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Friday, August 6, 2010

The fake "conservative censorship" Digg scandal

Not even a week has passed since Mother Jones let loose its hit piece on the RNC Facebook page, and we're faced with yet another claim that Conservatives are abusing social media - this time, on the part of AlterNet followed by the Guardian.

Truly, this is the new vast right-wing conspiracy. 

It's pretty clear what this is all about. Whether it's violently protesting the mere presence of Ann Coulter, or the fairness doctrine, or trying to silence strong conservative social media voices - it's clear that America's Left will go to any lengths to silence people with whom they disagree.  They're fine with free speech... but only insofar as they like what's being said.

In their panic to justify their exceedingly fast fall from grace, liberals are looking to find scapegoats to blame for "manipulating" public opinion. Of course, what they're calling "manipulation" and "gaming" is nothing more than Conservatives actually... you know... getting involved. It isn't that Conservative's are "manipulating" public opinion, it's that they're winning it. And that, Liberals simply cannot abide.

As William F. Buckley once poignantly noted, "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views."

That is all these faux "scandals" are about. Liberals are upset that the RNC Facebook page has about 10x the reach of the DNC Facebook page, so they've put out several hit pieces to try to portray the RNC page - and Republicans by proxy - as racist, because that fits the Liberal narrative. No surprise there.

They felt threatened by the massive growth of conservatives on Twitter through the use of hashtags like #tcot, and then relished when the website built around the moniker fell apart.

Now they've set their sights on the handful of Conservatives on Digg - and what a menacing group of Conservatives they've found...

The AlterNet article title reads "Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered" and goes on to claim that "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."

Then, when listing these Conservative burying bandits, they can only name about 70 - to include yours truly. But, really, what's a 143% over-estimation amongst friends?  And never you mind where their proof is that most of these people were even in the group... you'll take them for their word and like it!

And what was their crime, these Conservative crusaders of the social media underworld?

Apparently, they committed the mortal sin of sharing links to either "digg" or "bury" through the social bookmarking service known as Digg. What is Digg? It's a place where people either digg-up or bury-down the news stories and headlines they either like or dislike respectively.

How, then, can AlterNet contend that "censorship" has taken place if the group was simply voting as the website allows it to vote?

Are they creating multiple accounts to give themselves more than one vote? No.
Are they creating script to give themselves more than one vote? No.
Are they hacking other people's accounts? No.
Are they deleting other people's accounts? No.

What they were doing... brace yourself... was sharing links in a private Yahoo! group to either Digg or Bury. *gasp* Nixon had nothing on this scandal.

That's right folks, this evil cabal of Conservatives conspired to digg and bury stories on a site where you... get this... digg and bury stories! (h/t 4verageJo3)

AlterNet appears to have listed anyone who's ever been in the link-sharing group known as "Digg Patriots"(irrespective of whether or not they were recently active in it) only to portray the scenario as if all 70 people listed are currently acting as one cohesive unit to silence anyone and everyone with whom they disagree. This simply was not the case.

The entire article centers around the premise that in sharing digg, bury and report suggestions, that these conservatives were "gaming" the system.  Really?

Check out Digg's "terms of use."  I assume the article AlterNet's "oleoleolson" thinks he's referencing is this one:
"By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree not to use the Services with the intention of artificially inflating or altering the 'digg count', comments, or any other Digg service, including by way of creating separate user accounts for the purpose of artificially altering Digg's services; giving or receiving money or other remuneration in exchange for votes; or participating in any other organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg's services."
Emphasis mine.

The rule is that you may not artificially inflate a digg count.  A group of like-minded individuals sharing links of stories with one another that they think they'd like, or sharing links to stories they think ought to be buried because they're inaccurate, or sharing links to instances where certain Digg "trolls" have unleashed some string of vitriol that deserves reporting is NOT an artificial inflation. That's what folks in the business call "grass roots social media."  It's as genuine as it gets - like minded people sharing information.  The votes cast by the "Digg Patriots" - however organized or unorganized they may have been - were authentic votes cast by authentic individuals.

Anyone in DP (or any other group for that matter) who creates multiple accounts to pose as multiple personalities or artificially inflate vote counts was very clearly violating the TOU, and Digg should strongly consider banning them. But to suggest that everyone in the group both knew about these multi-accounts and supported them is just fallacious and illogical.  Guilt by association is neither a valid nor sound argument. Certainly we don't blame all Diggers for the actions of a few people on Digg - so why, then, would it stand to reason that we should castigate all DPers for the actions of a few DPers?  It doesn't, and people shouldn't.

And, I hate to break it to the people hoping that all of Digg's prominent conservatives will get banned for sharing links, but simply being in DP and sharing links does not violate the Digg terms of use.

Beyond all that, I had hoped that I could use my membership to the Yahoo! group to grab some screen shots to dispel the disgustingly inaccurate and out-of-context portrayal that was issued of the group, but it appears the group admins have pulled the Yahoo! group down. So again I say, cui bono?  Seems like this is exactly what the author wanted - to silence conservatives (either through Digg banning them or through coercion).

There is not "massive censorship" on Digg.  If you want to whine about group think, why don't you look at the comments posted by liberal Diggers in reply to the AlterNet story.  Who's the real "bury brigade?"  Even if every single thing AlterNet said were true - and hardly any of it is - there was a grand total of 70 Conservative diggers who even had access to this Yahoo! group.  On average, most stories that make the front page need between 150-250 diggs (depending on how quickly the diggs are issued).

The story contends, "Literally thousands of stories have already been artificially removed from Digg due to this group," but literally provides no proof.  They also gloss over the fact that, though there were "over 40,000 posts" in the group since May 2009, a vast majority of those individual posts were just back-and-forth chatter.  Someone would share a link and various members of the group would discuss the news.  I know, appalling right?

All this story provides any proof of is that 1) there is a group of conservatives who share links in a Yahoo! group... and... well I guess that's all the story proves.  But even on that point AlterNet fails to distinguish between active and nonactive members.  I, myself, had not visited the group in about six months.

And what really gets me about all of this is that it doesn't seem like any of the several quasi-reputable news sources who are linking to/referencing the AlterNet piece are even bothering to check the credibility of the story.  I've yet to be contacted for my side of the story.  For all anyone knows, I (or anyone else listed as being in DP) could have never been in the group at all!  None of us have even been contacted to confirm or deny our participation, let alone to get our perspective.  What kind of journalists simply accept a blog post - which is clearly designed as a libelous smear - as fact and don't even bother to check the validity of the claims made?

Oh yes, it's clear.  The Left isn't looking for a conversation about this - they're simply trying to manifest a story about Conservatives that fits their narrative and, in so doing, simultaneously silence those conservatives and over-represent their influence so as to create an apologist account for the dwindling opinion of liberal talking points throughout various social media populations (namely the Digg community).

My other blog - Conservative Diggs & Buries, which the story references as if it's currently running, hasn't had a digg list posted since January 12 of this year.  And if you visit this blog you'll notice a few things things that disprove - outright - the contention of the AlterNet article that the point of these diggs lists was to "silence" or "censor" those with whom I disagree.  When it came to recommending stories to Digg - I was simply providing a Digg news aggregate for Conservatives.  Anyone who wanted could have simply gone to my Digg profile page and ascertained the exact same information.

As for buries, I'll quote myself directly:
"The task of recommending headlines to bury is a daunting one. Certainly not because there's a lack of crap worth burying on Digg, but because we try to only address inherently false or misleading headlines and stories."  
I might note to you - in case you weren't already aware - that when you click on the "bury" drop-down button, one of the options for the reasons to bury is because the story is "inaccurate."  I can't speak for the other sixty-something people in "Digg Patriots," but I know that, for my own part, I only ever buried stories because I thought they were inaccurate or misleading.  This course of action is/was in no way a violation of the Digg terms of use - otherwise, why would they provide the option?  I might also note that if Digg made a person's bury records public, none of this would even seem so cloak and dagger.

As for the matter of mass reporting, I can't speak with much personal experience.  I never really had the time to engage in the practice.  I do know, though, that from the messages I read last year (when I was active in the group) the only "report" suggestions that ever came up were when someone (usually a repeat offender) said something completely vile.  I'd provide screen shots but, again, the group was pulled down.

I think it goes without saying that those who would bury a post simply because they don't like what it says aren't being intellectually honest with themselves, but they're not breaking any rules either.  As I said, I myself only bury content that's false or misleading.  Nonetheless, insofar as the option to "bury" a story as "inaccurate" remains, there's nothing wrong with utilizing it.  And insofar as Digg is considered part of the "social" media, there's nothing wrong with people pooling together to share information.

As I also said, this fake controversy is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to silence conservatives in yet another medium - social media or otherwise.  Which reminds me, how far along is that fairness doctrine policy?  It's about time we stifled those fat-mouthed conservative talk show hosts!

I feel inclined to mention that I feel confident that most (if not all) of this is motivated by the Digger known as Novenator (i.e. the guy with the Nazi for his avatar).  He has, for as long as I've been aware of him, done nothing but harass conservatives on Digg at every turn.  His paranoid hatred for those who think differently than him was no doubt the cause of this "undercover investigation." If you look at his most recent comments and Diggs - it seems pretty clear that he's trying to facilitate an irrational fear of a handful of conservative Diggers for no other reason than to eradicate any and all conservative influence from the service. If anyone's engaged in "censorious" group think, it's this guy by promoting these absolute lies and libel.

It seems pretty clear that AlterNet's problem isn't founded in any sort of reasonable logic but, rather, in the fact that they just can't stand it that the flow of information is becoming increasingly democratized - and that's bad news for Liberals.

EDIT: Right Wing News has a nice piece which also responds to AlterNet's libel - "The Truth About Digg Patriots
And here's another post from one of the DP accused:  "Digg Patriots - A Response"


Anonymous said...

I have the entire emails from early June until it closed. I can prove that novenator has taken emails out of context and editorialized to make the group look like something it is not.

Just wait until our lawyers get going on this, which they have already started to do. Wire fraud and other Federal crimes for hacking into or otherwise gaining illegal access into a private, invite only email list, invasion of privacy, defamation, slander. The list of his criminality goes on and on, as well as those who conspired with him.

Anonymous said...

Novenator is Ole Ole Olson, the guy who wrote the "expose".

He's also the guy that is seen in the screencap at the end of this article coaching another "progressive" on how to call for buries without violating the TOU.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you read the article again... There was clear quotes from conservative diggers bragging about setting up multiple accounts, describing the fake "personas" they would be adopting so their buddies could recognize them on the website, even suggesting to create fake accounts posing as african americans in order to accuse liberals of being racist. Where they found all the time for this level of scumbaggery is beyond me.

I mean, don't any of you conservatives have real jobs?

Anonymous said...

Well written, Seth.

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing this...i want someone to please address the claims of dilberto's sexual harassment scheme that these bloggers are saying I was involved in. It is a blatant lie and undermines all the hard work I have done to help victims of rape.


Minarchian said...

Anyone who thinks PartyStar was somehow involved in her own sexual harassment by another person are ignorant and don't know her and the stressed she endured during that time. The people who believe otherwise are probably the same people who are eating up novenator's article as if it were truth, which it is not, and this will be proven in the next few days.

Anonymous said...

Quick follow up: Digg Censorship

Patrick Ross said...

Hey buddy, I have to take issue with you citing the Ann Coulter debacle at the University of Ottawa.

Those were our lunatics!

(I haven't read the rest of the post yet... more shortly.)

Patrick Ross said...

It seems like AlterNet -- once a somewhat-respectable outlet that reported stories that no other outlet would -- is basically seizing upon this as its answer to the Journolist revelations.

It's a pretty sad answer. One group about people commenting on news already produced, the other group colluding to mold the news as it is produced.

clickfire said...

I think it's funny that the guy who accuses so many of violating the Digg TOS uses a copywritten image for his avatar.

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