - you let the marketers and colluders form their groups and control the front page of Digg and many of the highly trafficked subpages. I.e. you become a playground for spammers.

A short history of the web:

  1. keyword spam
  2. email spam
  3. link spam
  4. directory spam
  5. article spam
  6. video spam
  7. social network spam
  8. press release spam

Why the fuck do some of you people think you have some god given right to freely spam the entire internet?

Aside to Marketer-Spammers

If Digg are throwing your pathetic, churlish and annoying marketing spam off of their system, good for them.

No doubt most of you social network spammers were the fat ugly bastards in junior high school who were applauded by your loutish sycophants for the loudest and smelliest farts between classes.

And you are still busy poisoning the world with your excretions.

Wow

Gee Ronsard thanks for that really well thought out intelligent and articulate response ;-)

I don't have a problem with editors or moderators, in fact I think every system needs them. However you have to honest with your members that they exist and keeping things in line. Don't come out and say we're a democracy and the users decide and we don't have moderators controlling editorial content when you have an overwhelming and mounting body of evidence to the contrary. Secondly don't "blame" your users for burying stories when it's your moderators, man up and accept responsibility for actions, and stop waffling like a limp noodle when things get tough.

troll

don't feed the trolls

John, I've been a member here longer than you

and was one of the first supporting members.

If I'm not a web polluter and anything goes just get me the cash kind of guy, that's tough luck for you.

I call it as I see it.

Keep your juvenile troll allegations to yourself.

rosard?

Why does the story have to be buried, even if the story is similar (and VERY real) to others on the front page? Why cant it die on it's own?

incrediblehelp

we are talking about gamed up marketing stories here.

No one has provided good examples of quality stories - the Ron Paul suggestion was contradicted by Ron Paul being on the front page twice in the last month.

We need more documentation before this theory flies.

If it is gamed up marketing stories, good for Digg that they've figured out how to stop their bulletin board from being taken over by a bunch of non-affiliated commercial messages.

And no I don't think they need to publish their guidelines for burying stories, just as Google doesn't need to publish its algorithmic fix to give spammers/cloakers a rougher time.

Order is not libertarian. Libertarianism ends in anarchy.

Digital damage control

Digital damage control 101:

When your system/algorithm sucks, BLAME SPAMMERS.

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