Photo Credit: christine zenino via Flickr/CC BY
Any respectable blogger working today is at least aware of the many social media websites that contribute to our articles reaching a wider audience: Reddit, Yahoo Buzz, Stumble Upon, and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Digg. Digg is the most powerful 'social media' website -- stories that get submitted there stand to be viewed by more people than anywhere else. Yet over the years, as I wrote story after story here at TreeHugger, I started noticing a trend -- if my post directly concerned climate change, it wouldn't stand a snowball chance in hell of making it to the Digg 'front page'. Why, I began to wonder, does Digg hate global warming? Yesterday, it looks like I found my answer. It was frustrating, mystifying even: Other social media sites like Reddit and Stumble Upon seemed to have no problem featuring stories about the various impacts, causes and solutions concerning global climate change. But Digg? No way -- submit a story about climate change to Digg, and chances are it will be 'buried', or voted off, by users in no time. I asked my colleagues -- some of which are Digg 'power users', or users who have much more influence in making stories 'popular' and therefore going to the front page -- why this was.
They didn't have a conclusive answer, but they all agreed -- stories about global warming were shunned on Digg. I had a number of ideas: Maybe people were just tired of hearing about the issue (web users of course have short attention spans and a capricious compass in terms of what interests them). Maybe, as time progressed, social media, which was once the domain of liberal-minded hackers and web geeks, simply attracted a more conservative audience -- and we know how many conservatives tend to view global warming.
But if there was one thing I never suspected, it was that an underground group of web users was conspiring to game the system, and willfully breaking the rules to keep as many "liberal" stories out of Digg as possible, and to get in as many conservative stories as they could muster. It turns out that this was exactly what was happening. Alternet, with a story that reverberated around the blogosphere yesterday, broke the news after concluding a lengthy investigation:
A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.The group called themselves the Digg Patriots, and it turns out part of their agenda was to ban legitimate stories about global warming, and to usher in those that trafficked conspiracy theories and wider criticisms. The Alternet report lists the things that the Digg Patriots found especially egregious, and right there on the list, is climate: "They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts."
"The more liberal stories that were buried the better chance conservative stories have to get to the front page. I'll continue to bury their submissions until they change their ways and become conservatives."
-phoenixtx (aka vrayz)
Read the full report, Massive Censorship of Digg Uncovered, to find out how the "Patriots" pulled it off -- it's pretty interesting stuff. And this development shouldn't be underestimated -- Digg is one of the biggest websites in the world. According to Alexa, it's ranked 50th in traffic it receives -- it's where many people go to get their news and information. The stories 'made popular' there reach many more people than they would otherwise, and this group was taking what was supposed to be a democratic platform for news aggregation and skewing the rules in a very big, systematic way -- it turns out that Digg doesn't have global warming, after all. Ultra right-wing computer hackers do.