Digg users are revolting (and 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0)

Tut-tut. Tis Thursday's IT Blogwatch: in which Digg melts down over the HD-DVD "processing key". Not to mention what every geek will be wearing this summer...

Heather Havenstein reports:

Digg.com, the popular site where users determine the placement of new stories by voting, yesterday found itself in the center of what some are calling a test case for the power of user-generated content on social networking sites.

The brouhaha erupted when executives at Digg began removing posts that contained a [master] key needed to crack the encryption used to limit copying of HD-DVD ... discs. Digg, which began removing the posts after it got a cease-and-desist letter from another company asserting that the posts violated its intellectual property rights, also began deleting user accounts of those posting the key.

That move outraged many Digg users, who repeatedly posted the key until founder Kevin Rose relented last night and stopped the deletions. Stories about the key received tens of thousands of "Diggs," or online approvals from the community and by this afternoon, Digg's top two stories -- both about the keys and user response to them -- had received approximately 35,000 Diggs.

Matt Buchanan adds:

The power of Web 2.0 is in full effect over at Digg, where users are revolting over Digg's decision to pull a story (that netted over 15,000 diggs) and reportedly boot a user for posting the HD-DVD AACS Processing Key number, which would allow someone to crack the copy protection on an HD-DVD. The front page (along with two and three) of Digg consists entirely of stories flaunting the number or criticizing Digg for its actions.


Tonight's been a watermark in social media, even just looking at the ingenious (and often hilarious) variations users have come up with to cram the key into headlines, comments and users invites.


A number of people have pointed out that HD-DVD is a Digg sponsor, and have used that fact to level such charges at Kevin. We have sponsors too, but that doesn't ever mean we'd sell out our readers or alter our content because of those sponsors. Kevin has equally shown nothing but commitment to the Digg's users, community, and site's integrity. People should hear out his explanation for this move before wholesale trashing Digg's founder.

OK, so what'cha got to say fer yerself, Kevin Rose?

Today was an insane day … In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

John Mace grumbles:

I'm concerned that, if I don't express my own opinion very clearly, others will effectively put words into my mouth ... what Digg has here is a legal and public relations problem – not an ethical or moral problem. I think it's unlikely that Jay Adelson or Kevin Rose were influenced by the sponsorship received from HD DVD when they made the decision to remove the HD-DVD code from Digg.


Digg's handling of this case has been a lesson in atrocious public relations management. With hindsight, it's now obvious that the decision to delete articles containing the HD DVD code was unwise ... However, Digg turned this public relations crisis into a total implosion by failing to communicate clearly with its users, and even worse, attempting to block all discussion of its actions by deleting or burying dozens of stories and banning users en masse.


Further fuel was added to the fire by the company's inability to acknowledge its acceptance of HD DVD sponsorship ... While the truth is probably more benign, this gives the appearance of an extremely embarrassing conflict of interest.

Here's Michael Arrington; never understated:

To say what happened today on Digg was a “user revolt” is an understatement. The Digg team deleted a story that linked to the decryption key for HD DVDs after receiving a take down demand and all hell broke loose ... soon the entire Digg home page was filled with stories containing the decryption key ... there was absolutely nothing [Digg] could do to stop it.

Digg CEO Jay Adelson ... only added fuel to the fire ... [then] Kevin Rose ... capitulated to the mob’s demands ... Until today, it seems, even Digg didn’t fully understand the power of its community to determine what is “news.” I think the community made their point crystal clear. Vive La Revolution.

Ed Felten has more about the takedowns:

The people who control AACS, the copy protection technology used on HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs, are apparently trying to shut down websites that publish a certain 128-bit integer. The number is apparently a “processing key” used in AACS. Together with a suitable computer program, the key allows the decryption of video content on most existing HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs ... you can spot it all over the Web. It’s a long string starting with “09 F9″.


The AACS “Licensing Authority” (AACS LA) has taken to sending out demand letters to websites that publish the key, claiming that the key is a circumvention technology under the DMCA. News of these demand letters, and the subsequent disappearance of content and whole sites from the Net, has triggered an entirely predictable backlash ... AACSLA are just making themselves look silly by trying to suppress it. We’ve seen this script before. The key will show up on T-shirts and in song lyrics. It will be chalked on the sidewalk outside the AACS LA office. And so on. It’s hard to see the logic in AACS LA’s strategy here. Their end goal is (or should be) to stop unauthorized online distribution of high-def video files ripped from HD-DVD or Blu-ray discs.

Ars' Eric Bangeman speaks of cabbages and kings:

We're nearing the point of ready availability of tools like DeCSS for HD DVD and Blu-ray, but Blu-ray has a couple of extra layers of protection (ROM Mark and BD+) that have yet to be deployed. Also, both HD formats have an antipiracy weapon in their arsenal that DVD lacks: the ability to revoke device keys, which has already happened to Corel's WinDVD.

Unfortunately for both HD DVD and Blu-ray, that looks like it's going to be as effective as a suit of chain mail against a bazooka shell; Doom9 forum member arnezami claims that the hack at the center of the latest maelstrom is irrevocable. Even if arnezami is wrong in his evaluation, the AACS LA's vigilance in trying to keep the existence of HD DVD cracks out of the pubic eye has backfired in a truly spectacular manner.

Manuel Amador Briz was a naughty boy and must be spanked:

Many sites were already carrying the key; therefore, never in my wildest dreams I imagined what would happen later on. At that moment, I wrote the (now kind of famous) story named Spread this number, partly because I was angry at Big Media’s continuing attempt to screw with our lives, and partly because I knew that the story warranted more attention than just a cease-and-desist ... I submitted it to Digg, under my account (RuddO) ... And I forgot about it ... after half an hour of submitting the story, I couldn’t access my site. I just couldn’t. Why? It turns out the Digg community had started to vote for the story, at a dramatic pace.


[Then] I suddenly noticed that the server was running fine ... because I suddenly wasn’t getting any more hits from Digg ... Went over to Digg — the story couldn’t be found. Tried to login… my account was disabled due to abuse!


While I was doing that, Rudd-O.com died again. Damnit! ... many more hits per second — a new story had been submitted, linked to another Web page; the first or so comment had the address of my story, and dozens of other comments pointed out the fact that my submission was killed. Exactly then’s when [it] started to hit the fan. Mounds and mounds of [it] ... You could literally blink, hit F5 to refresh, and see 30 more votes in the yellow button. I’m not kidding, that’s how fast the story was rising.


Why was Digg killing the story, when the cease-and-desist already had included the code? More importantly, who could have f***ed up so majorly in drafting that cease-and-desist?

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... What every geek will be wearing this summer

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon