Revolt Against Digg Tests User Content Model

'Internet riot' forces Web site to stop deleting posts containing software key

Digg Inc., which operates a news aggregation Web site that lets users determine the placement of stories through voting, last week found itself at the center of what some analysts and academics are calling a test case on who has control over user-generated content on social networking sites.

What happened on was described even more trenchantly as an Internet riot by many bloggers and online posters. And the outcome was clear: The rioters won.

The brouhaha erupted on Tuesday when Digg staffers began removing posts that contained a software key for cracking the encryption technology used to limit copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. Digg, which took action after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the encryption technologys developer asserting that the posts violated its intellectual property rights, also started deleting the accounts of users who were posting the key.

The two moves outraged many regulars, who repeatedly posted the key until company founder and chief architect Kevin Rose relented that night and put a stop to the deletions.

Dianne Lynch, dean of the communications school at Ithaca College in New York, said the online street fight tested the validity and integrity of a social community. Digg saved itself from failing the test when it decided to return control to its users, added Lynch, who writes regularly about Web 2.0 issues.

If youre going to turn [the site] over to the community, you cant decide to change your mind without having serious implications, Lynch said. User-generated content means that users will make a collective decision about what is and isnt appropriate.

But Barry Parr, an analyst at JupiterResearch in New York, said media companies and Web publishing organizations including Web 2.0 businesses such as Digg have to openly acknowledge that editing in moderation may be necessary when dealing with user-created content.

There are lots of people in the world, and not all of them are people of goodwill, Parr said. [Digg] doesnt seem to understand that there is a middle ground between a tightly edited product ... and a riot.

Michael Arrington, the editor of a blog called Tech­Crunch, said in a post that it was an understatement to call the response by Digg users a revolt. The users had taken control of the site, Arrington wrote. And unless Digg went into wholesale deletion mode and suspended a large portion of their users, there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.

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