I was just contacted through this site by a person calling himself “Minarchian” on Digg also formerly known as “Phreeedom.” He wanted me to post his rebuttal to the Digg Patriot story that broke out and caused havoc in the Digg World a couple weeks ago. So I do just that. Here are this person’s words straight from the text, no altered text:
Digg Patriot Rebuttal
I’m writing this, even though it has been “blogged, texted, twittered and otherwise massaged”, in response to the “Digg Patriots” listserv controversy at digg.com. The original story is titled “Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered”, written by “Ole Ole Olson”, who is also going by the username “novenator” at digg, and friends of his such as “Jordan117” and “Anamoly100”. You can find the original story HERE and there are other stories which can be found on digg posted by those associated with the story and others.
If you are not familiar with digg.com please read Note #1 at the bottom.
Why do I concern myself with this story? It’s because I was a member of DiggPatriots (DP), from early June to early August 2010. Through this article you will learn the purpose of the group, as I see it, and learn how a story about a group like this can twist its purpose into something that it is not. The purpose of the group was to support fellow Conservatives and libertarian leaning individuals, not only regarding digg but also in general, but you wouldn’t believe that if you only took novenator’s story as fact without knowing what he left out.
I had originally intended to include a short dissertation about all the errors in journalistic integrity that can be found inside this story from novenator. But I’ll save you the pain of all that by just stating that if he really wants to be a journalist, let alone an “Investigative Journalist”, as he is trying to stake a claim to being, he should seriously consider taking some classes on the subject. For if novenator had taken some classes he would know that among the main rules of Journalistic integrity are to not be a part of your own investigative story. But I’ll get into that in a few minutes.
The story is filled to the brim with hyperbole, bombastic claims and a general attitude bordering on narcissism, with grand words like “censorship” and “terror” and claims that certain people are organized to ban “Progressives”, and other sorts of crap that are meant to sway the reader’s opinion without backing the statements with neutral facts. It’s pretty much the way novenator writes all his articles, with a big stroke of a fat yellow brush to paint all those he disagrees with in one color.
Many of the rants in the story read like paranoiac ramblings from an escaped patient of Bellvue Hospital. But, even the paranoid can be partly right sometimes, as you’ll see. However, it’s when the paranoid attempts to put things together in such a way, and ignore things that don’t back up his delusions, to try to self-verify his own paranoid delusions and seeks to destroy those who he sees as an “enemy” is when reality gets skewed. The sad part is that other people, who may not have a strong sense of critical thinking, tend to believe it as well. Another thing that happens is that other people with an agenda take the distortions and make entirely new ones, such as THIS story which says a person with the username “Dilberto” was a member of DP (he was not a member) and other contrivances.
Do I actually believe him to be a paranoid escapee from a mental ward? Of course not, but that’s the same type of hyperbolic BS you’ll find in his story and it’s the same sort of cheap talk that went on between novenator and some from the DP group, including myself a few times.
Should you believe what he has written in his story? That’s ultimately for you to determine for yourself, but if you’re thinking about the details I think you’ll agree that his article is not only full of holes, but things are stretched beyond reality. Should you believe what I will be saying in this article? As far as I know I am the only one, besides novenator and his friends, who have copies of the emails.
Something that should be remembered throughout this article is that novenator is a main player behind the story, as I’ve said. You should keep in mind that some of the members of DiggPatriots and novenator go back a pretty long time at digg. He is in the habit of writing stories on his own web site, newsjunkiepost.com, that, in my opinion and many of the other DPers, are pure propaganda and outside the realm of reality and we were calling him out on it at digg. He is not someone who has been on the sidelines and who innocently ran across a “big scoop” to write about – he is part of the story.
Let the accusations fly!
Among the accusations being leveled against those in the DiggPatriots’ group are:
- Organized burying/digging
- This effort constitutes “censorship”
- Attempting to have digg ban those who are “Progressive”
- They were going back to digg after being banned
- Having such scale that they can bury 90% of the stories within 1-3 hours
- The group’s efforts constitute an “artificial” bury
- There were hundreds of active members within the group
- This all constituted “cyber stalking, bullying, and terror”
- Using separate user accounts to inflate digg/bury counts
Let’s go through this list, shall we?
Whatever your personal feelings about this aside, would you not say that it’s within our Rights to assemble for political advocacy with like minded individuals? For if not, then what does that say about nearly every other political support group? From “get out the vote” drives (could be said to be election manipulation, in certain situations) to lobbying firms in Washington D.C. (it has been argued that this is manipulation), these organizations are meant to put out their agendas. Political advocacy is just that folks. It is trying to sway opinion to your point of view. If you don’t like it, stay away from politics!
In regards to DiggPatriots; just getting together to tell others within a private group to go to certain stories is not wrong. Digging or burying a story was not a prerequisite for being part of the group and at no time was anyone told to digg or bury a submission or they’ll be removed from the group. As a matter of fact, it was said many times that members can either digg, bury or ignore the messages, their call. It was always up to the member to do what he/she wanted to do.
Novenator himself was part of a “bury brigade” at digg LINK. During one of his remarks to another digg user he said “jsut [sic] a heads up beprogressive, never, ever call for something to be buried. Many progressives have been permanently banned for openly calling to bury some bull article like that anncoulter nonsense. It is not against the rules however to say, “check out this garbage”, “where do they get this stuff”, or “wingnut alert”, which generally calls attention to some right wing propaganda piece. Everyone knows what to do from there. I just don’t want to lose another progressive on digg, thus heads up. Cheers man”. He then followed up with “best go back and delete that shout, and the one I just sent too, lol”. Here novenator himself was teaching others how to bypass getting banned at digg and he then instructs someone else to delete what he had said. How can it be proven that someone in the DiggPatriots group didn’t learn anything from that message? And the moderators at digg know about this message, why haven’t they banned him yet? The whole purpose of novenator writing his hit piece was to get the members of DiggPatriots banned, so the same should apply to him, no?
It’s been argued that this message, from novenator to another person, is a couple of years old or so. Having been submitted back when digg had what they called “shouts”, which were short messages that can be sent between users, therefore it’s an invalid argument to bring this up. Yet there is no proof that novenator and his friends did not continue on some other medium to push for diggs and buries. While it’s nearly impossible to prove a negative, such as this, one has to wonder whether he had joined/started a group. Given the message quoted above it was among my first thoughts.
While novenator was doing exactly what the members of DiggPatriots were doing I have to wonder this as well; is it that certain people just don’t like to be questioned on their political views and will do what is necessary to squelch differing opinions? Is it “what’s right for me is not right for thee”? While political advocacy is not (yet) illegal in America there are many people who think that other people should not question their ideas and the things they do others shouldn’t be allowed to do. And by writing this story has novenator become guilty of his own claims of censorship by attempting to have digg ban all those he disagrees with?
This effort constitutes “censorship”
I guess one could argue it is censorship. But isn’t that the way digg was set up? All users had the ability, before the new version of digg at least, to bury submissions and comments and they used it. Every user at digg that ever buried a submission is guilty of being part of a mass bury brigade of censorship, which included most everyone on the site. While they may not have been organized while doing so, they most certainly are just as “guilty” of censoring submissions. It’s hypocritical for a user of digg to complain that someone else is censoring submissions when they do it themselves.
Attempting to have digg ban those who are “Progressive”
This is one of those handy little accusations that are unprovable, yet makes a big impact. In other words, it’s hyperbole. Only the moderators at digg can prove this accusation and digg’s own privacy rules would preclude them from telling anyone anyway.
How can I help but think that the writer is a bit paranoid when he makes claims that are unprovable and designed to make a whole class of people look like victims? It’s absurd to think that DP sought out those who are “progressive” and try to get them banned.
Did members of DP seek to ban someone at certain times? They most likely have according to the emails. Were most of those “progressives”? Who knows!
In the end, this is a purely bogus claim meant to rattle the troops into a frenzy.
They were going back to digg after being banned
The members were talking frequently about how conservatives can get banned yet other people would get away, scot-free, for the very same things. Sometimes the comments of certain people they would complain to digg about would just be deleted yet the commenter would not get banned.
There was a definite feeling, among some of the group, including myself, that there is a bias on the part of digg moderators against Conservative opinions. Sometimes a commenter would blurt out that a DPer (a member of DiggPatriots) was a “C-word” and yet the commenter would only get his comment deleted but yet a DPer would most certainly have been banned, in their point-of-view. Whether this is a fact or not is inconsequential, the mere perception of bias is enough for members of the group to complain about it amongst themselves and they had every Right to.
As an example, one DP member was banned for submitting an article that was critical of gays as being “homophobic”, even though the article was clearly an opinion piece and devoid of hatred. I won’t link to the story here because who ever might submit this article to digg may get banned himself for it. While I don’t personally agree with the story that he submitted it is obvious to me that the moderators banned him merely because they didn’t agree with the opinions expressed in it. The point here is that some members of DiggPatriots felt they were being unfairly silenced, not only by other users of digg, but by the administration of digg.com itself.
Heck, I was once banned for merely linking to an article I submitted in another article, even though it was on-topic. Digg claimed it was “spam”. Linking to another digg story within digg, that is on-topic, is spam?. It is just that easy for Conservatives/libertarians and others to get banned at digg. And why did I go back? I did because I love the hell out of digg. I love most everything about it, such as the heavy debates, the fact that there are so many intelligent people to argue with who makes you think and look up the subject at hand. It’s quite addicting and I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time there. Getting banned for frivolous bullshit is just that, bullshit. If I were banned for truly egregious behavior I would understand and move along.
In my opinion, digg needs to look into the mirror about their ban policies. The members of DP are not the only ones holding this opinion of digg and the perception of bias among a large enough portion of users cannot do anything but ultimately cause harm to the digg brand.
Having such massive scale that they can bury 90% of the stories within 1-3 hours
Let’s see exactly what he said:
“One bury brigade in particular is a conservative group that has become so organized and influential that they are able to bury over 90% of the articles by certain users and websites submitted within 1-3 hours, regardless of subject material. Literally thousands of stories have already been artificially removed from Digg due to this group.”
I’ve gone through the emails from the last two months or so when DiggPatriots were active and I counted 30 people. Of those posting to the group only about 15 were very active (with over 100 posts), and the other 15 had posted to the group only sporadically. As I have read Kevin Rose, the founder of digg.com, say and as alluded to in digg’s FAQ LINK; the more someone buries or diggs a certain web site, or submitter of a story, the less those diggs and buries count. In other words, it’s about diversity of actions among the users. So, if this is the case then how can a group of approx 15, or even 30, people manipulate stories pertaining to the front page? Their actions would be counting less and less each time. However, no one really knows what’s going on with the algorithm since digg won’t officially comment on it.
While it’s obvious that there is no way to know who was actually reading any of the messages (and acting on them) it is equally obvious that you can’t make the claim that 90% of the stories were being buried without backing it up with facts. And what would that say about the algorithm at digg? An algorithm that is supposed to balance out diggs vs buries to ensure truly interesting articles, as chosen by the users of digg, make it to the front page? If digg’s algorithm was so fragile that so little people, out of the tens of thousands of users there, can manipulate the site then maybe digg has some ‘splainin to do.
Here are some statistics from the total emails sent through DiggPatriots:
- There were a total of approx. 6,316 messages sent to the group from June 10 to August 4
- Out of those messages 124 submissions at digg were being called out to be buried
- Those 124 submissions were contained in 93 emails sent
- That’s 1.5% of the total messages asking for DPers to bury stories.
With only 1.5% of the emails sent through the system which called out to bury 124 submission how can it be said that it was some HUGE bury brigade? Digg.com receives thousands upon thousands of submissions per day, just what would be the percentage of these bury calls to the total? But if you believe novenator and his clan you’d think the heavens were falling.
Why did I say that there were “approximately” 6,316 emails? It’s because I had quit the group on Aug 3rd and returned on Aug 4th, the day before novenator released his hit piece. So there was a little less than 24 hours where I didn’t get any emails, so the actual number is probably a tad bit higher.
While it can be argued that there were many subscribers to the DP group as a whole it cannot be legitimately claimed that they all were following some form of marching orders to bury or digg stuff.
To make my point; some had posted to the group that they felt that there was not enough support for each other and wondered why; wouldn’t that show that the group was not as effective as the story would lead you to believe? Of course it does. At other times, particularly near the time when DP was deleted, there were some in the group asking why they weren’t as successful as they had hoped. There were conversations about trying to get more people added because of this and even some discussions on potential members. If they were so successful I doubt they would have been talking about not being successful.
While there were some congratulatory messages when someone hit the front page, and a general thanks to everyone else within the group, it can hardly be said that these statements were anything more than morality boosters and had nothing to do with any actual help from the group. It should be noted too that I have found no evidence of congratulatory emails about DPers being successful in getting submissions buried.
As the statistics show, the emails asking for submissions to be buried were just a small part of the discussions. Most emails were of a private nature and griping or talking about politics and certain morons at digg. That, my friends, is the pure definition of private conversations when a group of individuals get together. There was always an assumption of privacy within the group; a privacy invaded by those who stole and disseminated the messages.
In the end, this is yet another stretched out bit of hyperbole unsupported by facts or evidence.
The group’s efforts constitute an “artificial” bury
“…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;” [highlight my own]
It would seem that the group was running afoul of the highlighted part of the TOU. But put your thinking cap on for a minute here. I’m not a lawyer but I can tell you that this part of the TOU is filled with holes.
Somewhere around the time that digg had taken out the shouts system they added links to every submission which leads to other sites, such as Twitter.com and FaceBook.com, with what seems to be a conscious decision to allow every user on the site the ability to share submissions (I don’t recall when those links showed up, they may have been there for years). Since these links cause a pop-up window to open, which allow you to change your submission to these other sites, who is to say that a great many people aren’t changing the title or description to get people to digg or bury the digg.com submission, perhaps like this twitterer? LINK
What is the difference between saying something like “Look at this piece of crap submission [link to submission]” and saying “bury this piece of crap submission”? Is the only difference the use of the word “bury”? As the example showed above, where novenator was talking about circumventing digg bans, it seems to me to be a rather harsh restriction on other people’s free speech. It’s not only banning a word from being used a certain way on the whole site but also seemingly anywhere else on the planet.
It must be remembered that digg.com can ban anyone for anything, or even for nothing at all – that is their prerogative. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about what can be interpreted to be an attempt at controlling speech outside the realms of digg or you’ll get banned from the site. However, their TOU does not make a distinction between speech on their own site or speech out on the intertubes, so it could be said that they are talking about speech on their site only. If digg were talking about speech that is off-site then you must remember this; digg’s TOU stop at your freedom of speech.
Staying strictly to digg’s TOU, you’ll have to admit that it is at least a rather large grey area. If for nothing else than the ability they included to post submissions to other sites while allowing for them to be changed, even changed to say “Bury this submission”.
There were hundreds of active members within the group
I really can’t say anything to this other than what I have already said about there being about 15 very active members. I never did go to any web page showing a list of members or received a list through an email. But the assumption that there were hundreds of active members is patently false, at least in the last two months of the group.
This all constituted “cyber stalking, bullying, and terror”
Let me get this straight.
Novenator says he was “cyber-stalked” and he goes out of his way to steal over 40,000 listserv emails (his numbers) from a private group of individuals and he then writes a story and posts it in such a way as to cause the greatest harm that he can against those he claimed stalked him. That just doesn’t pass the smell test to me. However, vendetta does pass the test. How the hell can he claim victimhood here? He can’t.
But isn’t it just grand that he claims cyber-stalking? Since he is a major part of his own story it makes it pretty hard for anyone in the DP group to rebut his story without feeling like they are fulfilling his accusations! At the same time he can go around and make new claims that no one has contacted him about the story, and are therefore hiding and guilty of his accusations, which he has said. Some set up, eh? I know that after reading his poppycock accusations that I sure as hell wouldn’t be contacting him, would you?
This is how the enemies of free speech work. They make wild accusations against those they disagree with in order to put them in a spot so that they have a hard time defending themselves without looking like they are the things that they are being accused of. Just look at the divisiveness caused by people claiming other people to be “racists”. Novenator has even alluded to the DP group of being just that, with no proof whatsoever.
He has claimed that some members of the group would automatically bury certain digg user’s submissions, no matter what they submitted and they were therefore “targeting” those individuals. And… So what? This does not constitute “cyberstalking”. I don’t know how many times I’ve read users comments on digg that said nothing more than “Fox news, buried!” or “NBC, buried!”. Is that cyberstalking as well? When these people in DP said anything about that it was their own personal choice. It wasn’t something the group as a whole followed. Again, it is novenator manipulating his story to get the biggest impact without showing a thread of evidence or thinking it through. There were other times when someone posted an email asking for help in the comments at digg. Seeing as how the group was founded in order to support each other what would one expect?
What these accusations are is whining from a person, or persons, who are mad that their political opinions have been called into question. Novenator and company (Jordan117, Anamoly100, et al) want to be able to say anything they want without anyone saying they are wrong or questioning their words. Now who’s fighting against free speech?
And with them searching out and stealing then releasing our emails, just who is the cyberstalker here?
Using separate user accounts to inflate digg/bury counts
I have read no factual evidence of this. I know I mentioned using an account started by one of my sons, an account that hasn’t been used since 2007, if I got banned. My family actually has three accounts at digg, all using the same IP. Does this represent a violation of digg’s TOU? If so, then digg is not very family friendly, are they? Did I ever use these accounts to inflate what I do at digg? You’ll just have to take my word for it, I did not.
There is no factual evidence that DPers were using multiple accounts to inflate their diggs and buries. Why did novenator say this? It was purely for the shock factor and an effort to support his other bogus claims.
Remember I said earlier that a large factor behind his article is that novenator, Jordan117 and Anamoly100 are main players? The reason why this is so important is because it has bearing on legalities. Novenator is claiming to have protection under the Journalist Shield and refuses to explain how he obtained the emails. He is wrong about this and he does not enjoy the Journalistic Shield, legally speaking. Why is that? It is precisely because he is part of the story. He went on a vendetta of revenge and came into possession of emails that he had no Right to have, and he then set about to silence his critics by exposing those emails. Sorry folks, but Journalists just don’t have that kind of blanket authority to do these things and be protected by the Journalist Shield.
And how can I say that novenator is a “main player” in all this? For just one example, here’s novenator replying to a submission whose title was clearly changed from the original title, though changed later according to the original submitter. It’s something novenator was constantly haranguing other people about if it was a submission with a conservative bent, yet he overlooked those which he agreed with. In the following link you can find where a few members of the DP group had call him out on it. This is the kind of thing that was going on, not cyberstalking as he claims but challenging him on his BS. And this is most certainly the reason he, and his friends, went after the group. LINK [EDIT: It seems that the new digg has deleted the comments pertaining to this issue, but you get my point.]
If your problem with the DiggPatriots is just because they were organized then think about movements such as netroots as well. The extreme left has been organizing people through social media for years. The NetRootsNation meeting on April 17, 2009 had several discussions on organizing for web sites such as digg, in topics such as….
Developing Online Campaigns
3:15 to 4:15 PM – Apollo Boardroom
Join Jim Walsh of Wired for Change to discuss how you can create a web presence and start putting new media tools and technology to work for your organization or cause.
Rapid Messaging: Creating Measurable Impact on Society, Politics and Media
4:55 to 6 PM – 1st Floor Conference Room
Can a quirky status update, tweet, text message, social news story, or social letter have immediate and measurable impact on society, politics and media? This session, led by cultural anthropologist and Guerilla PR CEO Michael Leifer, PopRule co-founder Rob Kramer and ChangeSF founder James Hanusa will focus on effective rapid messaging using social media applications such as Twitter, Digg, Facebook, Flickr and PopRule and more.
The Wisdom of Crowds
1:35 to 2:35 PM – 1st Floor Conference Room
You might have heard the term “crowdsourcing,” but how can it work for you? Hear from seasoned practitioners who have put this concept to use in effective ways. GetSatisfaction president Lane Becker, new media consultant Gina Cooper and Beth Murphy of Digg will lead this session.
So, are people going to argue that organizing for political advocacy is only a bad thing when Conservatives/libertarians are the ones doing it? Or is it only ok when you go to an authorized meeting of other digg.com users?
What strikes me as the most dangerous thing about what novenator has done is the fact that he has passed those emails around to his friends as well. He and his friends have these people’s names, phone numbers, addresses and even medical conditions of some of them. This is pure chilling of speech for each and every one of the members of DiggPatriots.
Throughout his story he made grandiose claims that are unsupported by facts, used words that are meant to cause the greatest shock factor he can think of, took bits of information out of context and he has projected those inaccuracies into a highly spun hit piece.
He did accomplish one thing, however, and that is to get attention to his little blog and generate some income, and the same can be said for the other players in this.
He’s done just about everything one could do to show the meaning of “Yellow Journalism”.
#1 About Digg.com
As taken from digg’s “About” web page:
You won’t find editors at Digg — we’re here to provide a place where people can collectively determine the value of content and we’re changing the way people consume information online. How do we do this? Everything on Digg — from news to videos to images — is submitted by our community (that would be you). Once something is submitted, other people see it and Digg what they like best. If your submission rocks and receives enough Diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of our visitors to see. And it doesn’t stop there. Because Digg is all about sharing and discovery, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for our community to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on Digg, you’ll always find something interesting and unique. We’re committed to giving every piece of content on the web an equal shot at being the next big thing.