Would it be diffcult to game news aggregation giant Digg's simple up-vote/down-vote system for selecting links for its heavily-trafficked front page? Not really: The right-wing group "Digg Patriots" appears to have engaged in a multiyear effort to "bury" left-leaning sites.
An in-depth report by AlterNet's oleoleolson, who went "undercover" and joined the Digg Patriots, convincingly shows the group of "influential users"—led by power user Bettverboten—conspired to "bury" both links to left-leaning websites, and also links posted by a group of users the Digg Patriots had identified as liberal or left-wing.
As proof, oleoleolson provides reams of emails sent around the Digg Patriots Yahoo Group, including daily lists of stories to bury, like this one:
AlterNet also has up a list of 70 of Digg Patriots, and a list of the users they'd chosen to specifically target.
Besides users, left-leaning sites like Talking Points Memo, and "liberal" news organizations like The New York Times were monitored, and Digg Patriots would keep an eye on stories they knew would be submitted in order to bury them as quickly as possible, as in this transcript of a conversation:
Bettverboten (Lizbett): Check back here you late nighters to see when and who subs this [article just published on targeted website]. I am sure it is coming our way.
Phoenixtx: Good recon Liz! Thanks! Let's keep our eyes open.
LibertyAlways: It's up-bury! [link]
JeremiahLaments: Think we can bury it in record time? I think we CAN!
[10 minutes later] We did it! Buried it with only 5 diggs–might be a record!
Beyond their concerted, intentional effort to bury the stories and users that upset them, Digg Patriots seem to have regularly created duplicate user accounts and replacement accounts after being banned—a clear violation of Digg's rules. Not only that, the group circulated advice for creating those duplicate and post-ban accounts:
The report has reached Digg's upper echelons, though the company doesn't sound so concerned. Founder Kevin Rose tweeted that the company is "looking into that," and ReadWriteWeb got a comment from Digg's Director of Communications Michele Husak, who said the article was "certainly an interesting look into the lengths people will go to create the Digg experience they think is best."
Why so nonchalant? Because the efforts of the Digg Patriots won't mean much after the release of Digg's new platform, which will remove the "bury" button entirely and move toward a more "personalized" user experience. In the end, the Digg Patriots might get their wish of a liberal-free Digg—but on their homepages only.