NICK DOUGLAS — 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0. Apparently that number (represented in hexadecimal here) is a key used to decrypt movies from DVDs. Because it helps bypass technological locks arguably meant to protect copyrighted information, publishing it may violate the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. It could definitely earn a takedown notice from a regulatory group. A user posted this number on Digg. The post rose to the front page on the social news site, whence it disappeared. So someone posted it again. That post earned a record-breaking 15,000+ diggs: that's 15,000 Digg users voting it up, one hundred times the diggs on a typical front-page post. And then it disappeared — utterly deleted. So why is this a big deal? See below.

Post this number, get banned from Digg.

Digg, the most popular social news site with over a million registered members, has come to represent a shift in how Internet users find their news. One of the draws of Digg is that anyone can post a link, and anyone can vote for a link — if enough users vote for a story, it goes to Digg's front page without any editorial intervention. If a story improperly lands on page 1, users can bury it with negative votes. The trick is that Digg's employees don't have to promote or delete posts. With this comes the expectation that they never will — it would violate the sanctity of community-driven news, or the Matrix would kill Neo, or whatever.

So imagine a horde of teens and college boys who call everything censorship, suddenly seeing a top story disappear without a trace (unlike buried posts, which are still available but vanish from the front page). They're pretty sure they've been censored, and maybe they really have. (Digg founder Kevin Rose didn't respond when I asked if his staff deleted the posts, but a Digg user tells me Rose actually dugg the story.)

They're pissed. They feel their Digg overlords have sold out. They want to see a fight against what they judge as an illegitimate law that violates their free speech — I mean come on, it's illegal to publish a number? — and Digg has apparently denied them that fight. Now they're complaining about it on other social news sites like Reddit. And they're revolting (ha ha, yes, they always have been): here's another popular Digg post, "How I got banned from Digg, which links to a full explanation of the story.