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Digg conservative group creates a bury brigade

TechRepublic member dcolbert shares his opinion about the conspiracy group called Digg Patriots (DP) and why he thinks this issue has more complex implications. Do you think Digg encourages group-think and the suppression of competitive, minority viewpoints?

Over the last few weeks, I've been neglecting writing and technology all together. I've had a few ideas, but nothing I felt a lot of passion, motivation, or drive to pursue. I haven't been following TechRepublic, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, FourSquare or even the online Android game -- The Great Land Grab -- as religiously as I normally do.

That is, until one morning when I woke up, grabbed my Droid, and refreshed my Twitter feed (having Tweets push was wiping out my battery life). I follow a guy named Paul Baldovin, who I believe is tech writer in the UK. He retweeted a post by Stephen Fry that read:

“Highly disturbing. http://bit.ly/dDhevd Another good reason to avoid Digg.”

This link went to post by oleoleolson, who disclosed a list of users that were members of a conspiracy group called Digg Patriots (DP). I recognized some names from my own "friends and followers" list on Digg.

Like other social networking web apps, Digg allows you to make personal connections with users who post things you want to see. I've got 13 "friends" or "fans." I actually follow a few people just because I really disagree with them, and I want to see every post they make so I can argue their points. I'm certain some of my friends and fans follow me for the same reason. So, it isn't exactly like we're all pals in a big group hug.

I've argued a lot in defense of conservative perspectives on Digg, but not one of these “friends” sent me a private message saying, "Hey, want to join a group that goes around burying liberal stories and digging conservative stories in order to make Digg less biased?" So, if this is a massive conspiracy, the group is either really selective, or they're horribly remiss about recruiting other like-minded individuals to maximize their ability to effectively achieve their goals.

Anyone who follows Digg for any length of time cannot honestly, in good faith, claim that there is a conservative, right-wing bias to the volume of posts on the site. In fact, the opposite is true -- probably not by intent or even design, but simply because of the demographics that Digg largely attracts (mostly males between the ages of 18 and 34).

From what I’ve seen, the majority of front-page, most-Dugg articles that have any kind of political or ideological bias to them are items that the liberal left will embrace -- stories about global warming, stories that make conservatives look like morons, stories that build up science and disregard religion as a primitive superstitious myth – that, and crude college humor, amusing viral pictures and movies or stories that appeal to techies, nerds, and dweebs.

I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that the only way that conservative stories ever get to the front page on Digg is because there’s a group of organized individuals doing everything possible to make that happen. In a nut-shell, conservatives on Digg are hopelessly outnumbered.

There’s no doubt that young, liberal, democrat users with at least some higher education are disproportionately represented among Internet users as a whole. So, a site like Digg is clearly exposed to this built-in bias – but there must be some way of leveling the playing field so that alternative voices are represented.

I'm more than happy to engage in discussions with people who I disagree with politically and philosophically. I want to make sure they have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard and their opinions available. If Digg should be avoided, it’s because it encourages group-think and the suppression of competitive, minority viewpoints.

If Digg succeeds in becoming the main distribution point of media by crowd-sourcing, this would effectively censor the voice of minorities. Only the most popular -- which is almost always not the most TRUE -- articles, opinions, and information would reach us.

Ultimately, crowd-sourcing is only good if you've got a quality crowd. Otherwise, the founding fathers had a name for this. They called it "The Tyranny of the Democracy."

With no conflicting information available, there’s no room for disagreement. If the majority voice says 2+2 = 5, then that’s what people believe. This is a complex and potentially very important issue, and oleoleolson seems to have missed most of that, opting instead to embrace a biased, partisan political response, which is the root of almost every political problem we face today.

Despite how much Digg irritates me, claiming that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy to censor Digg is beyond hyperbole – it’s completely detached from reality. It’s like claiming that because some terrorists are Muslim, all Muslims are terrorists, or they at least implicitly condone terrorist activities.

There’s no proof this is anything but a grass-roots, informal collection of conservative-thinking individuals who have loosely organized to try and combat a perceived bias on Digg with no endorsement by the larger base of conservatives who really don't care if Digg is full of college-aged ideological morons who blindly follow the dogmatic rhetoric of the liberal democratic party.

My take away from all of this is that partisan political pundits on both sides aren't interested in the truth, or in a level playing field, or in reasonable discussions. They're only interested in promoting their own political agendas and biases with no regard for thinking about the deeper implications of achieving those goals.

It’s time for the rest of us to start thinking critically, rationally, and rejecting political fear-mongering that’s intended to lead us into blindly following, without question, and regardless of political philosophy. I can summarize this post in a very simple, three word sentence. "Think for yourself." That says it all.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

37 comments
AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That's a surprising thing for the founding fathers to say... Did you mean "tyranny of the majority", aka "tyranny of the masses"? Those fit. But democracy is not, in and of itself, equal to that. It is all about the checks, and it is all about the balances too.

kenrblan1901
kenrblan1901

My concern with "Digg Patriots" was not about their political bias. Instead it was their methodology that I disliked. They weren't just burying stories that ran counter to their own political stances. They were burying non-political tech news and other items based on nothing other than the Digg user who submitted it. If they perceived a user to be left-leaning and good at getting submissions to the front page, anything submitted became a target. They would watch for submissions and essentially snipe them before they could aquire any non-DP diggs or buries. In my use of Digg, I don't think I have used the bury button on a story more than 3 times since I registered in 2006. I spend more time digging and upvoting when a story or comment is factually accurate or presents a logical standpoint. Maybe I am just biased from my previous Slashdot experience where moderation responsiblity was encouraged (ie. you don't downvote because you disagree). Unfortunately Digg now suffers from sheeple syndrome on both sides of the political spectrum. It has more to do with users trying to be on a winning team without regard for truth rather than participating in genuine discourse and debate. The saddest truth about the whole thing is that it mirrors the trend in American society where opposing views are discarded without considering any merits they might have. Most people follow blindly the narrative that their side is pushing on a given topic without doing any research or critical thinking.

paultkeen
paultkeen

I'm totally thrown here. In one paragraph you say "...Digg is full of college-aged ideological morons who blindly follow the dogmatic rhetoric of the liberal democratic party." Then in the next paragraph you say "...partisan political pundits on both sides aren?t interested in the truth, or in a level playing field, or in reasonable discussions." So which one are you here? Are you someone who believes that neither of the two major political ideologies is bereft of bad ideas and that open discussion is needed or are you one of the pundits disinterested in the truth? I only ask because calling liberals "college-aged ideological morons" doesn't really seem like you're interested in political discussion at all.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Is easily expanded to the idea of a broad democracy. It was on the theory of the tyranny of the majority that the nation was founded as a representative republic based on a *very* narrow democracy. When we hear politicians talking about the importance of the voice of every vote and spreading democracy throughout the world, it is important to realize that. Our nation is founded on the principal that a broad democracy is a very bad thing for freedom, liberty and justice.

shryko
shryko

It's something that appears to be more rare, much like "chivalry". I'm just glad to find out that there's enough people out there who still ascribe to it.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I think we're in agreement here, with the distinction that I don't believe that the majority of the members of the Digg Patriots group were actually taking part in the activities described by the original blogger. It was shoddy, yellow journalism *disguised* as investigative reporting. Several of the members of the Digg Patriots who were "outed" in the (frankly irresponsible) list have spoken on Digg to proclaim that they did not take part in this behavior and would not endorse it, and were disappointed if other members of the group did behave in this manner. That is the problem with this scandal. People ran with it and started lumping the behavior of what was probably a few isolated members and didn't just apply that behavior to that group, but to an entire political philosophy. Like you, I haven't used the bury button except for a few times outside of the comments forums (where I finally realized I had to resort to a tit-for-tat method of burying those who buried me). But as far as Digg-ing or Burying (or even submitting) articles themselves, I've done very little of that. Your "winning" team analogy is also accurate. People approach politics the same way the approach professional sports. With any unreasonable and unquestioning loyalty rooted more in the desire to be victorious. You're also completely correct that this is a larger trend throughout the United States. In my experience, this trend is actually global, though. The vast majority of humanity blindly follows without question - whatever ideology, philosophy, or "side" they've chosen to align themselves with. I think we came away with similar feelings about this - the difference is in how we judged the merits, the "truthiness", of the original story. Critical thinking, research, and personal experience with members of the group leads me to believe that this story was sensationalist and overblown. Of course, "A couple of conservative Digg users are trying to fix Digg results by burying users they disagree with regardless of content" wasn't liable to generate nearly as much interest as, "A well organized and large group of Digg users are actively fixing Digg results by acting as a bloc to attack all posts from all users they disagree with". Occam's razor, dude - which one is more likely? :) There isn't a vast right wing conspiracy acting as an organized group. There were a few nut-jobs that happened to be part of a group that is unpopular on Digg. That is *exactly* the kind of "Mob Tyranny" that truly *is* dangerous.

aureolin
aureolin

This attitude is sadly common. It's become the banner waved by liberals everywhere on the Internet. Any expression of conservative values is labeled "hate speech". "Fair and Balanced" means parroting leftist dogma. No one is allowed to question topics like Global Warming. (Seriously, it is even science any more if you can't question it?) Critical thinking, independent thought, opinions based on personal, careful and well thought out analysis have almost completely disappeared - if they every really existed in the first place. What's more, the left does all of this while at the same time accusing the right of all the same things. At least the right is honest about it's bigotries.

Editor's_response
Editor's_response

fell victim to the editor's chopping block - not that it wasn't interesting, but in an attempt to tighten up the piece. I'm sure Donovan will be happy to enlighten you, however.

QAonCall
QAonCall

That was not a statement, it was a series of comments that really was a run on sentence which prohibited good understanding. Her point, not speaking for her, was that there was no conspiracy, and in addition, conservatives on DIGG do not care if the site is full of ...blah! I think.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It's again, the checks and balances that makes a democracy democratic. At least in our sense of it. Foreseeable justice, equal standards, mutual respect, a basic sense of human dignity... all of those are part of it. And parcel too. The thing is, that democracy, like society itself, is dynamic. It has to regulate itself dynamically, to prevent simple breakdown. So, the checks and balances are an integral part of making a democracy exist as such beyond it's moment of inception. Without them, it's just a momentary reprieve from barbarism.

mishanv
mishanv

"You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it." Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Introduction, January 27, 1794

shryko
shryko

I think this can be seen as an extension of the ancient view that the general public couldn't be trusted to govern themselves. they would blindly follow the group/party that they saw as being "theirs"... And good government needs reasonable, informed participation, not the blind following. Really, as we reach out to have more voices heard, we inevitably are adding all those non-informed voices, and responsible discourse of the facts gets side-lined... Where should the balance be? I dunno. But there should be some balance, where everyone who participates will at least respect the other side's point of view.

paultkeen
paultkeen

The general message I see coming across seems to be that I'm a liberal who is accusing the author of "hate speech" for having right wing viewpoints. First of all, I was asking for clarification because I heard one thing that made a lot of sense to me (leaving politics open to good dialog) and then another thing that sounded like the exact opposite of what I read above. I got confused and wanted clarity from the author. Furthermore, she offered it quite nicely (thank you!) Secondly, the undertone of your post seems to put me into a liberal category. I can't stop you from doing this, but if you wish to do so I have to say you do so without any evidence. Not interested in the politics of the article. Just the clarity.

dcolbert
dcolbert

"What's more, the left does all of this while at the same time accusing the right of all the same things. At least the right is honest about it's bigotries." Malcom X said as much in 1963. The thing is, the response below is correct, the Right is as guilty of this behavior as the Left. I see modern global politics as the biblical parable of Solomon's judgement over custody of a baby - except neither side is the true mother, so neither will back down rather than see the baby torn in two.

dcolbert
dcolbert

This is the paragraph that elaborates on my political views, which Sonja removed for the sake of brevity. "I was shocked because, well, my politics tend to be toward conservative. In truth, my problem politically is that I am almost impossible to classify, politically. I'm often at odds with myself on a lot of opinions I think I hold. Contemplating this made me envision a Venn Diagram, Libertarian at the top, Democrat on the left, Republican at the right - with the TRUTH always right in the very middle. What I find is that anyone who strongly identifies with any of these 3 specific parties inevitably disagrees strongly with me on some view I hold. Libertarians don't like my stand on licensing guns and gun owners. Republicans don't like my positions on the social accountability of government to the unfortunate in society and my views on the influence of corporate corruption in Government. Liberals and Democrats do not like my views on self-accountability, fair taxation, and well, rational thought, reason and logic. Effectively, regardless of what party you "belong" to, I'm going to piss you off eventually. Because in my opinion, if you find yourself far to the outside edges of any of those circles in the Venn diagram I describe above, you've lost your capacity for critical thinking and you're blindly following a party line. Most partisans are like this. They're completely in the circle of one of the three parties I describe above. There is no disagreement. Political parties are like little Borg replicas. You will be assimilated, independent thought is impossible." I didn't call *LIBERALS* College-aged morons, either. I called DIGG users College-aged morons who are overwhelmingly liberal. There is a fine, yet subtle distinction there. Although if pushed, I would say that I find the vast majority of liberals lacking in common sense, reason, and logic. Liberalism, to me - is an ideology most often ruled by passion and emotion. With that much said, QAonCall probably seems to have waded through that part while getting the general idea I was trying to get across. I'll admit, this was written the morning the story was breaking, in response to a tweet from Mr. Baldovin. I may not have been as sharp or alert as possible when I wrote this, and I'm not an English major at my best - you'll have to bear with my abilities as a primitive blogger.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Very well said, also. The danger with a dynamic system, is in that moment when you discover that it is not a perpetual motion engine. The systematic redistribution of wealth was one method by which the framers hoped to keep the system as implemented here fluid and dynamic. There are signs that method is failing, with the poor becoming marginalized to a lifetime of poverty for themselves and their offspring, and the rich a guaranteed continuity of their good fortune. In previous societies, when this situation became stratified enough, the inevitable conclusion has always been violent and unpleasant. Those societies have also been marked by an increasingly (artificially) polarized political body and opinion. These are some of the deeper reasons why I find issues like the Digg Patriots so troubling.

djo165
djo165

Well said indeed. The Federalist Papers should be required reading in every high school in the country. I really like this thread. It is so rare to see a political discussion on the Internet that isn't just a bunch of name calling. An old friend of mine with whom I often had many spirited (and beer-fueled) political debates had a good saying. He said any intelligent person had to recognize the fact that he may be totally wrong about a subject, no matter how sure he thought he was. Anyone who could not recognize that possibility was too closed minded to be worth talking to.

dcolbert
dcolbert

It is hard to apply in one's own life, but much of the value is in merely attempting to do so.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Digg fosters and encourages group think, and punishes divergent perspectives that are not held by the majority. In such an environment, the rise of something like "The Digg Patriots" is almost inevitable, and inevitably destined to be insignificant in impact, as well.

dcolbert
dcolbert

That those who could not serve in active duty could still face a mandatory requirement to serve the nation in which they live. You can work a desk job, freeing an abled bodied person to serve more actively, you could perform civil service. This was required to be a *citizen* in Rome. Non-citizens were still treated with relative respect and dignity, they just didn't have a say in matters of state politics. You had to opt-in to the political process, through service.

sboverie
sboverie

I think a lot of the bitter divide between the two US parties is that neither seems to respect the other side's point of view. It also seems that each side take more extreme measures against the other party when they are in the majority. Both sides take liberties with truth and stretch facts to support their views. The lack of respect comes through when some call the other side insulting names or just spread gossip against them. What would help is to accept that people are entitled to their beliefs regardless of your opinions. Modern cultures need a diversity of viewpoints to stay out of the trap of group think. Having divergent viewpoints is good, suppressing minority viewpoints is destructive to all.

mishanv
mishanv

1) I did not say "knowing the history" of the Constitution. My intent is people knowing the content. 2)There must be a minimal threshold which the majority can agree with. I retired from the U.S. Navy, but I don't expect that all voters should have to serve in the military before they can vote. Some people are not physically capable of miltary service, but maybe a lot smarter than me and contribute to society in a different way. Which, by the way, would be similar to Washington compared to Jefferson.

danfleming
danfleming

You have to contribute some how. If you think of some small tribe surviving off the land just being born to the tribe and knowing its history wouldn't be enough to allow you to stay and remain part of the tribe.

mishanv
mishanv

U.S. Citizen of adult age and recently passed Constitution exam. From the illogical misquotes I seem to see and hear more of these days, including by elected officials, this should be up for consideration in all states. After all, the danger to Liberty and our lives is just as important as highway safety.

danfleming
danfleming

You're skating along the edge of a powder keg of a subject, but it's a serious one. The poor always outnumber the rich, those that choose mediocrity always outnumber those that choose to excel. Set aside the rant about corruption and how the rich prey upon the poor, because what you're alluding to is this: How do you define who has skin in the game? This leads to a more ugly question. What happens when those that have no skin in the game outnumber those that do, but they're allowed to vote anyhow?

dcolbert
dcolbert

That both the Left and the Right court their own "ignorance blocs" of uninformed, uneducated, reactionary voters. The "Rock The Vote" campaign was so transparent it hurt to watch it become such a successful effort to mobilze a group of poorly informed and immature voters. It amounts to legal ballot-box stuffing. You'll find that the fringe 3rd parties aren't interested in those voting blocs. There aren't a lot of Libertarians who are uneducated and highly intelligent. Unfortunately, that is also why the fringe 3rd parties are ineffectual and most frequently only achieve splitting the vote and allowing a close race between the two major parties to go one way or another. Our foundations were built on a very narrowly defined democratic representative republic for a reason. Over time we've gradually relaxed our view to become a much broader and more direct democracy - for good and bad. You're absolutely right, striking the balance is the difficult part. Should you have to be a white, male, landowner to participate? What about a woman? What about a black person? The questions start off seemingly easy. Should we include non-native born Americans? Should there be a requirement to meet a certain I.Q. level? Is I.Q. measurement arbitrary and/or culturally biased? I've know some college educated people who couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag. I've known some people with no formal education who were as sharp as a tack. How are we going to measure that? So do you just give in and let every dummy vote? I wish I had the answers. Ultimately, we're the real *parent* of our democracy, and we're watching two other groups *claim* to be the parent as they rip the child in two. Hopefully we don't come to our senses too late.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Neither did Sonja, my editor (I'm the guy who wrote the article, and I'm... a guy. Sonja, who runs this blog, is a female, and she is my editor. You're not the first person confused by this, so don't feel bad). :) I have been known to leap to conclusions based on limited evidence (I recently wrote a blog about a dream including Nicholas Cage that touched on this particular character flaw of mine). If I have jumped the gun in judging you, accept my apologies. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

That a political pundit cannot be impartial and non-biased? Or were you really just enamored by the meter of the way those words work together? Now you have me caught up in this diversion, as well. :) As far as never discussing religion or politics at the dinner table, I've never met a sacred cow I didn't want to tip. This may be a character flaw.

dcolbert
dcolbert

to arrive before I even know I've made it. I'll probably end up 86ed just when I think I'm getting warmed up. :)

GSG
GSG

I was too caught up in the beauty of your alliteration "partisan political pundit". I like to think that I inhabit the middle of that Venn diagram as well. I don't identify strongly in any of the directions, and pretty much refuse to discuss politics at work (always a wise decision) or with many of my friends. I may not agree with their views on everything, and they may not agree with mine, so, in the interest of a fun time, we keep those discussions isolated from fun time.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Self-study is an option. Not for the lazy though. But the rennaissance-man type of person is now impossible. You can't have them all, not anymore.

JamesRL
JamesRL

People on "both" sides are questioning your sanity and judgement.

dcolbert
dcolbert

in a case like this. :) Obviously I have my own bias, and like everyone else, I am biased to seek confirmational information that supports my bias and disregard information that does not support it. I mentioned in the article, the truth of the matter is I find that I am often in conflict with myself when I deeply analyze many of my personal and political philosophies. But I do like to think I make a conscious effort to try and maintain an impartial critical perspective of the world around me - which is a lot more than can be said of a great majority of the people I meet. For example, I'm not a very religious person, I believe in the scientific method - yet I find it disturbing when science operates as a faith-based systems where the scientists tell us something is true, tell us we're not wise enough to understand it ourselves, but assure us they are correct. "Oh, you COULD understand it and prove it to yourself if you spent years in an education specializing in understanding this". Wait, are we talking about a science degree or going to the seminary? To me, it is a corollary to "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from religion.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

:p But I know what you mean. I see it as a big futile tug-o-war: everybody trying to pull in their chosen direction... but the optimal isn't a direction. It's a place, a general area, or a relation between a number of variables. Never a direction. So, any political [i]movement[/i], by definition, is a going too far waiting to happen. Where are the political standpoints? The politically immovables?

dcolbert
dcolbert

Paul, Also fair enough - I've tried, generously and with ample effort, to engage in civil discourse with the wide range of liberal posters engaging in forum discussions on Digg. After much personal effort, I have come to the sad conclusion, that a wide margin of Digg posters (of all political ilk and personal philosophy) are indeed, morons. :) There are some really bright, articulate, and reasonable people on Digg. But for every one person that meets this description, it seems there are dozens and dozens that are merely ranting lunatics. (See how easy it is to slip into those kind of phrases). Digg is uniquely liberal in bias, so it follows that the morons would be overwhelming liberal. I stay away from extreme right-wing sites because I *hate* hearing some redneck who can barely speak English claim, "If y'all cain't speak our language, y'shud go back where y'all came from", and other such right-wing-moron rhetoric. :) You're probably right, though - it doesn't *help* foster open dialog. But I was never entirely convinced this was possible with the *majority* of Digg liberals.

paultkeen
paultkeen

This paragraph does put the article in a much different light. Thank you for that. However, I have to say referring to anyone as a moron (regardless of their political walk) is frequently a barrier to good dialog. If were speaking with someone and they referred to me as a moron, I would probably abandon any further argument for this simple reason. Moron is a derisive term that is not meant to further an argument. It's meant to insult your opponent and hinder their thought process (if I have to defend my intelligence then I'm no longer defending my argument). This gives one an advantage despite the fact that they might have a weaker argument (not that a right-wing argument is necessarily the weaker). If truth is the primary goal, then names should be avoided. Whatever your political persuasion, using insults isn't very nice.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Does it include a box that encloses the circles, which box is called, "Universe of Discourse"? If it does, and the "box" is described by a rectilinear, what happens when you remove that line, regardless of what the hell the circles are doing? You and I, we can talk, if you can erase the line.