Nangbaby (nangbaby) wrote,

Massive Censorship of Digg...and of Individuals

Two days ago, a story broke on Alternet about the coordinated communal efforts of certain users to attempt to influence the content accessible through Digg, the famous social media and content aggregator web site.  For the readers who are unaware the importance of this, a bit of explanation of Digg works is necessary for context.  Digg allows any registered user to submit a link and a short description, which is then passed to the general community.  If users in the community like the content of the link or feel it is important, they can "digg" it which is in essence, giving it a vote of confidence.  Likewise, a link can also be "buried," which means that a particular user rejects that specific link.  If a story gets enough "diggs" it is then pushed to the main page of, exposing it to a multitude of readers.  If a link is buried too much, though, it will not be seen.  In theory, it is supposed to reflect the marketplace of ideas in a participatory democracy, but in practice Digg users form groups which collectively "bury" or "digg" stories.

To be fair, there is no controversy in people expressing similar opinions, or even people who have made the same individual decision to support or deny a viewpoint.  The problem lies when there is a premeditated, organized effort using alternate accounts to manipulate the system into censoring certain users and denying legitimate content from being read.  If people choose to ignore an opinion piece, with each person making his or her own decision without consulting or communicating with another party, that is equitable.  If on the other hand, decisions are made due to the undue influence of the group itself, this ruins everything Digg stands for.

As terrible as this is, this is not the tyranny of the mob, or even a manufactured mob.   In a group effort of this size, this is clearly not an egalitarian, shared movement of like-minded individuals. As the report shows there is hierarchical structure behind the actions of these users.  This does not absolve those who attempted to block content from being seen due to pure political motivations, yet the root of these actions is not to be found in the list of screen names that has been published.  Instead, a greater guilt must be placed on the individuals who influenced them to take this action.  The operators of the Digg accounts may have been operating voluntarily, but these same culprits were being used.

Nevertheless, it is sad it takes an "undercover" investigative report to highlight what is so obvious.  People are conned easily by the popularity, personality, beauty, or even skill of a certain individual and then base their worldview precisely on what that person espouses.  If, for instance, Sarah Palin were to publicly call President Barack Obama "Bubbles" in response to a proposal of his, it is virtually guaranteed that a large percentage of opinionated fans would not only congratulate the verbal jab, but take it at face value.  This in turn generates hits and eventually attracts the attention of the media at large, which is influenced by the chatter on the Internet.  In the interest of "fairness" they posit whether or not the president is a chimpanzee, instead of dismissing such a patently untrue and racist remark and focusing on his long, forgotten proposal.  Even if Sarah Palin apologizes, the damage is done, and the president is thought of as an ape, not a human.

As a result, this revelation, while surprising in its scope, is nothing new.  People base their opinions on what someone who they perceive as greater than them does.  In turn, their actions not only impact themselves, but people outside of their subset.  The worldview of the idolized becomes the reality of everyone else, including those who ignore or reject the lionization of men and women, as they poison the well against any alternative views as well as threatening and maligning those who oppose them.

All of this is reminiscent of my various experiences over the Internet, and I will highlight a personal account.  Two years ago, I wrote about Kel McDonald (kellhound1365 ) in a rant.  I did not, and I do not now bar her from replying, but there was and is no expectation of a response.  The entry was not commented on for a long period of time as there was no interest my account of the events which transpired.  However, earlier this year nearly two years after I had stopped reading any product from Kel McDonald, I noticed an unusual amount of activity on that particular entry and received negative comments in belated response.  I soon discover that Kel McDonald herself visited my journal around the same time.  While it is possible it is coincidence that she visited it, it is also likely that the negative comments came at her behest -- or at the least on her behalf.

Unfortunately, the activities against me do not stop there.   After this, another artist, Charlie Trotman (also known as Charlie "Spike" Trotman, Iron_Spike), relayed to me in a completely unrelated conversation that Ms. McDonald wrote that I was insane in the literal sense.  Ms. Trotman in turn repeated the accusation to spread it, and artists associated with her and Ms. McDonald declared me not worthy of personhood on that basis alone.  It is not considered that my mental health is irrelevant, or that despite from my self-depreciating tendencies, I have never been diagnosed with mental illness nor have exhibited signs of mental illness that would render me incompetent.  The value of my opinions is not considered on their own merits.  I'm crazy and a monkey, and these intentional aspersions go unchecked and grow to ludicrous levels.  The tactics used by Ms. McDonald are not dissimilar to those of the self proclaimed "Digg Patriots."

While this seems tangential to the idea of people banding together to push a particular viewpoint and to target individuals, it is Internet "personalities" such as Kel McDonald who practice these actions on a daily basis against anyone who challenges an opinion they hold, and she is far from the only personality who coerces others into sharing her viewpoints for the price of consuming her entertainment.   It is not a slippery slope or an exaggeration of an isolated incident to suggest that if people such as her are not countered on the micro-societal level, these actions are likely to repeat on popular Web sites such as Yahoo! and Digg.  The only difference between Kel McDonald and the Digg Patriots is the scale.  It's the same old power politics taking advantage of same herd mentality.
Tags: accusations, censorhip, digg, freedom of speech, kel mcdonald, liars, rants

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