"Warning: The Content in this Article May be Inaccurate." So reads the creatively capitalized disclaimer now placed on the Digg discussion page for "Digg's secret editors," in which I revealed that Digg's so-called moderators use their own judgment to override Digg's supposedly all-powerful algorithm. The consequences are stunning: Digg is not a democracy of news, and the way headlines make their way to Digg's homepage are neither fair nor transparent. Digg cofounder Kevin Rose weighed in with an oddly worded nondenial.
Unfortunately ValleyWag never contacted us for the real facts.
FWIW, we have one site administrator on duty at any given time. Their main responsibility is to monitor and review stories the digg algo/backend has flagged as pornography or SPAM. With 20M+ monthly unique visitors and tremendous traffic implications, gaming Digg is something that is attempted regularly.
So, as we have since the beginning, we'll continue to build tools and maintain staff that detect and remove spam/spammers - but most importantly, we rely upon you, the Digg community, to Digg your favorite stories and bury the ones you don't like.
How nice to know that Digg has "site administrators." But that's not the position of moderator Rose has admitted Digg has, and it's not the job description his company gave to an individual I spoke to whom Digg tried to hire as a moderator.
Could it be that Rose's reality-distortion field is fading? Digg users normally swarm to defend their hero Rose. But his bloom may have faded. "I think we're the ones getting gamed," writes one user in response to Rose's comment. "Could you tell us anything about what criteria the human editors are using to determine whether something is actually spam or not?" asks another. Rose has not yet answered them.
Valleywag commenters have raised another issue: Digg shows which users have voted a story up, but not those who have voted it down, or "buried" the story, in Digg parlance. Conspiracy theories abound about "bury brigades" — but it's equally plausible that Digg's moderators may be abusing their powers to bury a story. Without information on who's burying what, it's impossible for outsiders to know. No surprise that Digg is not forthcoming on this point: If a Digg staffer's vote carries more weight than any numbers of users, then it's hard for Digg's users to believe their votes matter.
Until Rose actually responds to Valleywag's reporting and explains why he describes the position of moderator one way to his users and another way to people he tries to hire for the job, I propose that Digg's homepage carry this disclaimer:
"Warning: The Content in this Website May be Undemocratic."