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Massive Right-Wing Censorship Of Digg Uncovered
August 5, 2010 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Massive Right-Wing Censorship Of Digg Uncovered. "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."
posted by zwemer (247 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is why I still hang out on MeFi. Gotta love the old blue lady.
posted by zwemer at 4:46 PM on August 5, 2010 [40 favorites]


Surely this...
posted by contessa at 4:47 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I always did wonder why Digg loved Ron Paul and libertarian stuff so much, but chalked it up to general internet people being libertarian-ish back in 2008, but in 2009, I noticed right wing stuff constantly showing up on the front page whenever I'd visit and I wondered who the audience at Digg was, because it came off as way more conservative than young internet users seemed naturally. Good to hear there was something weird going on behind the scenes to skew the site away from how it'd normally swing.
posted by mathowie at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2010 [35 favorites]


She is a Digg power user who has dugg 70,000 articles and has 1500 submits of her own (18% have gone popular) in one short year on the site.

Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.
posted by fuq at 4:49 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


MetaFilter > Reddit > Digg
posted by fairmettle at 4:50 PM on August 5, 2010 [50 favorites]


Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet. And I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite?
posted by namespan at 4:51 PM on August 5, 2010


She is a Digg power user who has dugg 70,000 articles and has 1500 submits of her own (18% have gone popular) in one short year on the site.

Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.


Yeah, that's the problem. The conservatives always do better with the shut-in weirdos.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:52 PM on August 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


There are a few differences of opinion within DP [Digg Patriots], although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective. They hate Obama. They hate progressives. They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it. They hate the secular nature of our nation. They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. They hate abortion rights. They hate public schools and really hate higher education. They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. They hate anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. They just love to hate.
That's an awful lot of hate. Can we maybe harness that as an alternate power source?
posted by hippybear at 4:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [22 favorites]


This explains a lot.
posted by pompomtom at 4:55 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It won't load for me. metafilter is censoring the link!
posted by cjorgensen at 4:56 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter > Reddit > Digg

Though I wouldn't be a member or anything, I actually find Reddit pretty useful, particularly the Programming section. "Useful" is one thing I would never really call Digg.
posted by Artw at 4:57 PM on August 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Speaking of hate, accompanied by simply incredible denials, did everyone see a news story today headlined Obama Shooting Game Yanked?

The level of some people's hatred is indeed extraordinary.
posted by bearwife at 4:59 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


namespan: “Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet. And I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite?”

Banning people because of their political affiliations? Censoring opinions they don't happen to agree with? Generally breaking the rules of community websites?

Maybe. I believe liberals are just as capable of it. That doesn't make it "justifiable." If you know where liberals are doing this, you'd be doing the websites in question a huge service by exposing them. It'd be nice if you had some specifics, rather than just an "I'll bet..."
posted by koeselitz at 4:59 PM on August 5, 2010 [20 favorites]


Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.

Exactly. These kind of internet feuds are really annoying me lately. They really really really don't matter. Really!
posted by Taft at 4:59 PM on August 5, 2010


This reads pretty tinfoil-hatty to me. Someone has gone to great lengths to "expose" this "conspiracy" of a bunch of Digg users? It reminds me of the twenty-mile epic exposé of the Harry Potter Fanfic sockpuppet from this old post.
posted by Gator at 5:01 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suppose when conservatives claim they couldn't be mobilized to care about $National_Politial_Issue_Caused_By_Conservatives because they were "too busy working," they meant they were fuckin' around on Digg?
posted by contessa at 5:02 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


They should've engaged boingboing as censorship consultants.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 PM on August 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


lumpenprole: "She is a Digg power user who has dugg 70,000 articles and has 1500 submits of her own (18% have gone popular) in one short year on the site.

Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.


Yeah, that's the problem. The conservatives always do better with the shut-in weirdos.
"



As a hard core shut in weirdo, I resent that.
posted by Some1 at 5:03 PM on August 5, 2010 [31 favorites]


Let's take a selection from the top stories from the last 24 hrs are. Sticking to the politically-oriented stuff (and not "Top 45 Smokin' Lederhosen Babes.")

"Republican Warns Bicycle Rentals Will Lead to UN Take Over" (via greenanswers.com)

"Net neutrality is foremost free speech issue of our time" (via cnn)

"Rush Limbaugh: Electric Cars are Overpriced AIDS Ribbons" (via treehugger.com)

"Feds admit storing checkpoint body scan images" (via cnet)

"Prop C passes in MO - First State to Reject Healthcare Bill" (via stltoday.com and subtitled "...I hate my state.")

They're really bad at this whole "right-wing censorship" thing.
posted by griphus at 5:03 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


One of the ringleader's sleeper accounts was called 'loquaciouslola.' That bums me out almost more than the damage that is caused by bullshit astroturfing and what it does to chip away at basic trust in human interaction and the message.

Our loquacious is the shit. It's like weirdo parallel universe over at Digg.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:04 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


"Although this is a fringe group of Teabagging wingnuts..."

So.. this is a fringe group of a fringe group. And Bettverboten is at the fringe of the fringe of the fringe.

Got it.
posted by vidur at 5:08 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


hah! you have to kind of give it to them, that's way more web savvy than i'd expect.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:10 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet. And I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite?

The problem with the right wing is that they're so completely insanely oblivious to reality that I can no longer tell whether somebody is genuinely completely insanely oblivious to reality, or when somebody sane is trying to mock the right-wingers by pretending to be completely insanely oblivious to reality.

You can't parody them any more. They're so far gone that you if you try to make fun of a Tea Partier, you turn around and they're saying something so crazy that it outstrips your parody by factors. It's like you show up to a party with a couple of buckets of crazy saying "Look at me! I'm a Tea Partier! Nobama! Nobama!" and then you realize that there's a guy at the party that has brought a whole kiddy pool of crazy and he's splashing around in it in the middle of the room, just flailing around in his gallons and gallons of batshit-insane, totally serious about the whole thing, not at all aware of the shocked silence and embarassment of everyone else in the room, and you realize that no matter how hard you try, you can never compete.

I've mentioned this before, but it's like that old Spitting Image retrospective when they're trying to sum up the Iran-Contra affair and then the show just turns to a burst of static and a calm human announcer states "this is the point at which regular satire... breaks down."

Because you can't get more insanely out of touch with reality. You can't go any further without some sort of H.G. Wells machine lashed to a TARDIS and thrown into a tesseract.

So: you're... kidding, right? Justifiable? Fox as unavailable? Liberal MSM? Liberal bias to... the entire Internet?

It's a joke? You mock? Is japery, no?

Because I just can't tell any more.
posted by Shepherd at 5:11 PM on August 5, 2010 [194 favorites]


You'd think given that the site works on mass karma, the "Silent Majority" would back up all the conservative posts without requiring a secret elitist cabal group of like minded concerned citizens to game the system for censorship actively promote free speech and open dialogue.

Oh, wait, Digg must be the liberal haven, that's it. Those folks just need more mandatory re-education Good Old American Values.
posted by yeloson at 5:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Digg still exists? I kind of hoped as soon as I stopped visiting it'd go away. Looks like I'll have to rethink my hyper Berkeleyan ideas.
posted by resiny at 5:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


just flailing around in his gallons and gallons of batshit-insane,

New fundraising plan: selling family sized tubs of Batshit-Insane (TM). Made from the craziest shit on Earth!
posted by yeloson at 5:15 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


This would come back to the whole "reality has a liberal bias" problem, Shepherd.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:15 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Social Media Civil War ™
Now available for preorder at Gamestop
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:17 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


People have been gaming Digg for ages and ages and ages. At least one of the people supposedly being squelched for his liberal views (Mrbabyman) used to be prominent for the way he gamed Digg to get his articles on the front page. It's all a bit highschool-ish.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


oh no something happened at digg
posted by m0nm0n at 5:20 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, at least this article is the most digged (dugg?) link on Digg.com today.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:23 PM on August 5, 2010


This reads pretty tinfoil-hatty to me. Someone has gone to great lengths to "expose" this "conspiracy" of a bunch of Digg users?

Whether or not this is important depends on how important digg is. Since "Digg generates around 25 million page views per month, over one third of the page views of the NY Times", I'd think it is significant and important that a right-wing cabal controls digg. (Albeit moderate control, not absolute control.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:25 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Digg still exists? I kind of hoped as soon as I stopped visiting it'd go away.

It's definitely on the wane.

Massive Right-Wing Censorship

Isn't censorship generally understood as a function of authority? Not that I think this kinda thing is superswell (or surprising) but I'm not sure characterizing it as censorship is entirely accurate.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet."

Justifying one's actions by way of kooky theories of liberals performing some sort of counter to their "campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives," is an obvious blindness and an example of behaving without commonsense or fairness or respect for people who simply think differently.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:32 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh. Guess that whole MeTa thread on how stupid people are for thinking conservatives might pay people to game stuff wasn't so silly after all. I need one o' them snark retractors.
posted by shinybaum at 5:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


And yet, we all know similar shady practices are happening on MeFi - right?

Ever since Matt programmed the Cor-Tex 700Z to moderate this site, I've noticed right-wing propaganda is being directly transmitted into my otherwise rational, fact-based liberal comments.

That's why I never come SARAH PALIN IS AMERICA'S GOD-MOTHER AND WE DRAW STRENGTH BY SUCKLING FROM HER FREEDOM-TEETS here any more, tired of the continuous barrage OBAMA = STALINAZI TERRORAPE JUNKISEXUAL of conservative thought.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:39 PM on August 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


I didn't say it wasn't important (though, honestly, I don't think it is, but that's just me -- I'm not a Digg user), but the presentation of this "article" just made me shake my head. "Undercover investigation," listing all the pseudonyms as if you're publishing the Hollywood Madam's little black book, lengthy screeds about all the things "they" hate, and I'm reading the whole thing thinking, "Says who? Who is this person? Who conducted this 'undercover investigation,' and what do all these screenshots prove anyway?" It's a little obsessive, and I would be rolling my eyes at this no matter who was professing to expose whom, really.
posted by Gator at 5:41 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd think it is significant and important that a right-wing cabal controls digg.

Hey, you leave us out of this!

(We're more anarcho-syndicalist, anyway, with an oligarchical twist)
posted by the Cabal at 5:42 PM on August 5, 2010


For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head was the observation that right-wing AM talk radio is not actually as big as it seems to be ... when you compare it to the reach and political point of view of FM radio.

Rush Limbaugh's audience size is somewhere around 15 million.

Before he left terrestrial radio, Howard Stern's audience was about that size.

And Howard Stern wasn't even No. 1 in Los Angeles, as an anecdotal measure. He competed with Mark & Brian, Kevin & Bean, Opie & Anthony, etc, etc. Los Angeles radio is dominated now by Spanish-language broadcasting. Piolin for the win! Don't get me started on the enormous number of people listening to sports radio.

And yes, those are all entertainment and light fare.

But, while the shows aren't political, how do you think their listeners vote? Do you think Howard Stern's audience was getting all juiced up over Obama's birth certificate? How do you think Piolin's audience thinks about immigration?

The big bad Republican boogeyman is not so big. It's a bunch of louder-than-average jackasses that like to fuck with the Digg voting. We pulled the curtain back, and instead of a magician, it's a fat lady from Jersey.

So, why are we so afraid?

Home of the BRAVE. Let's act like it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:48 PM on August 5, 2010 [30 favorites]


I do not read Digg and I could not care less about this, but I have to say I think a lot of you guys are being unfair to the blog post author. He's investigated something very thoroughly, provided the documentation he can provide when we're talking about screenshots, etc, and identified the parties involved - yes, by their Digg handles, but that's how I'd identifiy each of you were I writing about MetaFilter.

It's easy to dismiss this as hurf durf Digg, but really, I think this was a pretty admirable effort all told. I'm impressed.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:50 PM on August 5, 2010 [29 favorites]


if you try to make fun of a Tea Partier, you turn around and they're saying something so crazy that it outstrips your parody by factors.

But isn't that what you'd expect of a group that explicitly takes its cue from the Mad Hatter?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter > Reddit > Digg

I'd say it's actually more like

MetaFilter>>>>>Reddit>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Digg
posted by adamdschneider at 5:54 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM

Does this Misinformation Ocean have a beach?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:54 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Banning people because of their political affiliations? Censoring opinions they don't happen to agree with? Generally breaking the rules of community websites?

Maybe. I believe liberals are just as capable of it.


*cough*

Many people is this thread spoke from a liberal standpoint and called for a banning.

Your beliefs are correct.
posted by Max Power at 5:55 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Down-voted ALL MY LIFE!
posted by Babblesort at 5:57 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Many people is this thread spoke from a liberal standpoint and called for a banning.


Yeah. Hmm. And there's is a new tin hat in your cupboard just waiting for Friday!
posted by uraniumwilly at 6:02 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:09 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the "well, I bet liberals do it, too!" nonsense. There's no evidence that it's happening, but that's not important- what is important is the right wing's need to project its inner incredible ugliness onto everyone else. They cannot conceive that everyone else is not as twisted and disgusting as they are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on August 5, 2010 [31 favorites]


"Many people is this thread spoke from a liberal standpoint and called for a banning."

Are you really that thick? I'll say it slowly. It was not because of her opinions, it was because she has a habit of posting something potentially inflammatory and then refusing to entertain any kind of discourse on it.
posted by HopperFan at 6:12 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'll never understand the motivations of someone like Minarchian:

"When I created a new account, Phreeedom, I changed my IP but they still banned for having two account. It got me thinking... how'd they know? If you look when a page is loading it also goes to facebook.com I think they are in with FP to compare IPs. So, next time I get banned I'll also log off FP and twitter first, with the original IP and then create new accounts there with a new IP, then create a new account at digg. Of course you'll also have to delete all cookies and web bugs from the three sites too. I'm not absolutely positive this is how they found out about my new account but I haven't figured out how else they could have."

People like that live in a different universe.
posted by vidur at 6:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Digg management has been busted so many times censoring stories, and it is well known that they want the slant to go conservative. A user-organized effort is hardly any different. Digg management may not condone it, but they surely wouldn't do anything to prevent it.

But this sort of thing is the endemic problem of "social news" sites like Dig and Reddit. A system that can be gamed, will be gamed. Look at the battle between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli voters on Reddit. It is well known that organized political groups of "redditors" use bots to mass-vote for or against stories with their favored political slant. It has gotten so bad that people are starting to use GreaseMonkey scripts to remove stories that contain keywords like Israel or Palestine, since any story on these topics that hits the front page was pushed there by propagandists.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:14 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.

Sorry, but I always have to laugh when I read things like this on the internets.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:29 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I'm not absolutely positive this is how they found out about my new account but I haven't figured out how else they could have."

Perhaps they have failure sniffing dogs.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


"I'll never understand the motivations of someone like Minarchian"

I'd say he's someone who reckons himself to be in control of his tiny section of the universe, and who enjoys that feeling very much. No matter what happens in the rest of Minarchian's life, he's a self proclaimed Jedi master at gaming Digg for the Conservative cause, and that makes all the effort expended worthwhile.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are they being paid to post? Perhaps this is good news for the economy. Thousands of newly created jobs. Recession... I think not!

*Holds up cardboard sign - Will post your opinion for beer money.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:36 PM on August 5, 2010


It's a wealth transfer from robber barons to conservative PACS, to Internet trolls, to... I dunno, maybe the Doritos and Mountain Dew companies.
posted by Kevin Street at 6:40 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


misinformation in the liberal MSM,
I read this as FSM and was all like "leave her noodly appendages out of this!"
posted by pointystick at 6:41 PM on August 5, 2010


The problem with a site that is effectively moderated by its users is that it is effectively moderated by its users.

In other words, who thought this a good idea in the first place?

What gets me about Shepherd's post though is that the evidence that people are living in totally separate worlds is becoming overwhelming. I mean, this has probably been true for most of history--with a brief respite in the mid-twentieth century in the period between the introduction and maturity of mass media. But we've gone from a world where the various worlds simply don't talk to each other to a world where they can't.

Anyone who wants good things for the future should be worried about that.
posted by valkyryn at 6:45 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


what is important is the right wing's need to project its inner incredible ugliness onto everyone else. They cannot conceive that everyone else is not as twisted and disgusting as they are.

I see echoes of this in the Prop 8 ruling, in accusations that "Oh, the judge is gay, so of course he's just pushing the fagmosexual agenda over the will of the voters". Which is telling, less of the idiocy of the speaker, and more of how the speaker believes judges act. Do they just expect all judges to push personal agendas in place of any sort of jurisprudence, but that it's okay when archconservative judges do it?
posted by kafziel at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite?

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Anyway, now that I've got that off my chest, what a typical rightloon excuse. You know it's wrong, so you try to justify it by "betting" that others are doing it too.

Well, too bad. Even if other people are doing it, it's still wrong, and you know it. That's why you have to lie (to yourself, no one else believes you) about it.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:56 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hey-ho!

I hope you all enjoyed my little bit of avant-garde performance art done under my sockpuppet, "namespan."
posted by sourwookie at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm on both MeFi and reddit.

MeFi has a consistently excellent signal to noise ratio in terms of it's power to fascinate and inform and challenge me. Ask MeFi is second to none, for it's ability to answer, and the civility there.

Reddit skews more male, younger, LULZ oriented, they really are difficult to truly offend. The Just Don't Give a Fuck vibe there can be a real breath of fresh air for a boorish lout such as myself. The myriad subreddits can make separating the wheat from the chaff more of a chore. the Ask Me Anything subreddit is something to behold!

Both have a lot of really amazing people who have changed my mind about a lot of things.
posted by Scoo at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't think censorship necessarily has to come from authority. It can come from whoever has the power to do it.

Like, for example, if the editors here decided to start quietly killing subs they didn't like. They would be engaging in censorship. And it would be perfectly legal censorship.

It is interesting that this started up right when the right's "grassroots" and "community organizing" started to go mainstream. A concerted effort to astroturf the internet with "balance".
posted by gjc at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this Misinformation Ocean have a beach?

Yeah, it's Nanny State Beach, just a few miles off Highway 666 and around Unfettered Socialism Bend. Watch out on the way for Devil's Slide though, it's a nightmare.
posted by blucevalo at 7:11 PM on August 5, 2010


Also, in my best Bill O'Reilly voice:

"I wouldn't be surprised if all of these people weren't really just Newt Gingrich in his basement. I mean, you don't hear him denying it. You'd have to be pretty ignorant if you didn't at least consider the possibility."
posted by gjc at 7:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


this sort of thing is the endemic problem of "social news" sites like Dig and Reddit.

Same sort of gaming went on at Newsvine.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:13 PM on August 5, 2010


"what is important is the right wing's need to project its inner incredible ugliness onto everyone else. They cannot conceive that everyone else is not as twisted and disgusting as they are."

For a long time now, every time I see a story like this, the phrase pops into my head:

"We become what we fear and hate in our enemies."

I grew up in a conservative household. I know them. I know how they fear and hate faceless liberals who are out to destroy everything dear. Conservatives are truly convinced there is a massive liberal conspiracy, and that the mainstream media is not just biased, but shamelessly promotes it's liberal anti-American agenda.

They truly believe they have to "level the playing field". That's why Fox News' catchphrase "Fair and Balanced" is not at all ironic to them. That's why they believe that, as namespan said, it's "totally justifiable".

If they ran a butcher shop, they'd put their thumb on the scales, because they believe that gravity is biased against them.

They will stop at nothing to muzzle or intimidate their hated enemies, the liberals. If they have to destroy the village in order to save it, that's what they will do.
posted by Xoebe at 7:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Lord knows I don't have any problem arguing a point or spreading the "liberal" view of things. But, honestly, it would never even occur to me to preemptively take away anybody's chance to have their say.

People who do this kinda shit are scary. If someone can be this underhanded and information-hating about shit on the internet, what could their real-life political fervor lead to? Truly, this is where dictators and fascists come from. Better to know who they are, I guess.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:24 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Guess that whole MeTa thread on how stupid people are for thinking conservatives might pay people to game stuff wasn't so silly after all.

Yep.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:24 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Democracy is a damn dangerous thing in the hands of those who don't understand why it exists.
posted by cthuljew at 7:42 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm a reddiit reader. I follow about ten sub-reddits., sorted by "new." I don't do much voting; when I do , it's usually to vote down obvious and stupid headlines. Which tends toward seeming "liberal" or "left" — but only because reality tends that way.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:44 PM on August 5, 2010


I was peripherally involved with the investigation of this, and I can confirm that it's every bit as bad as this article states. Worse, actually, since this appears to be a draft of the story -- there's a more current, less editorializing, and far more damning article up on pubrecord.org now.

I've been a member of Digg since 2007, and use it much in the same spirit I use Metafilter, as a place to read news, share content, and participate in discussions that I might not see elsewhere. Granted, Digg is a lot more immature and off-the-cuff than Mefi (or even Reddit) is, but I still enjoyed it and even got a few articles to the front page.

Digg's struggled for a long time with people who game the system. Other than the one-time incursions from Paul-ites and BNP members, the site has a much more pervasive problem with "power users." These are people who treat the site less like a community than like a game to be won. They befriend hundreds of members, upvote (or "digg") hundreds of their submissions every day, then use third-party tools to weed out those who don't return the favor. If you do this right, you end up with a couple hundred stooges who will reliably vote for almost anything you submit.

Generally these power users have been benign. They still submit decent content, most of the content that makes the front page, in fact. The worst things they've been accused of are re-submitting good content from less powerful users in order to make the front page first, and possibly being paid to shill for certain websites. Digg is one of the most highly-trafficked sites on the web, so the latter can be a pretty big deal.

Anyway, in the last year or so I've noticed a strong upsurge in conservative opinion on the site. I'm talking hard right-wing stuff: inflammatory essays from WorldNetDaily, sensationalist stories from The Fox Nation, deceptive video from Breitbart's stable of sites. A disturbing number of these stories were overtly misleading, and I found myself spending more and more time on the site debunking conservative disinformation.

Over time it became apparent that this content was being pushed by the same small group of people. A little searching revealed multiple posts on FreeRepublic calling on members to "freep" Digg just like they do polls. Digg makes it easy to see who upvoted a story, and you'd see the same names from such articles over and over again on the same bullshit. And this bullshit was slowly dominating the Upcoming sections of the site, a leaderboard for submissions that are close to achieving popularity. When I noticed that even my most articulate, well-sourced, and non-confrontational rebuttals were being strongly downvote, much more than anything in the less-trafficked Upcoming pages should be, I realized that these people had to be working in concert.

Lately, I've been pretty vocal about calling these people out when their gamesmanship is pretty obvious, and even contacted Digg support a few times for the most egregious cases, but I never seemed to get much traction. The right-wing group would just downvote everything and mock me and others for being paranoid. And every week they would get more effective at killing the stories they hated while popularizing their scurrilous content without fail.

A little over a month ago, I was contacted by another Digg user who was impressed by what I'd been saying and invited me to help do something about it. Turns out this person had worked with a couple others to infiltrate what we now know as the "Digg Patriots" group, and was steadily documenting their many, many abuses of the site. I considered signing on for awhile, but decided not to after it became apparent that the DPs were not above targeting people who got too close to their scheme for harassment and personal threats. I just didn't feel like dealing with that shit.

But I did have access to the Digg Patriots message board, and it was quite something. Remember all the hoopla the conservative blogosphere made over Climategate and, more recently, JournoList? It was exactly like that. Except real, instead of a bunch of trumped-up out-of-context nonsense.

The PubRecord article I linked to lays it all out, but here are some of the more glaring offenses:
"We should make it our sacred mission to gang-bang this liberal bitch."

"I reported DDR Skata for using the racist term ‘Beulahs and Uncle Toms’ when referring to a conservative black woman. Additionally, I also told a fib and I stated I was African-American. I said that I was deeply offended by the terms he used."

"what we should do is start a fake liberal public site where we all use their names to post digg and bury submissions. We would have to figure out to do it anonymously."

"I have an interesting plan for screwing over the No-brigade guy. First we need to find a female conservative/libertarian who is very active on digg and comments a lot. We coordinate with her to be the knowing victim of sexual harassment. (Yeah, this is going to be a false flag trolling operation.) Meanwhile, I will create about 3 bogus no accounts that won’t bury anything but will pose as the guy that calls us all “son” and trolls our submissions. After about a few weeks all three no accounts will let loose with some heinous sexual innuendo. Several of us will then proceed to report all no accounts and accuse all of them of being the troll. After a while, many diggers will just blindly report any no account that posts. Remember that Herkimer, Onetimer, and JCM267 all got banned when they stirred up a shitstorm. Now we just have to foment one behind the scenes. Do you know of any willing falseflag female targets on Digg?"
That last guy delivered, by the way. Repeatedly. Attempts at graphic sexual innuendo from right-wing shut-ins is as amusing as it is disturbing.

Anyway, over the last couple of weeks I've seen a steady stream of duplicitous, manipulative garbage spewing out of that place, and it was only getting worse. If you signed in to read their group while debating one of them, you could actually see them posting your comments to Digg Patriots alerting the membership to crush you and elevate the DP user... all while claiming in the discussion that any suspicions of cheating or gamesmanship were paranoid delusions. It was quite the masterpiece of cognitive dissonance.

I'm glad this got out when it did, because they were really starting to gain momentum. Two weeks ago they set up a poorly-designed, rabidly-biased right-wing blog called The Rattington Post (what a logo!) and immediately proceeded to spam Digg with its screeds. Despite its brand-newness and its severe lack of quality, they scored hundreds of upvotes and even got one piece to the front page. They were getting pretty damn bold about pushing the envelope, and were just recently devising newer and better ways of cheating the system and silencing anyone they disliked. I'd hate to think what they could have accomplished if they'd been allowed to flourish.

But it's all a moot point now. After the article on AlterNet went up, one of them posted a terse "WE'VE BEEN EXPOSED!!!!" and then the whole site was taken down. But I wonder how long that will last. They've already proven adept at masking their IPs and maintaining multiple accounts even after being permabanned. And they have backchannels of communication like Skype to fall back on and regroup. Even if they decide Digg is a lost cause, many of them have accounts on Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other social media sites waiting for them. I wouldn't be surprised if they try regaining their position before the November midterms arrive. And the fact that their membership included people like the sysop of Conservapedia makes me wonder how extensive their organization is. I just hope this expose makes people more vigilant for attempts at cheating on this scale in the future, and that the staff of Digg and other sites devise more effective methods of identifying them and banning them.

PS: If anyone has any doubts about this whole thing, I still have access to the searchable DP message archive and can quote any material you'd be interested in reading.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:44 PM on August 5, 2010 [291 favorites]


And as for MeFi, I tend to not vote/modbother FPPs or comments, but do use favorites for wit, humour, insight, and views with which I agree. I don't think MeFi is really very "left" at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guess that whole MeTa thread on how stupid people are for thinking conservatives might pay people to game stuff wasn't so silly after all.

Yep.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:24 PM on August 5


GODDAMN I hate it when you're right, Blaze. Smart fucker. Grrr.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Could this also be why Slashdot literally went to shit over the past 2 years? Most of the comments there now are outright creepy.
posted by schmod at 8:02 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Conservapedia? You mean that isn't a joke site?

(like Shepherd, I just can't tell any more)
posted by yhbc at 8:04 PM on August 5, 2010


Filter the bell curve: eliminate the posts that are greater than a standard deviation more popular. Or count votes on some sort of log curve: the more you vote the less your vote counts. Filter the noisemakers.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


This reads pretty tinfoil-hatty to me. Someone has gone to great lengths to "expose" this "conspiracy" of a bunch of Digg users?[...]
posted by Gator at 8:01 PM on August 5 [2 favorites +] [!]

mathowie, how about, along with a "friends" relation, one that says "enemies?"
posted by JHarris at 8:20 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, Rhaomi, that's fascinating. Thanks for sharing your insight.
posted by lalex at 8:27 PM on August 5, 2010


Oh, and I wonder where are the people who, a while back, were attempting to define censorship as something only governments could do?
posted by JHarris at 8:32 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Conservatives are getting better at the internet, they're still two-three years behind, but at least they've stopped playing OregonTrail. Watch out for the day they figure out the iPhone.
posted by treeshar at 8:32 PM on August 5, 2010



Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet. And I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite?


The problem with the right wing is that they're so completely insanely oblivious to reality that I can no longer tell whether somebody is genuinely completely insanely oblivious to reality, or when somebody sane is trying to mock the right-wingers by pretending to be completely insanely oblivious to reality.

You can't parody them any more. They're so far gone that you if you try to make fun of a Tea Partier, you turn around and they're saying something so crazy that it outstrips your parody by factors. It's like you show up to a party with a couple of buckets of crazy saying "Look at me! I'm a Tea Partier! Nobama! Nobama!" and then you realize that there's a guy at the party that has brought a whole kiddy pool of crazy and he's splashing around in it in the middle of the room, just flailing around in his gallons and gallons of batshit-insane, totally serious about the whole thing, not at all aware of the shocked silence and embarassment of everyone else in the room, and you realize that no matter how hard you try, you can never compete.

I've mentioned this before, but it's like that old Spitting Image retrospective when they're trying to sum up the Iran-Contra affair and then the show just turns to a burst of static and a calm human announcer states "this is the point at which regular satire... breaks down."

Because you can't get more insanely out of touch with reality. You can't go any further without some sort of H.G. Wells machine lashed to a TARDIS and thrown into a tesseract.

So: you're... kidding, right? Justifiable? Fox as unavailable? Liberal MSM? Liberal bias to... the entire Internet?

It's a joke? You mock? Is japery, no?

Because I just can't tell any more.


Ah, but it is easy to tell that it was a joke. Namespan finished his comment by using the word "amirite." "Amirite" is one of the words that is used to announce that someone is joking or being sarcastic when they are afraid that the content of their comment is not clear enough to denote humor or sarcasm. The implication, of course, being that conservative folks are too stupid to use proper English or need some sort of nudge-the-other-guy assent.

Other words that are used for this same purpose on this site are "librul," "Amerika," and "merkins." Also, you can be assured that a comment is also made in jest if it contains the word "eleven" or "one" within a long series of exclamation points.

Just like the laugh track in a situation comedy, these ingenious satirical prompts and comedic indicators guide me in my enjoyment of Metafilter.

Please delete the previous version of this comment. The italics that appeared on the live preview did not come through on it, making the whole thing an incomprehensible garbled mess.
posted by flarbuse at 8:37 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, Rhaomi, as a constant and true member of this society, that's legitimately fascinating. Thanks for sharing your insight.
posted by deliquescent at 8:37 PM on August 5, 2010


Hate is easier to market. It is easier to get elected based on fear than it is on love.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Digg still exists? I kind of hoped as soon as I stopped visiting it'd go away. Looks like I'll have to rethink my hyper Berkeleyan ideas.

Stiff upper lip, what's this giving up bullshit?!

It didn't exist for that time you didn't see it, and now here it is again with a finely crafted backstory.

Ignore it again, and it will again be gone. That's not so hard is it?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:41 PM on August 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Rhaomi: I wouldn't be surprised if they try regaining their position before the November midterms arrive. And the fact that their membership included people like the sysop of Conservapedia makes me wonder how extensive their organization is. I just hope this expose makes people more vigilant for attempts at cheating on this scale in the future, and that the staff of Digg and other sites devise more effective methods of identifying them and banning them.

There is ultimately only one response to this: every right-wing post on a social media site is now suspect. I am sincerely sorry, non-media-gaming conservatives, but that is what comes from not denouncing these people. When you sleep with wolves, you get fleas.

PS: If anyone has any doubts about this whole thing, I still have access to the searchable DP message archive and can quote any material you'd be interested in reading.

This archive needs its own website, pronto.
posted by JHarris at 8:41 PM on August 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's a joke? You mock? Is japery, no?

Yet again I learn I need to work on my deadpan delivery.
posted by namespan at 8:44 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hell, if Digg is as bad as all that, it ultimately makes it easier to identify and monitor the lunatic fringe. If I were FBI in charge of protecting the President, I'd data-mine Digg for gold.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:44 PM on August 5, 2010


(like Shepherd, I just can't tell any more)

I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.
posted by eriko at 8:45 PM on August 5, 2010


This reads pretty tinfoil-hatty to me. Someone has gone to great lengths to "expose" this "conspiracy" of a bunch of Digg users? It reminds me of the twenty-mile epic exposé of the Harry Potter Fanfic sockpuppet from this old post

Other than the fact that they set up a Yahoo group to do this,
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 PM on August 5, 2010


Totally justifiable. Just like Fox and talk radio form a beleaguered bastion of otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting against a literal ocean of misinformation in the liberal MSM, this kind of effort barely begins to balance the overwhelming liberal bias on Digg — let alone the rest of the Internet. And I'll bet there are liberals out there doing exactly the same thing — and not just the reporters, amirite

Any facts to support your theory?


Didn't think so.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:10 PM on August 5, 2010


So, I gather we can all agree that 'amirite' = 'HAMBURGER' ?
posted by pompomtom at 9:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


GODDAMN I hate it when you're right, Blaze. Smart fucker. Grrr.

That thread is still open. A grudgefest by children. But at least the notion that corrupting online communities is real — is happening right now — is undeniable, now.

I talked to my partner about this and he mentioned that he quit visiting Digg around the same time that Alternet discovered this subterfuge beginning, that he recognized a general negative shift in the attitude on that site around that time, and that his comments were being downvoted when the content was of a certain type.

In one egregious case, he had commented in a thread about sex offenders, having worked in the past as a sign language interpreter in group therapy sessions where offenders were being rehabilitated. In the course of a year and a half of translating, he learned a fair amount about the techniques used by psychiatrists to help treat offenders and help them manage their impulses.

Apparently pornography — no value judgement about it being made for healthy people — is a recognized trigger of impulsive behavior for sex offenders, and that avoiding porn helps offenders control their behavior. My partner made this observation on Digg in a thread on the subject, entirely topical and pertinent, and was subsequently downvoted, for simply observing that pornography aided offenders in seeing women (and girls) as objects, and that this was why psychiatrists worked with offenders to communicate that it was to be avoided. This was interpreted by certain Digg members to mean that anyone who happened to view porn would treat women as objects. Their mob acted accordingly.

Mobs carry their own baggage with them. God help you if you get run over by one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Digg staff responds:

@kevinrose: focused on launching digg v4, but we're looking into this.. RT @jeremyisweary: Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered http://bit.ly/cES8Yd

Michele Husak, Director of Communications: "[C]ertainly an interesting look into the lengths people will go to create the Digg experience they think is best."
posted by Rhaomi at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2010


adamdschneider: "MetaFilter > Reddit > Digg

I'd say it's actually more like

MetaFilter>>>>>Reddit>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Digg
"

I'm now imagining a happy Kevin Rose finished with all his business for the day cracking open a beer and heading over to Metafilter with his super secret account.

Then he gets to this post and his face starts to fall. He read further and his lip starts to quiver and finally he gets to this comment and a single tear falls from his face.

He closes the Metafilter tab, never to return.
posted by Bonzai at 9:47 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


i think slashdot went to shit a long time ago. pretty much the exact moment i joined up.
posted by overbo at 9:48 PM on August 5, 2010


Is there any evidence that these folks received marching orders or financial support from people connected to the Republican party?
posted by box at 9:52 PM on August 5, 2010


There is ultimately only one response to this: every right-wing post on a social media site is now suspect. I am sincerely sorry, non-media-gaming conservatives, but that is what comes from not denouncing these people.

So you're going to use the behavior of a small cabal of assholes as a pretext to dismiss every political opinion that doesn't conform to your biases? Do you really think that's a good idea?
posted by twirlip at 10:05 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can we maybe harness that as an alternate power source?

We'll wrap the founding fathers tightly in a coil of copper wire, place magnets around them and let them roll over in their graves.
posted by Talez at 10:11 PM on August 5, 2010 [43 favorites]


Oh, Talez. You've made my night. Cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 PM on August 5, 2010


@Rhaomi

Thanks for the excellent work. Frankly, I'm pretty disgusted with this whole enterprise, and I'm glad that this article is being dugg like crazy.

I like metafilter more than digg, but I do like digg, and metafilter can sometimes take the smugly-enlightened-few thing a bit far. I'm lookin' at you, greater-than sign aficionados...
posted by Edgewise at 10:17 PM on August 5, 2010


There was no popcorn at Digg. Metafilter has popcorn. Any questions?
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh, I had the impression that Digg had gotten more right-wing, but I had no idea anything like this was going on. Good job, Rhaomi & friends.
posted by homunculus at 10:32 PM on August 5, 2010


I love the "well, I bet liberals do it, too!" nonsense.

I have no idea whether they game it as liberals, but Digg is and has been thoroughly gamed by right-wingers, left-wingers, anti-fluoride folks, you name it. There's a hit-list of "liberal" posters in the FPP; the reason they're on the hit-list is that they are liberals with vastly more posts than normal users. The reason that they have vastly more posts than normal users is that they game the system. I don't know whether they've formed a left-wing cabal (or even if one exists), but gaming the system is like being "a little bit pregnant"; it leads to great embarrassment.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:36 PM on August 5, 2010


What's really maddening about the soldiers for the right wing is that they really don't want to debate their stances, they just like to repeat them with a few canards that they've been given to support them. Once the discussion gets to the point of illustrating the the canards are just that, it doesn't go any farther. They don't present more data or facts, nor do they admit the accuracy of any other facts that don't conform to their stance. It's like trying to have a discussion with a tape recorder. It becomes clear that their purpose in engaging is not to examine their own beliefs or even test them against others beliefs, but rather to repeat the talking points they've gleaned from the sanctioned right wing outlets in order to let the rest of us in on the gospel. It explains why there is such an overlap with fundies; the blind acceptance of received wisdom coupled with the strong admonition to not consider the alternative fits with both systems of belief.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:39 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thanks Rhaomi. Fascinating stuff.
posted by graventy at 10:46 PM on August 5, 2010


Mental Wimp, I've run into plenty of liberals, progressives, and radical leftists afflicted with the same syndrome. Lots of right-wingers suffer from it, but they don't have a monopoly on it.
posted by twirlip at 11:12 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any facts to support your theory?

Doesn't really belong to me. I don't know who the owners are yet, but I am expecting someone to show up to make a claim at the lost and found soon.

Namespan finished his comment by using the word "amirite."

Yeah, I was also hoping phrases like "otherwise totally unavailable conservative reporting" and "literal ocean" (of metaphorical misinformation) would do it too, but then again, the likes of Tom Lerher have believed in Shepherd's point for 40 years, so maybe it's futile.
posted by namespan at 12:48 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


[blah] amirite?
posted by namespan


no
posted by lodev at 1:45 AM on August 6, 2010


I dislike hard right loony tunes conservative views and the gutter dragging behavior of some of the hard right's SS panzer troop as much as the next man, I'd guess.

However, St Alia posted a comment that the Cordoba center proposal is tone deaf, and regardless whether you think that's racist/bigoted or recognition that polls show a sizable minority of New Yorkers would agree, and she's basically hounded into submission. Where every word is parsed, multiple cites demanded, various motives freely put on her, and user upon user piling in.

The blue is leagues apart from Digg, don't get me wrong, but it is just as able to enact its own form of censorship. Almost nobody would dare venture a similar view again for fear of being attacked in the same way. Which is a shame, because while I think the consensus view is often correct here, it would be hugely arrogant to think it's *always* correct.

Now, whether you see this as a straight up victory for anti-bigotry or another version of censorship is a matter of politics, but whichever way it was a pretty unedifying sight from the sidelines.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:50 AM on August 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


Me: There is ultimately only one response to this: every right-wing post on a social media site is now suspect. I am sincerely sorry, non-media-gaming conservatives, but that is what comes from not denouncing these people.

twirlip: So you're going to use the behavior of a small cabal of assholes as a pretext to dismiss every political opinion that doesn't conform to your biases? Do you really think that's a good idea?

It's not dismissing political arguments but political arguers. The arguments themselves may or may not be true, although if they have to resort to foolish games to trick people into believing them they can't have a lot of confidence in their power to convince. Anyway, I was partly kidding. But not entirely.

If you find out that your bank web site has been hacked by an outside party, it lessens your trust in that bank. But if you find out that bank web sites are intrinsically insecure, then it lessens your trust in bank websites. If you found out that banks are insecure, as a basic fact of their existence, then you don't trust banks.

If you discover that you have been taken advantage of, it makes you less interested in engaging with/accepting/believing the thing that led to the situation. This is the very epitome of rational behavior; if you get bitten, you become shy.

Fact: Digg was gamed by a bunch of conservative assholes. Fact: while their accounts may end up being banned, the whole scheme, now demonstrated as viable, will probably happen again. Conclusion: now, every time I see someone express a conservative opinion on a social media site, the thought will be in the back of my mind: is this a gamer? Is this someone trying to bilk me into believing they are part of a groundswell of opinion?

Now that I think of it, I do seem to have noticed an upswing of conservative commenters on Metafilter lately. Is it overflow from these guys trying to branch out from Digg? It is paranoia, sure, but in cases of limited information some paranoia is unavoidable, even wise. Trust is a zero-sum game: by gaming the system over at Digg, these assholes have effectively lessened the willingness of everyone to listen to conservative beliefs. They took a large short-term advantage there, but traded it for a small long-term disadvantage everywhere. You can't change the world with dirty tricks; any advances you make using them are illusory, no one's minds will be changed except maybe through peer pressure, and that only lasts as long as you're in earshot.

If they hadn't been discovered then they would have gone right on gaming Digg's system, and that's what adds the uncertainty, that's why my good will has been so sorely tried by this. If you are going to fight in the war of ideas then do it honestly; these cheap tricks ultimately only hurt your side.
posted by JHarris at 1:59 AM on August 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


PS: If anyone has any doubts about this whole thing, I still have access to the searchable DP message archive and can quote any material you'd be interested in reading.

Searchable archives are the way to go - I'd put them online somewhere ASAP. Make them browsable rather than a giant wall of text (like Elena's Inbox) for maximum accessibility, but also as a flat file database for people who want to do their own analysis. Open-sourcing your evidence will give your story much stronger legs.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:18 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


St Alia posted a comment... ...and she's basically hounded into submission.

Not to have this argument again, but she's hounded for taking no effort to explain or defend her statement, not for making it in the first place. "This is just what I believe" is not a defence, because in order to be treated as a reasonable person, you have to have expressible reasons for believing what you do. It's that simple.
posted by cthuljew at 2:34 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


cthuljew: I get that, and I understand it. But at the same time, lots of statements made from a different viewpoint aren't subjected to that kind of aggressive scrutiny, although may be equally contentious/specious/bigoted. Also, if you've been piled on it's almost impossible to say anything that's not going to fan flames further than "I totally retract."

St Alia's comment was, certainly by the standards of internet chat, quite tame. I'm aware she had form, but the reaction wasn't just "politely explain, please" but more akin to a white blood cell attack on an infectious disease.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:25 AM on August 6, 2010


Isn't it terrible when a site that was supposed to be about finding interesting stuff on the web gets turned into a mouthpiece for one political side.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:44 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


St. Alia's comment attacked the builders of a Muslim community center because she felt they weren't being respectful of New Yorkers' religious bigotry. Of course people jumped all over that comment, and rightly so.

it's almost impossible to say anything that's not going to fan flames further than "I totally retract."

Yes, an apology would have been appropriate. Instead, St. Alia tried to frame it as a disagreement of opinion, then drew an analogy between all Muslims and murderers, blamed Allah for 9/11, and ended by saying that Muslims need to be "culturally sensitive" so as not to offended bigots.
posted by ryanrs at 4:48 AM on August 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


So gaming Google to link "miserable failure" to George Bush is funny right? And gaming digg to promote a right wing view is deeply worrying and offensive.

Yet more metafilter hypocrisy.
posted by seanyboy at 5:03 AM on August 6, 2010


And, ryanrs, for all that, she's actually trying to represent the views of x% of people who believe something similar. I don't agree with it, but I'm interested in hearing a view that might be what 36% of New Yorkers might think.

At base, she was cackhandedly explaining the issue in fairly mild terms as one of an emotional, rather than rational reaction. My point isn't whether the viewpoints she represented are bigoted. They are. But the counterreaction she got was utterly disproportionate to what she was saying and, in effect, amounted to a form of censorship: a pissing contest in which various people could showboat their own credentials while kicking someone several times.

Anyway, I'm derailing the OP. I'll leave you the last word if you wish, rather than carry on things here.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:10 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Good thing no one has read digg in over a year.
posted by Eideteker at 5:35 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, St Alia posted a comment that the Cordoba center proposal is tone deaf, and regardless whether you think that's racist/bigoted or recognition that polls show a sizable minority of New Yorkers would agree, and she's basically hounded into submission.

I brought up the same point in the MeTa thread and it was interesting to see how it was never really addressed. Echo chambers exist on every side.
posted by nomadicink at 5:45 AM on August 6, 2010


So gaming Google to link "miserable failure" to George Bush is funny right? And gaming digg to promote a right wing view is deeply worrying and offensive.

It's not the message, it's the medium.

One of these two things was (I'm presuming here) not the result of a year-long, highly organized effort. One of these two things involves mob mentality, harassment, intimidation, etc. One of these two things has far more impact than the other. Linking "Miserable Failure" unidirectionally to "George Bush" was a web toy: searching for "George Bush" on Google (a far more common, legitimate theory) did not cause Google to reply, "miserable failure.

This is something different.
posted by Vetinari at 5:52 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guys, guys, guys. Come on, you know that "liberals do it to" is just untrue. After all,
I’m amazed at their lack of organization. If they had half a wit among them they could bury any and every submission we have but as in real life I guess, liberals just roll with the tide through Digg like they do in real life. They have no work ethic, no core values and no common sense beneath the paper thin liberal skin they cover themselves with.
We're just too used to welfare to get anything done!
posted by muddgirl at 5:54 AM on August 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


This should not be a surprise, and here's why.

Digg, and the internet in general, are by their very nature an Intellectual Zone where the communications medium favours rational, humanistic, egalitarian discourse. It's text. It must be typed; it must be put into sensible sentences, with words strung end-to-end, with reasonable grammar and some kind of driving thought to hold it together. Otherwise it's gibberish.

Text written by people on the left is often well-reasoned, because many arguments on the left are based in rationality. It is possible to explain, with words alone, the left viewpoint. They are rational, cogent arguments. They hold water, they make sense; they start from simple basic principles.

But take a step back: there are people for whom rational discourse holds little sway; the proper way to transfer information for these people is through fear, commands and moral imperatives. This is a pretty classical definition of the "conservative" creature: a tradition & authority based belief system.

The web removes all of the in-person meta-messages that are necessary for transferring the conservative's non-rational, tradition-based motivations. Without the fear of group shunning, retributive physical injury, the stentorian voice of authoritatively delivered commands and those oh-so-important winks, nudges, subtle shoulder rubs and icy glares that the moral imperateurs depend upon to make those messages stick, the web is a woefully inadequate communications medium to them.

The Bible alone is a jumble of often conflicting thoughts and ideas. It takes a preacher to make it stick, by reinforcing the key agenda items again and again until those ideas are deeply rooted below the rational defences of the mind. Without a preacher, without a church, there is no religion.

But conservatives cannot be heard in 2010 if they don't use the web. So they find themselves forced to use a rational medium to try to transfer their moral message. And they find themselves failing, time and again, because without those vital in-person overloads, their words are empty and hollow. Without the threats, there is no force. Commands without authority; vox-pops without the spittle.

Sure, sites like Free Republic are examples of conservative textual communication, but lots of the text there is just, in a very real sense, preaching to the choir. There is no need for rational explanation. Everyone believes the same thing. The moral imperative has already been delivered in-person.

So conservatives wishing to engage with liberals online must turn to en-masse bullying (on digg and other sites) and shouting-down, because there is no other effective means for them to express their viewpoint.

They do not have words that will convince, because words alone cannot convey the conservative viewpoint. And so: the digging/burying, the bullying, the banning, the shouting, the buckshot trolls on every comment board on every mass-media site on the net. There is no other approach for them that has any effect at all. And while shouting doesn't often convince, it does dampen communication of opposing viewpoints, which is almost as important. Shouting also allows conservatives to identify each other so they can bunch up.

So, when conservatives say the web has a Liberal bias, they're right.
Because they can't transfer their tradition and morality through words (the web) alone.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:56 AM on August 6, 2010 [34 favorites]


So conservatives wishing to engage with liberals online must turn to en-masse bullying (on digg and other sites) and shouting-down, because there is no other effective means for them to express their viewpoint.

With respect, this is rubbish. It's a rather self-serving characterization of conservatives that is no more helpful than Rush Limbaugh's characterization of liberals as America-hating hippies.

Sites like Free Republic are, of course, examples of conservative textual communication but they are also meeting points for people on the extreme edges. Left or right, conservative or progressive, the arguments will tend to thin out as one moves more to the margins.

If you think text written by people on the left is inherently well-reasoned, I'd suggest spending some time around the fringes of student radicalism. It's often just as emotional, as economically and socially illiterate.

And in this particular case, the kind of person whose life's work is to spend all day gaming Digg probably isn't going to be a reasonable comparison with a well educated, reasonable person who argues liberal viewpoints from facts.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:08 AM on August 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


someone's been drinking the koolaid.

When do we get to the part where we tell people that liberals never firebombed a building they don't morally believe in because, unlike conservatives, liberals never resort to violence.
posted by seanyboy at 6:10 AM on August 6, 2010


No one's forcing you to read Metafilter, seanyboy. Don't you have anything nice to say at all? Sometimes I take a break and it improves my outlook quite a bit.
posted by muddgirl at 6:12 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Digg, and the internet in general, are by their very nature an Intellectual Zone where the communications medium favours rational, humanistic, egalitarian discourse.

Usenet proved that theory wrong 20 years ago.
posted by nomadicink at 6:20 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


These motherfuckers... I envy their free time.
posted by Mister_A at 6:22 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


If liberals are going to get lumped in with bomb-throwing radicals, then conservatives should get lumped in with fascists. Fair's fair.

...hmm, looks like I get to lump you in with the KKK then. Keen!

Or would you rather the BNP? Yeah, I think we'll run with that one.

Although, truth be told, the Falange had better outfits. You might prefer them.

See how much fun this conflation game is? Whee!
posted by aramaic at 6:26 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


[Looks like it's pretty much stopped already, but please don't take this any further in a "let's discuss non-present users and other threads" direction. I know the subject is by definition a bit meta but that's still not really okay.]
posted by cortex at 6:31 AM on August 6, 2010


Sounds like she's a loser with nothing better to do than internet shenanigans.

Really? I mean... really? When a small group of people get very, very good at manipulating a website that millions of people use as their main source of news by publicizing fringe opinions and making them out to be the view of the majority, I find that kind of problematic. But that's just me.
posted by Phire at 6:46 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got loads of nice things to say.

Unfortunately, one of them isn't "It's only the right wing that does stuff like this, and it's not a small group of them, They're all at it. I blame Fox."
posted by seanyboy at 6:57 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Digg, and the internet in general, are by their very nature an Intellectual Zone where the communications medium favours rational, humanistic, egalitarian discourse

Ah, but notice how the trends have shifted in the past fifteen years (shifted towards the right). Why? Because the web is more accessible to the unwashed masses than it has ever been. Twitter from your cell phone. Facebook from your iPad. As the devices that connect to the internet become more user friendly, the intellectual divide gets more and more blurred. The intellectual walls that were previously too high to scale for the average frothing Republican moron are falling, slowly and steadily.

I blame Apple.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:03 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


aramaic. I never lumped liberals in with bomb throwing radicals. My main problem is with a hypocrisy that somehow manages to categorise this kind of stunt as purely right wing.

Emotionally, I feel the Digg story is a pretty appalling thing, but apart from "User TOS" and other nebulous reasoning, there's been nothing to convince me that this isn't any different to the "hacking" the left routinely engage in.

If it aint illegal (and it looks like some of the territory they're moving into is illegal), then why shouldn't they try and game Digg.
posted by seanyboy at 7:07 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing is lame, but I found this comment on reddit pretty funny:

So wait... a group of like minded people banded together to advance stories they like and bury stories they don't like on a site designed to allow people to band together and advance stories they like and bury stories they don't like?
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:12 AM on August 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


This goes a long way to explaining the general flavour of the CBC's online comment sections.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:33 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Isn't it terrible when a site that was supposed to be about finding interesting stuff on the web gets turned into a mouthpiece for one political side."

I see what you did there, TheophileEscargot!
posted by etherist at 7:37 AM on August 6, 2010


BTW - There's a simple solution to this sort of problem. If people couldn't bury - If they could only digg, then you'd get a much more representative flavour on the site.
posted by seanyboy at 7:42 AM on August 6, 2010


My main problem is with a hypocrisy that somehow manages to categorise this kind of stunt as purely right wing.

Can you cite someone, anyone, in this thread saying that? Not that I think "but the left does it too!" is a valid argument or mitigates this bullshit at all.
posted by Challahtronix at 8:04 AM on August 6, 2010


Rhaomi, I'd dump those emails to text & post a torrent. Making then into a searchable, indexed website would be awesome, but I'd worry about those asshats trying to DOS my server.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:04 AM on August 6, 2010


Can you cite someone, anyone, in this thread saying that? Not that I think "but the left does it too!" is a valid argument or mitigates this bullshit at all.

Well, if this becomes about ideology at all, it is somewhat suggesting that. Because the fact of the matter is that gaming the system has been clearly documented on all sides of the spectrum. So the right response here isn't to use it as an opportunity to throw mud at people whose motives we doubt, but perhaps just to suggest that everyone knock it off, as this is an example of someone again trying to game the system, not that conservatives specifically are gaming the system.

Or don't do that, if deep down you find these kinds of concerns about social networking sites are a somewhat ridiculous way to take the pulse of our social discourse.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:11 AM on August 6, 2010


When do we get to the part where we tell people that liberals never firebombed a building they don't morally believe in because, unlike conservatives, liberals never resort to violence.

...

I never lumped liberals in with bomb throwing radicals. My main problem is with a hypocrisy that somehow manages to categorise this kind of stunt as purely right wing.
That seems a bit disingenuous; at the very least, you lumped bomb-throwing radicals in with the larger set of liberals. Your point is a good one, though, and it's the same thing that occurs on the right. Each "side" feels that its well-behaved put-upon moderates are the norm, while the other side's assholes are representative.

Now, as someone who used to be a staunch ideological conservative and ended up drifting leftwards after becoming disillusioned with the profound intellectual dishonesty I encountered there, I have some pre-existing biases. I honestly do believe that the ideological camp that I left behind does engage in this sort of stuff on a broader scale. Of course, that's ultimately too susceptible to confirmation bias to be useful for anything but "Who's worse? WHO'S WORSE?" arguments.

The biggest danger -- for any "side" in a larger debate -- is the 'epistemic closure' that so many people are talking to inside the conservative movement. Deciding that all of the people on the other "side" are manipulative liars who never speak the truth and always act in bad faith is a fundamentally bad tipping point. It means closure, it means othering, and it means that it's easier to rationalize the kind of stuff that these kids did.
posted by verb at 8:12 AM on August 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


seanyboy: "My main problem is with a hypocrisy that somehow manages to categorise this kind of stunt as purely right wing."

And that would be because... this particular stunt we are talking about was pulled by a group with a right-wing agenda.

seanyboy: "[...] there's been nothing to convince me that this isn't any different to the "hacking" the left routinely engage in. "

Cites, please.

seanyboy: "If it aint illegal (and it looks like some of the territory they're moving into is illegal), then why shouldn't they try and game Digg."

Because it's extremely unethical? Because it goes against the principles of free political speech? Because it gives a false impression of prevalent opinions?
posted by PontifexPrimus at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just emailed the people handling the archived data to see if they're planning some kind of public release. I have access to the last few months of activity in a shared email account, but not the complete data dump. Last I heard, they were considering posting the dump through the major file-sharing services, but still needed to figure out proper formatting and such. I'm not sure what form the archived data is in, so I can't say how long that might take.

Also, they wanted to strip personal information from the archive in order to discourage stalking and harassment, which is a pretty tall order for a 40,000-message corpus. Given the kind of heinous shit these people pulled -- pretending to be black to falsely accuse others of racism, mining social networking profiles of enemies for embarrassing material to distort and harass with, coordinating "false flag" sexual harassment by pretend liberal users to discredit them as a whole, discussing the setting up of a faux-liberal clone of their group populated with impostors to frame their critics for their own behavior, etc., etc., etc. -- I'm wondering if they deserve being spared the effort.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:33 AM on August 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


After the article on AlterNet went up, one of them posted a terse "WE'VE BEEN EXPOSED!!!!"

Which goes to show, they knew they were doing something wrong. They knew that the ideas that they were promoting were so bereft of value that they had to game the system to get people to pay attention, and they did it anyway.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the current state of the Right.

That said; you can all soon expect to see my evidence of a massive conspiracy here on Metafilter to promote an agenda of cooking and recipe exchanging.
posted by quin at 8:34 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you can't come up with a truthful argument in favor of your position, at least make the effort of finding some bogus cites to back it up with. In a world with timecube, finding at least one person who agrees with even the most crack-pot theory is only a google away.

Because winning an argument on the internet is the most important thing you will do with your life today. And if you lose the argument, the men in black will be there soon to take you off-line permanently. This is the stuff that matters people! Damn the truth, full speed the rhetoric, lives are on the line.
posted by nomisxid at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem with cites here is that there's always going to be people saying "ahh - but this is different because..."

This sort of proves my main point, but it's extremely frustrating because it transfers my more general point towards trying to prove "thing a" has something in common with "thing b"

Anyway - A couple of examples. Feel free to refudiate these as being completely different because of some technical point.

Palin's webmail hacked
Hacked GOP site infects people with malware
Cash Gordon site backfires
The aforementioned "miserable failure" googlebomb
metafilter accuses of trolling; hounds out members it does not agree with.
Anonymous vs Scientology (Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented)
Donor database stolen from IT illiterate republican's website

If a modern day Ken Kesey pulled this stunt on a Fox News website, or 4Chan took it upon themselves to push left wing stories up Digg, you'd be clapping them.

In fact - I believe I've responded to several tweets asking me to get on to a right wing newspapers website and vote against something I don't believe in. This skews the opinion polls away from what the readership believes, but disproportionately so. When several hundred thousand crowdsourced twitterers descend on a poll, the result isn't what the website wants, but more importantly, it isn't representative of public opinion.
posted by seanyboy at 8:59 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which goes to show, they knew they were doing something wrong. They knew that the ideas that they were promoting were so bereft of value that they had to game the system to get people to pay attention, and they did it anyway.

Hate to find myself arguing for the so-called "Right" here, but I must take issue with this extrapolation ... and reword it as such:

OF COURSE THEY knew they were doing something AGAINST THE RULES. They BELIEVED that the ideas that they were promoting were so IMPORTANT that they had to game the system to get people to pay attention.

Doesn't excuse the transgression; does suggest that THEY are not a cabal of Star Chamber types ... but rather, just another crowd who genuinely believe they're right about stuff that matters to them.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's easy to pull examples of non-reasoned frothy rhetoric from both fringes.

The problem is that the fringe on the right goes all the way to the center.
posted by Aquaman at 9:00 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pontifex Primus: Just to respond to your other points.

And that would be because... this particular stunt we are talking about was pulled by a group with a right-wing agenda.
But people are stating that this sort of stuff only comes from the right. I don't have a problem with the story, or it being on metafilter. I have a problem with the above normal quotient of holier-than-thouness.

Because it's extremely unethical? Because it goes against the principles of free political speech? Because it gives a false impression of prevalent opinions?
1. Not sure how it goes against the principles of free political speech as Digg is a privately owned company. 2. Is there any politiacally charged entity out there that doesn't try and give a false impression of prevalent opinion? 3. I agree that it's unethical. I'm just saying it isn't illegal.

(Actually - I'm wondering if the TOS for a website can be a legal document. Anyone know that?)
posted by seanyboy at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2010


Hacked GOP site infects people with malware
...
The aforementioned "miserable failure" googlebomb
...
Anonymous vs Scientology (Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented)
...
Donor database stolen from IT illiterate republican's website
seanyboy, I really want to back you up here in the discussion of the dangers of confirmation bias and outgroup homogeneity bias but you're not making it easy with this kind of stuff.

'Hacked GOP site infected with malware' is a case of a globally active automated worm infecting an insecure GOP site, not any political attack. A cursory review of the article makes that obvious. The 'Donor database' wasn't hacked -- it was posted on a publicly accessible web site without any security controls, and was subsequently downloaded. The 'miserable failure' Google bomb was a sophomoric web-joke, roughly equivalent to Rush Limbaugh convincing people to call Obama 'The One.' Pretending that it was a deliberate campaign of misinformation and lies is absurd. And Scientology vs. Anonymous? You're saying that "people with left-wing views were probably represented" is an example of left-wing attacks on right-wingers?
Anyway - A couple of examples. Feel free to refudiate these as being completely different because of some technical point.
seanyboy, again I want to emphasize that your broader point is important, but you are lying in order to make it. You listed bad things that happened to conservatives and said that they were examples of liberals doing bad things. That's a lie, and you're making it easier for the people you're complaining about to ignore you and other conservative voices in the future. That's regrettable.

Talk about the dude who wanted to 'bring down the tea party' by going to rallies dressed as a Nazi and pretending to be one of the protestors, okay? It's one dude, and he got fired for it, but at least it's an actual example of the kind of tit-for-tat both-sides-do-it stuff that is needed to support the premise you're advancing.
If a modern day Ken Kesey pulled this stunt on a Fox News website, or 4Chan took it upon themselves to push left wing stories up Digg, you'd be clapping them.
Come on, seanyboy. The point you were making is an important one. This type of comment is nothing more than a lazy assumption of bad faith, and it is an example of the dangers of defensive thought-closure, rather than a warning to avoid it.
posted by verb at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2010 [23 favorites]


seanyboy, again I want to emphasize that your broader point is important, but you are lying in order to make it.

Not surprising to hear.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:28 AM on August 6, 2010


seanyboy, again I want to emphasize that your broader point is important, but you are lying in order to make it.

Not surprising to hear.
goddamnit, that's what I'm talking about. conservatives say that about liberals, liberals say that about conservatives. It's a plague at this point. Look at the mosque thread -- how many people said "Most New Yorkers support the mosque" in that thread, even though the majority oppose it? I know I did, reflexively, when I was thinking of Manhattanites. Others brought up the point and it was ignored. By the standards of discourse that are becoming normed in our society, that was lying to make support for the mosque sound more mainstream than it is.

Empathy and assumption of good faith is one of the basic prerequisites for productive -- hell, just civil -- discussion. You can believe that a movement is infected by lying ideologues, but when you are talking to one person, discussing issues that you care about, either extend the courtesy you would want them to extend you, or flag it and move on.

Sorry for the rant. I'm just starting to grind my teeth at this cyclical thing.
posted by verb at 9:35 AM on August 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sorry for the rant. I'm just starting to grind my teeth at this cyclical thing.

Whether he is conservative or not is not why I'm not surprised that he's lying. No need to grind any teeth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


seanyboy: My main problem is with a hypocrisy that somehow manages to categorise this kind of stunt as purely right wing.

me: Can you cite someone, anyone, in this thread saying that?

seanyboy: But people are stating that this sort of stuff only comes from the right.

Bolding mine. Again, who are these people who are saying this is only a problem on the right?
posted by Challahtronix at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2010


Gotta say - this is exactly why I joined Metafilter. I don't think I would've found this article on my own and I can't imagine you'd get this level of reasoned discussion about how digg got censored by a bunch of organised crazy people anywhere else on the internets. Well worth five bucks.

+10
posted by zennish at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2010


Whether he is conservative or not is not why I'm not surprised that he's lying. No need to grind any teeth.
Heh. Touché.
posted by verb at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2010


Where is the aforementioned MetaTalk thread about people gaming sites in this manner?
posted by jtron at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2010


Where is the aforementioned MetaTalk thread about people gaming sites in this manner?
The MeTa thread was about the Cordoba house mosque thread. It's a pretty good example of how ideological momentum can skew discussion (and cause a group of people who agree with each other to ignore unpleasant facts and bowl over one or two people who disagree). It's not, however, an example of a small group of people deliberately trying to manufacture ideological momentum on a site in order to ensure that effect kicks in.
posted by verb at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you think digg is a really important opinion maker that you need to control, why not just buy it? The way Conde Nast bought reddit amd Rupert Murdoch bought myspace.
posted by jfuller at 10:27 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Huh, really? I was talking about the thread shinybaum mentioned here:
Heh. Guess that whole MeTa thread on how stupid people are for thinking conservatives might pay people to game stuff wasn't so silly after all. I need one o' them snark retractors.
posted by shinybaum at 7:34 PM
- I guess I missed that stuff in the Cordoba House thread. Thanks!
posted by jtron at 10:28 AM on August 6, 2010


Not surprising to hear.

Cut it out.
posted by cortex at 10:29 AM on August 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: Isn't it terrible when a site that was supposed to be about finding interesting stuff on the web gets turned into a mouthpiece for one political side.

I see what you're failing to do there.

seanyboy: So gaming Google to link "miserable failure" to George Bush is funny right? And gaming digg to promote a right wing view is deeply worrying and offensive.

What? Who here said that Googlebombing isn't a bad thing?

Yet more metafilter hypocrisy.

Political memepushing is also bad.

If you think text written by people on the left is inherently well-reasoned, I'd suggest spending some time around the fringes of student radicalism. It's often just as emotional, as economically and socially illiterate.

Your example comparing Free Republic to flakey liberals isn't untrue, but is irrelevant. We're talking about people actively trying to game Digg.

If it aint illegal (and it looks like some of the territory they're moving into is illegal), then why shouldn't they try and game Digg.

Um, because morality isn't the same as legality? Because it's impossible to legislate morals? Because by letting groups like this get away with their little idiot games it deafens political speech, but by actively opposing them in the same manner will ultimately turn all good things into crapslinging festivals?

If it's not illegal, then why wouldn't you, purely hypothetically, try to do the same thing elsewhere, such as, oh, I don't know, how about Metafilter?

SpacemanStix: Because the fact of the matter is that gaming the system has been clearly documented on all sides of the spectrum.

Now it's your turn to cite.

seanyboy, yet again: The problem with cites here is that there's always going to be people saying "ahh - but this is different because..."

Maybe it is different! There is nothing you can say that can be a final, conclusive indication of total ultimate rightness. You could always be lying, or disingenuous. But you could also have a good point too. Make the citations, and hash it out! Saying that shows only that you try to insulate your statements from criticism preemptively.

(Of course, it turns out that most of the links were bad because they were disingenuous, as verb thankfully has already pointed out.)
posted by JHarris at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am not sure I understand the uproar. In an Internet world of black hat SEO scams, etc, I just assume all link sites like reddit and digg, etc are gamed. If people who use them don't find things that they want to see (or match their ideology) they will probably move on to a site that more closely feeds them the things they want to read. If that happens a site will turn into an echo chamber and it will become useless to anyone except the faithful. If advertisers notice that their ads aren't working on such a site, or worse, that their ads are being identified with a site's user base that may hurt their image, they will bolt and the site will collapse.

As someone said above, any site that allows users to "bury" an article is asking to be gamed. Same with a site that allows positive karma/favorite/digg etc to propel a link up the charts is asking to be gamed.

As much as I dislike the favorite "feature" on Metafilter, using it does not move a post up in the rankings or make another person's contribution fall off the site.
posted by terrapin at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you're going to use the behavior of a small cabal of assholes as a pretext to dismiss every political opinion that doesn't conform to your biases? Do you really think that's a good idea?

Actually, not to put too much of a point on it, but it really is: you can be assured that 99% of the time, some conservative outrage or another that suddenly appears on cable news and being vented by your conservative uncle is just a talking-point-of-the-day meme being pushed through fax machines across the country based on the paid-work of an oppo-researcher who works at a think tank and was reformatted into a press release. The proper response to some right-wing claptrap appearing on a "social media" site is, "this is manipulative bullshit." And I don't see why that's not the correct reaction. Cordoba House is a case in point: no one really knew or cared outside of a lower-Manhattan zoning board until a bunch of right-wingers made it a cause celebré and suddenly little old ladies from North Carolina were telling us their heartfelt opinions on the matter.
posted by deanc at 11:25 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wish every politics-related thread lately didn't make me immediately think of the last politics book I read; I hate feeling like a zealot, especially one with a short attention span
posted by jtron at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2010


Where is the aforementioned MetaTalk thread about people gaming sites in this manner?

The thread that shinybaum is referring to is likely this thread, in which she appears to be referencing her own comment in it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2010


SpacemanStix: Because the fact of the matter is that gaming the system has been clearly documented on all sides of the spectrum.

JHarris: Now it's your turn to cite.


Hey JHarris. I was under the assumption that it just happens, and it's not really news. Anyone who has been paying attention to some of these sites over time (not that you haven't) has seen polls taken over by groups of people with a less conservative bent (on reddit, 4chan, wherever), simply to make a political/social point. You get large enough groups from anywhere, and this kind of thing is going to happen within a particular subset of that group. Communities have set out to do this kind of thing intentionally and publically, without really hiding it. It's probably socilogically unavoidable for a large enough set of people.

But that wasn't the point, really, as I don't much care that this happens; because it isn't surprising, and in the end it's probably unavoidable. And I do trust most people to do their business in good faith. My point was that it's not good to use this or any one phenomena as an example of how one side is unethical, because you can't really say much about a particular group based on observing an isntance of a particular phenomenon that seems to be universal to any large enough group. You will always have someone within any large enough group that will make a power play, if available, to give an ideological advantage.

But perhaps this isn't too controversial.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2010


Thanks, BP! Y'know, you could've messaged me over at the Secret Board where we in the Metafilter Lefty Brigade plan our oppressive groupthink strategies :p
posted by jtron at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, BP! Y'know, you could've messaged me over at the Secret Board where we in the Metafilter Lefty Brigade plan our oppressive groupthink strategies :p
posted by jtron


We actually just call that "The Blue."
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:13 PM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey JHarris. I was under the assumption that it just happens, and it's not really news. Anyone who has been paying attention to some of these sites over time (not that you haven't) has seen polls taken over by groups of people with a less conservative bent (on reddit, 4chan, wherever), simply to make a political/social point.
A couple points -- telling people to vote in open public polls, and creating an organized campaign of deception in order to steer the content of a major online news site's front page, aren't really in the same class. Yes, this kind of thing is common blackhat SEO thinking, but hopefully, conservatives don't want to be the blackhat SEO scammers of public discourse.

Second, where did this 4chan/liberalism thing come into being? They're the Lulz Party, and AFAIK their platform has always been 'Porn, Anime, and Video Games.' They stuffed an Oprah poll, and Oprah supported Obama -- does that mean they're conservatives?
posted by verb at 12:15 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


They often serve the same purpose, though, to bend results that may not reflect true public opinion, to make a counter point. And if the major difference is that efforts are public versus private, well, that doesn't create much of an ethical division, really, where one is okay, and the other is worthy of public outrage.

To be clear, I don't like the efforts that happened here. But if we are going to show intent, I think it's clear that no one is really above working the system, if it benefits their side. And I really doubt that the rabbit hole that was uncovered here is really too low for any one particular group, if it's large enough.

where did this 4chan/liberalism thing come into being

I just wouldn't put them in a conservative camp, although perhaps not the best off-the-cuff example..
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:29 PM on August 6, 2010


4chan doesn't really have a politics; they mostly do things because it seems funny. It's a sort of comedic nihilism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


They (not the same "they" of course) were doing this to Slashdot ten years ago. Complex, sophisticated automatic account creation, maintenance, and mass-moderation tools. I personally saw and used them, and they were way beyond anything I had imagined was being done. There used to be a website you could log in to, choose any comment you liked on slashdot, and give it any number of legit moderation points you wanted to. The code would take care of the rest. It created and maintained its own stable of sock puppet accounts, that posted often enough and received enough positive moderation from other sockpuppet accounts to keep their moderating points coming. The system kept track of who had points to give, and apportioned them automatically at the user's direction.

Essentially, without hard online identity, mass moderation systems will never work. That was what I took away from K5 as well. I, the site owner, don't need to know anything about you, except that you are a single flesh and blood you. Until we have that ability, any voting or moderation online can be assumed to be the result of gaming as soon as it's valuable enough to someone to do so.

Until sites can require some kind of "RealMe ID" in order to access voting tools, this sort of thing is inevitable and should not be a surprise to anyone.
posted by rusty at 12:53 PM on August 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


Self-proclaimed conservatives have argued that while 4chan does not have a coherent politics, the community is actually conservative in nature and thus ripe for conservatives to bring over to their side. To wit:
..even if you accept the framing of such sites as hotbeds of craziness and rabid disorder, there is a method to their madness. As for what that madness is, once you get past the persistent ironic glorifications of perversity and take a look at how the people who frequent these sites actually behave, and more importantly, who they target, it becomes abundantly clear that not only are the values of such sites fundamentally conservative, but that their communications strategies, even if toned down for a mainstream audience, are nothing less than the perfect weapons for disassembling the Obama Presidency...

While one can disapprove of the tactics used against these institutions/individuals (some of which make the much vilified “enhanced interrogation techniques” look positively benign by comparison), it is worth noting that ultimately, the power of internet goons lies in their ability to enforce social norms against the most flagrantly vile members of society through private sanction – something which conservatives from Russell Kirk and Irving Kristol to Tom Coburn and Dick Cheney have endorsed.
Granted, the person advocating this was a crazy, annoying right-wing kid fresh out of college, but it does give you an idea about the sort of mindsets that conservatives identify with: it's all about a form of bullying to enforce conservative norms. So while 4chan is neither conservative nor liberal, the value system of harassment and public shaming and bullying of chosen scapegoats can be said to be part and parcel of the conservative mindset.
posted by deanc at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2010


To me, 4chan is like Digg - a resource that can be utilized by various agendas, rather than a collective mass with the same agenda.

Any individual member of 4chan is like an upvote or downvote on Digg. Manipulating 4chan is harder than manipulating votes, but perhaps more influential. I got a real good look at this process during the Anonymous vs. Scientology brou-ha-ha.
posted by muddgirl at 12:56 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


They often serve the same purpose, though, to bend results that may not reflect true public opinion, to make a counter point. And if the major difference is that efforts are public versus private, well, that doesn't create much of an ethical division, really, where one is okay, and the other is worthy of public outrage.
Just to be clear:
  1. An organization puts up a public poll, and another group encourages its members to vote in that poll (I'm not talking about ballot-stuffing, just encouraging people to vote in that poll).
  2. An organization provides a news feed and allows users to collectively vote on what ones are most important, and another group conducts an organized campaign of lies, frame-ups, and false-flag outrages to hide news written by their ideological enemies.
You can say that both examples are sub-optimal, but I think it takes a really disingenuous reading of both situations to pretend that they're comparable. What this group did is not Holocaust-level outrage, but brushing it off as 'Oh, everyone does that - why just the other day someone asked me to vote for gay marriage in an online poll!' is excuse-making.

You're seem to be saying that "People who do things to prove a point" are the problem, and I'm saying that "People who lie, cheat, and frame other people" are the problem.
To be clear, I don't like the efforts that happened here. But if we are going to show intent, I think it's clear that no one is really above working the system, if it benefits their side. And I really doubt that the rabbit hole that was uncovered here is really too low for any one particular group, if it's large enough.
You know, I'm a big proponent of fair-mindedness, but the story here is pretty straightforward: a group of conservatives is caught deliberately and repeatedly lying, creating sock puppets and fake identities to inflate their own numbers and provide strawmen, framing liberals, abusing moderation systems to actively hide news from liberal sources... and that is proof that both liberals and conservatives 'game the system?' Traditionally, one tries to at least cite instances where things like this have happened on the other side before announcing equivalency.
I just wouldn't put [4chan] in a conservative camp, although perhaps not the best off-the-cuff example..
Either would I, but that's the point: 4chan was cited as an example of how liberals do the same thing that the Digg Patriots group did. Have we reached the point where conservatives behaving badly is, in and of itself, proof that liberals behave badly? That's just bizarre.
posted by verb at 12:59 PM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not, however, an example of a small group of people deliberately trying to manufacture ideological momentum on a site in order to ensure that effect kicks in.

Exactly.

But people are stating that this sort of stuff only comes from the right. I don't have a problem with the story, or it being on metafilter. I have a problem with the above normal quotient of holier-than-thouness.

Uh-huh. But the problem I have with your claim is that I can't really imagine it working very well for them. The type of people who make secret rightwing clubhouses so they can plan a campaign to "take over" a media site are the complete opposite of the sorts of people who would belong to a "leftwing" movement.

Thanks, BP! Y'know, you could've messaged me over at the Secret Board where we in the Metafilter Lefty Brigade plan our oppressive groupthink strategies :p
posted by jtron

We actually just call that "The Blue."
posted by haveanicesummer


You see? The "left wing" is just can't keep a secret. And imagine if you actually tried paying them to push a leftie opinion? If George Soros tried to buy them, they'd run screaming to the hills about how their free speech was being repressed. Organizing the left is like herding kittens.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:11 PM on August 6, 2010


Why Does Digg Hate Global Warming?
posted by homunculus at 1:12 PM on August 6, 2010


f advertisers notice that their ads aren't working on such a site, or worse, that their ads are being identified with a site's user base that may hurt their image, they will bolt and the site will collapse. As someone said above, any site that allows users to "bury" an article is asking to be gamed. Same with a site that allows positive karma/favorite/digg etc to propel a link up the charts is asking to be gamed.

Sometimes the point is not to make money, but to influence and coordinate a large number of people.

As much as I dislike the favorite "feature" on Metafilter, using it does not move a post up in the rankings or make another person's contribution fall off the site.

There are people who are using Greasemonkey scripts to customize their view of the site. I think this does have the potential to seriously alter the full-view community tradition.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 PM on August 6, 2010


There are people who are using Greasemonkey scripts to customize their view of the site. I think this does have the potential to seriously alter the full-view community tradition.
True, but the Digg Patriots group was not simply upvoting -- they were burying stories by people they had identified as liberal, and stories from domains they had identified as liberal. For example, the New York Times.

On MetaFilter, this would be equivalent to an organized group of members flagging anything by a set list of users or from a particular list of web sites as offensive, even if they agreed with it. The problem is scale, really: MeFi is big, but unless I'm wrong there is not an automatic 'delete this post, because it's been flagged several times' thing going on behind the scenes.
posted by verb at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2010


Have we reached the point where conservatives behaving badly is, in and of itself, proof that liberals behave badly? That's just bizarre.

This has been going on for a while: in the name of "balance," every right-wing outrage needs an analagous, identical liberal counterpart. Thus, MSNBC must be the mirror image of Fox News. It doesn't matter what the difference in programming and staff and actual reporting is, it just must be like that. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck must have liberal analogues, so Rachael Maddow and Keither Olberman must be the liberal counterparts. "Both sides do it" is a matter of faith, a doctrine that is part and parcel of what is considered "balanced reporting."
posted by deanc at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


fff: The thing about something like this, though, is you don't have to organize "the left." You just have to organize a smallish group of people interested in promoting their views in a formally neutral venue. I can't think of any internet-age examples of similar astroturfing by the left, but I also can't think of any reason it would be outside possibility for it to be done by the left as easily as the right.

Historically there are any number of examples of secretive leftist groups organized to promote their agendas in the wider society, by subterfuge if necessary.

People behave badly. The idea that this could only come from conservatives is a little dehumanizing the enemy and whitewashing the friend for my taste.
posted by rusty at 1:20 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


(To emphasize: my argument is not "both sides do it!" but both sides could just as easily do it. Castigate the right for getting caught doing it, but don't try to make that into an argument that It Can't Happen On My Side.)
posted by rusty at 1:22 PM on August 6, 2010


(To emphasize: my argument is not "both sides do it!" but both sides could just as easily do it. Castigate the right for getting caught doing it, but don't try to make that into an argument that It Can't Happen On My Side.)
Agreed. Earlier in the thread, I argued the same, I was just startled to see the discussion suddenly shift from "Hey, don't say only conservatives do this!" to "Well, this isn't a big deal because liberals do it too," with the only evidence being that conservatives did it. I'm not sure I even have words to properly articulate how bizarre that is.

That said, I always liked K5 and thought the work you did with moderation systems was very interesting. I've spent a lot of time experimenting with moderation and content recommendation tools for Drupal, in part because of my fascination with the stuff you and a few other sites were doing. It's a fascinating problem space, in the same way that search is a fascinating problem space. Lots of opportunity for cool work, with a lot of people trying to game the systems for their own reasons.
posted by verb at 1:26 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back in University I was teamed up in my TA class for Literature with some guy who seemed a bit socially lacking but otherwise normal. Within minutes he started muttering about "liberals" and within half an hour he was angrily shouting at the TA about how she was passing off her liberal tripe to those in the course and that there were to many women in the class.

I had never before been exposed to the use of liberal as some sort of evil word and concept. It's still no where near used as such in Canada (at least in my limited world I'll admit) as it is in the States. I've long thought of FOX as a broadcast from an insane asylum. The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum comes to mind every time.

Its true the line between parody and reality is usually obliterated. If only it was as simple a problem as the SCTV ensemble being unable to parody Three's Company.

Which is why if you use MetaFilter, you better fucking love Apple.

And you better agree that Apple was responsible for the popularity of USB or you're a "hater!"
posted by juiceCake at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2010


Actually, all I've been trying to say is that I'm not fond of blanket statements about entire groups based on one instance. If I gave the impression there was more, I probably wasn't keeping my point very concise.

4chan was cited as an example of how liberals do the same thing that the Digg Patriots group did.

Actually, it was cited as an example of a non-conservative group, as I was going for more of a "human nature" argument to simply show that behavior of this type isn't an issue specific to conservatives. Not that liberals are just as bad (as I have no interest in advancing this type of claim). Again, perhaps not the best example.

and that is proof that both liberals and conservatives 'game the system?'

It was intended to show that it's human nature to game the system, if given the chance; not that they are equivalent instances. And when it's human nature to do so, it's not difficult to extrapolate that given a large enough group, that you'll have people doing lame things like this, at this level. It's ideologically neutral, sociologically probable, and hence not solely a right-wing issue.

Now, is it pretty lame that a right-wing group did this? Yep. Regarding this:

People who lie, cheat, and frame other people" are the problem.

I couldn't agree with you more. My thoughts were more about the way we analyze this issue, rather than whether or not this kind of behavior is justifiable, based on who's doing what and where. Because really, it's not. I have no interest in defending it, because I don't identify with those people. However, in response to it, at some point, it should analyzed in a way that transcends a particular political ideology. Because it's a human problem.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:35 PM on August 6, 2010


This is why favorites are a bad idea - they enable gaming and tend to enforce bias skew. All browsers have bookmarking so why duplicate functionality?
posted by meehawl at 1:36 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


rusty: People behave badly. The idea that this could only come from conservatives is a little dehumanizing the enemy and whitewashing the friend for my taste. ... (To emphasize: my argument is not "both sides do it!" but both sides could just as easily do it. Castigate the right for getting caught doing it, but don't try to make that into an argument that It Can't Happen On My Side.)

I guess rusty said it better than I did. I'm not really interested in promoting much more than was said here.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:38 PM on August 6, 2010


All I want to know is what the extra 'g' is for. If you have to 'digg' something up, should you 'burry' others down? What's that all about?
posted by Elmore at 1:38 PM on August 6, 2010


Actually, it was cited as an example of a non-conservative group, as I was going for more of a "human nature" argument to simply show that behavior of this type isn't an issue specific to conservatives.
I think there were some crossed wires -- seanyboy, earlier in the thread, specifically cited Anonymous vs. Scientology as an example of liberal system-gaming. He mentioned that someone would probably dismiss it "on some technicality," and it really stood out to me as a lazy, arbitrary "They're doing it, too!" gesture.
My thoughts were more about the way we analyze this issue, rather than whether or not this kind of behavior is justifiable, based on who's doing what and where.
Yep -- totally agreed. Realistically, there's been quite a bit of "Hey, don't smear everyone just because of these tools..." discussion. It's the false equivalency stuff, rather than the "Don't smear everyone who's not ingroup," that bothers me.
This is why favorites are a bad idea - they enable gaming and tend to enforce bias skew. All browsers have bookmarking so why duplicate functionality?
That isn't really related to the issue being discussed; one can argue that we shouldn't show the number of favorites, but Digg specifically hides stories that have been 'buried' by enough users, and promotes stories that have been 'Dugg,' so it isn't just an opinion-expression. It controls what content appears on the site.
posted by verb at 1:45 PM on August 6, 2010


The extra "g" is for "gaming."
posted by rusty at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2010


Organizing the left is like herding kittens.

purrrrrrr

Historically there are any number of examples of secretive leftist groups organized to promote their agendas in the wider society, by subterfuge if necessary.

People behave badly. The idea that this could only come from conservatives is a little dehumanizing the enemy and whitewashing the friend for my taste.


Historically, yes. Right now, or in the last forty years? No. Meanwhile the conservatives have been widely known as the party of dirty tricks from Nixon on.
posted by JHarris at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2010


valkyryn: "The problem with a site that is effectively moderated by its users is that it is effectively moderated by its users."

Wait. In March 2009, when drpynchon asked if others had detected an increasing bias in user-moderated sites, you were faintly ridiculing:
No, there is no conspiracy. Yes, it's just you. No, "they" aren't out to get you. Even suggesting that "American conservatives" are halfway organized enough to do something like this at best gives them far too much credit and at worst is downright paranoid.

If you're noticing anything it's simply a response to the trillions in deficit spending proposed in the last two months.

Get a grip.
Does this mean you've changed your position?

Personally, I think a more dangerous form of this swarming groupthink expression behaviour is emerging when these flash mobs are coordinated by technologies paid for, at least in part, by State actors. China is, of course, leading the way here. Welcome to the future: a Web 2.0 made of badgers.
posted by meehawl at 1:57 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


JHarris: Meanwhile the conservatives have been widely known as the party of dirty tricks from Nixon on.

Very true. They have been widely known as that. And it is even largely true, although even I, a Democrat, could not possibly claim that there have been no Democratic dirty tricks since Nixon with a straight face. We should work especially hard not to be blind to the faults of our allies, I think.
posted by rusty at 2:03 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think there were some crossed wires -- seanyboy, earlier in the thread, specifically cited Anonymous vs. Scientology as an example of liberal system-gaming.

I can see how that happened.

It's the false equivalency stuff, rather than the "Don't smear everyone who's not ingroup," that bothers me.

Yep, me too. The equivalency argument doesn't do what most people think it should, anyway, because whether or not everyone does something is irrelevant to whether or not anyone should be doing something. If we're evaluating things from a neutral point of view, the equivalency argument, if established, doesn't isolate us from criticism. It should lead us to say, let's all stop being lame, and I'll go first; not that I should be left off the hook because you are lame, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:05 PM on August 6, 2010


It should lead us to say, let's all stop being lame, and I'll go first; not that I should be left off the hook because you are lame, too.
Amen to that. I think that's one of the things that depressed me so much about the response many liberal friends had to what they saw as "Karl Rove Tactics" -- there was a lot of "Okay, the gloves come off now, we have to play dirty!" At what point is losing to a cheater the best response? Surely, that time must come eventually.
posted by verb at 2:11 PM on August 6, 2010


If you're noticing anything it's simply a response to the trillions in deficit spending proposed in the last two months.

Quoted for hilarity. Quite simply, every time I hear this it gives me a good, hearty laugh. Yep. It's all that deficit spending that's getting everyone so upset. Heh. Still can't believe people buy that stuff, much less say it out loud as though it's an argument.

At what point is losing to a cheater the best response? Surely, that time must come eventually.

Since elections are a zero-sum game, this point is just about never. The proper response to unacceptable tactics by the other side is to up the ante so high that the cost of using them becomes too much to bear. At that point, both sides can agree to stop.
posted by deanc at 2:16 PM on August 6, 2010


Since elections are a zero-sum game, this point is just about never. The proper response to unacceptable tactics by the other side is to up the ante so high that the cost of using them becomes too much to bear. At that point, both sides can agree to stop.
There must come a point at which losing the election to terrible, terrible, evil people is not as bad as becoming a terrible, terrible, evil person. That's what I'm saying.

This weighs heavily on my mind, because a lot of my formative years were spent turning every issue into The Gravest Moral Challenge Of Our Time. Wars, whether they're fought with guns or words, give people an excuse to do things they would otherwise condemn. It's dangerous to suggest that there is anything so important -- whether it's winning an argument or winning an election or winning a war -- that anything goes.

Sometimes the good guys lose. Show of hands -- who's willing to accept that?
posted by verb at 2:26 PM on August 6, 2010


There must come a point at which losing the election to terrible, terrible, evil people is not as bad as becoming a terrible, terrible, evil person. That's what I'm saying.

I have a feeling that as long as we evaluate ethical activities in terms of results, instead of from a virtue perspective (what kind of person am I becoming as I do a particular activity?), it's very possible that few people will ever see themselves as becoming evil in the process, because they are doing something which, at the end, provides a greater good -- namely, my election to stop a more evil person who is running, or something -- regardless of the types of activities that it took to get there. Basically, it'll always be an issue of me being good because I did what it took to beat that other person, who is worse than me. This sounds simplistic, but I think we need to move towards a virtue paradigm for understanding goodness in order to make this work. The virtuous person, in the end, is willing to lose in order to be what a good person is (rather than just asking what a good person does).
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:45 PM on August 6, 2010


There must come a point at which losing the election to terrible, terrible, evil people is not as bad as becoming a terrible, terrible, evil person.

Well, having a terrible, evil person in charge of the country actually kind of sucks, especially if it's their terrible, evil person rather than yours.

Look, obviously, there are limits of things like legality and the like. I believe that when someone asks you to do something violent "for the cause," it's time to get out of there. But the point is to win the election or, at the very least, to set the terms and outline the consequences of the next election. "They bring a knife, you bring a gun," is not a lesson in proper weaponry, but a demonstration of how to teach someone to stop pulling out a knife.

Liberals fall into two categories: policy liberals and temperamental liberals. Are you a liberal because there are policies you want/need enacted, or because you have a generally liberal way of life that you think you should lead? Granted, there is lots of overlap between the two groups, but at a certain point, one has to realize that things like winning elections is a separate skillset and should be divorced from your underlying policy motivations. Elections are about getting power. I realize that liberal policy prescriptions are ultimately about dispersing power, particularly towards people who lack it, but winning elections is going to be antithetical to this-- because you WANT to be that person in power-- and especially because of the zero-sum nature of the two-party system, the conflict of a liberal temperament and the need to get power to enact the liberal policies in going to present a problem.

The reason I'm making this case is because politics is not just an outlet for making you feel good about yourself and how virtuous you are, and you should stop thinking about it like that. Politics also has real world consequences to real live people. Many people are, frankly, going to be fairly uncomfortable with looking the former employees of GM and their contractors in the eye and telling them, "yeah, well, you would have had jobs if our guy had gotten elected, but I just had too much integrity in the election and felt it would be better to lose rather than match my opponent's tactics."

I suppose in a sense that it is perfectly fine to make that choice to choose to lose. However, you are cheating your supporters and someone else who would have been willing to win. And what are you teaching the victor? You're teaching the victor that you'll lie down and accept his terrible onslaught which actually works. So it will be repeated. In fact-- it won't be a terrible onslaught at all, at first. It will start as a small electoral tactic, which you'll be too virtuous to address, which will then prove to your opponent that you're weak, and it will escalate from there.

(granted: one thing about elections is that no one really knows how to win them. you just do what you think will work, and then on election day, you either win and are hailed as a political genius or lose and are blamed for being a doormat or 'going to far.' The sure thing seems to be to be better looking and taller than your opponent, and have economy work in your favor)
posted by deanc at 2:55 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Politics also has real world consequences to real live people.
That's why these Digg Patriot types felt it was necessary to lie, frame liberals, and suppress pro-liberal news items. Because a liberal getting into power has real world consequences, and that must be stopped.
posted by verb at 3:01 PM on August 6, 2010


Gotta say - I'm sort of loving you verb.

The point of bringing up 4chan v scientology is that it's an example of a subversive organised process that most likely includes liberals. The whole point of everything I've said is that this behaviour isn't a right-wing behaviour. Hence phrases like "holier than thou"

I'm not entirely sure either if I disagree with the behaviour of 4chan in this situation. I'm not sure if (other than the politics) I disagree with gaming digg is a bad thing. (The bullying and race stuff is an other thing entirely).

Also - I've been accused of lying. I don't think that's fair. It's pretty hurtful too.
posted by seanyboy at 3:18 PM on August 6, 2010


The point of bringing up 4chan v scientology is that it's an example of a subversive organised process that most likely includes liberals. The whole point of everything I've said is that this behaviour isn't a right-wing behaviour. Hence phrases like "holier than thou"
Sure -- that's bad. But the idea of bringing 4chan into it still baffles me. This story is not about a group of people who gamed a web site, and happened to be conservative: it's about a group of self-identified conservatives who organized a deliberate campaign of deception in order to shape a news site's content. That is the story. Discussing it, and discussing how it reflects on the current state of conservative activism, is not inappropriate or inherently one-sided.

Stepping back for a moment, I didn't see any comments in this thread suggesting that dishonesty is a solely conservative problem. There were plenty of cracks about conservatives, but, you know, it was a bunch of conservatives who were found lying, cheating, and framing other people for ideological reasons. I don't think that knocking on these guys, or noting the bizarre Total War approach that is becoming more and more acceptable in conservative activist circles these days, requires a simultaneous summary of everything bad that liberals have ever done. As Rusty noted, it's important to pay close attention to one's own "side" and not pretend that they are above the fundamental human failings that make this kind of exercise so seductive.
I'm not entirely sure either if I disagree with the behaviour of 4chan in this situation. I'm not sure if (other than the politics) I disagree with gaming digg is a bad thing. (The bullying and race stuff is an other thing entirely).
I'd agree that I don't think it's some kind of terrible, unholy darkness unleashed across the planet. I think it's more interesting from a social software perspective, and because the members of the DiggPatriots repeatedly demonstrate bizarre projection issues: they have to conduct organized campaigns of deception because surely, that is already being done to us!
Also - I've been accused of lying. I don't think that's fair. It's pretty hurtful too.
Apologies if my statement came across as too harsh -- it's possible that the list of events you posted just included lots of unvetted links you grabbed from someone else's complaints about liberal evildoing. (I'm not being arch or sarcastic, btw -- I've fallen prey to the same trap: quickly googling for some supporting links to help make a point, and not realizing that the ones I find were compiled by someone misrepresenting them.) If that's the case, then they were lying by using "Republicans accidentally posting donor lists to public web sites" and "GOP sites getting infected by the Storm botnet" as examples of liberal attacks on conservatives. The Jane Austin Fan Site just got hit by that, too, and I don't think it should be cited as an example of evildoing by Anthony Trollope fans.
posted by verb at 3:56 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


the trillions in deficit spending proposed in the last two months.

Don't you understand? Only deficit spending by the Enemy counts as outrageous. Deficit spending by Us is unremarkable, because We are Against Deficit Spending.

I believe that when someone asks you to do something violent "for the cause," it's time to get out of there.......

is diametrically opposite to your following statement:

........ But the point is to win the election or, at the very least, to set the terms and outline the consequences of the next election. "They bring a knife, you bring a gun," is not a lesson in proper weaponry, but a demonstration of how to teach someone to stop pulling out a knife.

Your position is one that leads directly and almost immediately to violence. If having your side win is more important than anything else, then killing the other side is not a problem. This is precisely the slope that the Republicans are standing on, and slipping further down every day. If we get on it, then really, there is no difference between us, and we become a driving force in the drift toward civil war, rather than a moderating one.

You do have to accept losing to cheaters, if the only response is to cheat. It's not about being holier-than-thou, it's about seeing what the consequences of stepping into the mud are. The Bolsheviks thought they were acting out of motives that justified their actions, and the horror of Stalinism was the result.

This is a case where the slippery slope is real.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:00 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp, I've run into plenty of liberals, progressives, and radical leftists afflicted with the same syndrome. Lots of right-wingers suffer from it, but they don't have a monopoly on it.

Yes, you're probably right, and I'm unaware because I don't really argue with people who agree with me. But my observation is that I haven't noticed anyone espousing some of the extreme conservative positions that is really willing to have a fact-based discussion on this site or any of the others I've visited. St. Alia is not the only one; just about everyone of her persuasion doesn't really want to argue from a fact-based perspective, they just want to shout their beliefs and repeat empty canards and then shrink from addressing counter evidence. What the hell? Pick a topic. Gay marriage, undocumented immigrants, gun control, it doesn't matter, they act the same way.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:03 PM on August 6, 2010


When several hundred thousand crowdsourced twitterers descend on a poll, the result isn't what the website wants, but more importantly, it isn't representative of public opinion.

Okay, sorry, but these sorts of polls aren't representative of public opinion whether or not they've been deliberately gamed. If you believe a poll on a newspaper site represents anything in any way even close to what you'd find if you randomly sampled the population, then you are deluded. And the people, both left and right, who try to game them, or quote them in evidence of something, are similarly deluded.

But of course, you know what Digg is? One huge, continuous, open, self-selecting online poll. It's stupid and wrong that these jerks acted like this. But at a deeper level it's stupid to think that what appears on the front page of Digg is fair, relevant and reflective of wider public interest even in the absence of this sort of activity.

I mean, look at Delicious. The front page "most popular links" on Delicious are 90% SEO crap and content-farm link bait. Does this mean that these are actually the most important things I need to see today? Hell no. Digg has different biases but essentially the same result. The crowd ain't that wise.
posted by Jimbob at 4:07 PM on August 6, 2010


Digg has different biases but essentially the same result. The crowd ain't that wise.
That's true, but in this case we're not even talking about "the wisdom of crowds" being stupid. We're looking at a case where a group of people lied, framed others, and organized a campaign of identity falsification in order to pose as a larger part of the crowd than they were.

That's a different problem than the hypothetical "crowd" coming to the wrong conclusions about what's important.
posted by verb at 4:34 PM on August 6, 2010


Most of this arguing is just arguing past each other. Sure, Republicans don't have a monopoly on lying. That doesn't keep dishonesty from being a core strategy of the party and its supporters at a national level. And that, I think is the real point of contention.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because the fact of the matter is that gaming the system has been clearly documented on all sides of the spectrum.

Never mind that I can't document the librul gaming, saying it is all the proof I need.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:46 PM on August 6, 2010


Is there any evidence that these folks received marching orders or financial support from people connected to the Republican party?

You have no reason to believe me and I offer none, but anyone who wants to actual pursue this should start with the Koch family.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:50 PM on August 6, 2010


First we need to find a female conservative/libertarian who is very active on digg and comments a lot. We coordinate with her to be the knowing victim of sexual harassment. (Yeah, this is going to be a false flag trolling operation.)

Hmm, this sounds familiar: here, dhoyt as highsignal laments how rude matteo treats dhoyt as jenleigh, then dhoyt as dhoyt shows up on a white horse to really stick to the matt' for his misogyny and sexism, and then, to be fair, as it were, pops in as hallofrobots to innocently ask Has someone emailed matteo to alert him of this thread?

If one guy plus three sockpuppets plus some useful idiots can stir up so much shit, think what an organized posse could do.
posted by y2karl at 6:40 PM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's why these Digg Patriot types felt it was necessary to lie, frame liberals, and suppress pro-liberal news items. Because a liberal getting into power has real world consequences, and that must be stopped.

And you know who's to blame for it? Digg, for not figuring out what was going on and letting it spiral out of control. You can pre-suppose cheating, shilling, and lying on the part of the opposition. The only question is whether you're willing to defend against it and retaliate to ensure there are consequences. "Losing with honor" against someone who isn't willing to play by the same rules doesn't help anyone in contests whose outcomes are zero-sum-- even worse, it just encourages the opposing side because it teaches them that these tactics work. I think we have different concepts of "the slippery slope." The slippery slope is when you decide you're willing to roll over.
posted by deanc at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


y2karl : Hmm, this sounds familiar: here, dhoyt as highsignal laments how rude matteo treats dhoyt as jenleigh, then dhoyt as dhoyt shows up on a white horse to really stick to the matt' for his misogyny and sexism, and then, to be fair, as it were, pops in as hallofrobots to innocently ask Has someone emailed matteo to alert him of this thread?

I didn't really follow the dhoyt storyline, but if you click through to the original post that spawned the callout:

dhoyt@jenleigh: I'm not seeing a connection between the pictures & your comment. What does Varosha have to do with 'the necons'?
-
matteo: because your single-link post links to Totten, a TechCentralStation (ie, a proven Republican astroturfing Internet operation) employee and Michelle malkin and Instapundit darling?
because, again, your post is about the brown people's many shortcomings (with a nice spit in the EU face to boot)?

see, I don't mind the Islamophobia at this point -- what I have a problem with is the hypocrisy.
"tags: photography"? like, this is an apolitical post? that's the joke of the day.

PeePee and his buddies have at least the balls not to hide behind a blade of grass.

now you can resume the 3-minute hate.

nice pics, by the way.
posted by matteo at 6:23 PM on November 3, 2005


It does seem relevant.
posted by Challahtronix at 7:19 PM on August 6, 2010


The three minute hate matteo was referring to is "Turkey has always been the enemy of Oceania." That is to say, always since the Gaza aid flotilla. So now the usual suspects produce various documentation of the under-human status of Turks.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:15 PM on August 6, 2010


My links were all examples of the left hacking. I wasn't trying to prove any equivalancy to the digg, just (as requested) making the point that people on the left do hack.

My desire not to do this proved founded, because people took the list and attached it to a completely different point. A point I wasn't trying to make.

>Hacked GOP site infects people with malware
I actually posted the wrong link here. I meant to post details of GOP.am.

>Anonymous vs Scientology
I specifically stated here that this is "Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented"

>Donor database stolen from IT illiterate republican's website
Yeah - Not hacking per-se, but someone went to the trouble to find, download and propagate private information. This is (to my eyes) highly unethical.

(Would have posted this earlier, but it looks like my phone no longer has the ability to post comments.)
posted by seanyboy at 5:57 AM on August 7, 2010


"Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented"

I can't parse this statement no matter how many times it's repeated.
posted by muddgirl at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2010


The group probably involves liberals, therefore /b/ is liberal. Or something.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:26 AM on August 7, 2010


My links were all examples of the left hacking. I wasn't trying to prove any equivalancy to the digg, just (as requested) making the point that people on the left do hack.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but saying that you posted examples of "the left hacking" is what people refer to as "a lie." I don't want to be an ass, here, but you're digging deeper: save the example of one kid guessing Sarah Palin's hotomail password, your examples don't even demonstrate what you're talking about.
>Hacked GOP site infects people with malware
I actually posted the wrong link here. I meant to post details of GOP.am.
...Except in that case, there was no hacking involved, there was no malware involved, and the only thing that visitors to the site did was actually use the URL shortener. The GOP didn't like the URLs they were shortening, and they shut it down.
>Anonymous vs Scientology
I specifically stated here that this is "Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented"
And I've pointed out that this is absurd. As I noted, pointing out that a random group of troublemaking hentai fans probably, statistically, has liberals in it is not the same as saying that "The left" "routinely" engages in "hacking."
>Donor database stolen from IT illiterate republican's website
Yeah - Not hacking per-se, but someone went to the trouble to find, download and propagate private information. This is (to my eyes) highly unethical.
You specifically said that it was "proof of the hacking that the left routinely engages in." And that is why I said that you lied. I offered you a pretty graceful out -- even giving you links to stories that more clearly demonstrated the kind of correlation you were asserting -- but you're doubling down.

In fact, one of the links that you posted actually proves the very opposite: "Cash Gordon" was a campaign site by UK conservatives that gave people points and prizes for injecting conservative talking points into online discussions. It also revealed that the site was a standard, templatized tool developed by US conservatives for quick and easy crowdsourced astroturfing. The site was taken down not because it was "hacked by liberals" but because it listed the unfiltered results of a twitter search for the site's own name. When people started criticizing it, the criticism appeared on the Cash Gordon site's own front page. The site was an embarrassment, and was taken down.

Let's recap: a group of conservatives doing shady things to manipulate public opinion are caught red-handed. You claim that liberals do the same things, and to prove it link to another instance of conservatives doing shady things to manipulate public opinion.

Many others in the thread have noted that your basic point is a good one: there is grave danger in pretending that members of one's own "camp" are somehow too good, too righteous to engage in unethical behavior. I don't think anyone here on MetaFilter would argue against that. You continue to try to make this particular story -- the story of a group of conservatives lying, framing liberals for doing the same thing, and doing it to manipulate public opinion -- about how Liberals do all the things conservatives do. How about when a group of liberals does this you post that story and we see how that thread goes?
posted by verb at 7:37 AM on August 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


'>Anonymous vs Scientology
I specifically stated here that this is "Not specifically politically left-wing, but an example where people with left wing views are probably represented"'

It is, then, roughly as disingenuous as a citation as me saying conservatives are bad based on BP's photoshopped news images and a random assertion that the spokespeople are "not specifically politically right-wing, but an example where people with right wing views are probably represented".

You can't just throw random actions from unrelated third parties at your ideological opponents and see what sticks, and to do so looks like intellectual dishonesty born of either a lack of evidence or a lack of desire to do the research that might threaten your conclusion. Argue in good faith.
posted by jaduncan at 8:11 AM on August 7, 2010


After a careful reading of the article, I do note that The Guardian did use the word 'hacked' in reference to the Cash Gordon site. One of the unfiltered tweets that the site displayed included a script tag that redirected visitors to ChatRoulette.

And since ChatRoulette almost certainly includes conservatives, it's an example of conservatives sexually harassing liberals.
posted by verb at 8:23 AM on August 7, 2010


verb wrote: How about when a group of liberals does this you post that story and we see how that thread goes?

How about the whole Journolist scandal? I haven't really been following it, because US politics, meh, but it seems to fit your criteria.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2010


I admit I haven't been following the Journolist thing because it seems so middle school. One clique of bloggers is mad that another clique of bloggers took their strategy meetings to a back room? It's "Climate-gate" all over again.
posted by muddgirl at 8:36 AM on August 7, 2010


How about the whole Journolist scandal? I haven't really been following it, because US politics, meh, but it seems to fit your criteria.
Well, I was referring to seanboy's critiera. That started as "Liberals lie and cheat to manipulate public opinion, too" and then morphed into "Liberals routinely hack conservative web sites" and then seems to have drifted to "Sometimes, liberals are not nice."

Journolist is an example of a point that was raised earlier in the thread, before things just got silly. The idea that both conservatives and liberals attempt to shape the narrative is absolutely true, and pointless to argue with. The corollary question is, "How far will they go?" In the case of Journolist, they were willing to hang out on a listserv and -- sometimes -- talk to each other about what kind of stories they were going to write. In the case of DiggPatriots, they were willing to organize an extended campaign of deception, sabotage an online community and frame liberals for it, and target stories for suppression even if the content was unobjectionable, just to avoid liberals having a voice on a popular web site.
posted by verb at 8:59 AM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I started this thread very concerned about the "my side is better" problem. I've finished it actually convinced that conservatives really don't care about the truth at all. That's a pretty profound rhetorical fail.
posted by verb at 9:07 AM on August 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


My only concern with this thread is the "my side is better" stuff. When I talk about liberal hackers, I'm talking about misuse of computer systems (however easy that misuse is) by individuals who are ideologically to the left. You can't deny this doesn't happen. Maybe it's not comparable in scope to this story. But it happens.

That people mischaracterise this as me stating that the left is dishonest makes my point. In no way is a single hacker stealing Palin's emails the fault of a liberal conspiracy. That people assume that I'm willing to lump the behaviour of individuals into a broader political arena implies to me that this is exactly what is happening here with this thread with respect to the right.

It's not. It's a bad thing that these people are doing, but it shouldn't be interpreted as "This is something the left would not do." Firstly because we shouldn't contextualise everything like this as part of a mysterious right wing agenda. And secondly, we shouldn't say that Only The Right transgress in this way.

Unless you just want to keep fighting that is. In which case - yeah, carry on.
posted by seanyboy at 12:02 PM on August 7, 2010


It's not. It's a bad thing that these people are doing, but it shouldn't be interpreted as "This is something the left would not do." Firstly because we shouldn't contextualise everything like this as part of a mysterious right wing agenda. And secondly, we shouldn't say that Only The Right transgress in this way.

I hate to resort to this, you have left me no choice:

For the third time, no one is saying "Only The Right transgress in this way" but you.
posted by Challahtronix at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, Challahtronix, seanyboy has convinced me that only the Right transgresses in this way.
posted by verb at 3:18 PM on August 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Verb wrote: In the case of Journolist, they were willing to hang out on a listserv and -- sometimes -- talk to each other about what kind of stories they were going to write. In the case of DiggPatriots, they were willing to organize an extended campaign of deception, sabotage an online community ...

Your criticisms are totally valid: no decent person would resort to the DiggPatriots' techniques. None the less, their tactics simply reflect the infantilised US political culture. It's not about reason or cogent arguments; it's about shouting down your opponents. That's the whole idea of the Digg ranking method and I think it's perverse to say that the DiggPatriots's ought to have limited themselves to more traditional methods of gaming the system. What, it's better to be shouted down by an army of zombies who don't actually care what you're saying?

You distinguish between the DiggPatriots and the members of Journolist by depicting the latter as a mere debating society. I think this lets them off the hook too lightly. The Journolistas include real journalists representing traditional media, and they conspired to swing a Presidential election by burying stories, smearing opponents, and at least discussing the possibility of having the government censor a rival news organisation. Even if these strategies weren't followed by anyone (I rather think they were, at least to some extent) the Journolistas have discredited themselves and journalism generally and they've given their opponents a rationale for using their own underhanded techniques. Here's what Andrew Sullivan had to say about it:
This is your liberal media, ladies and gentlemen: totally partisan, interested in the truth only if it advances their agenda, and devoid of any balls whatsoever. And people wonder how this farce of a candidate now controls one major political party and could well be our next president. One reason is that we do not have a functioning adversarial media uncorrupted by partisan loyalty and tactics.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:31 PM on August 7, 2010


And people wonder how this farce of a candidate now controls one major political party and could well be our next president.

Ummm..he was talking about McCain, right? Right?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:22 PM on August 7, 2010


It's Andrew Sullivan, who gives a shit?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:06 PM on August 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


seanyboy, I want to make sure I understand you. You're not saying that the right wing (now synonymous with the Republican party) isn't more organized, more ready to corrupt the political system, more willing to flat out lie, and more manipulative of its base than the Democrats and liberals, are you? Because if you are, I have to disagree strongly with you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:31 PM on August 7, 2010


Reddit is under surveillance.
posted by homunculus at 9:05 PM on August 7, 2010


This thread reminds me of so many sites I used to fervently visit that are now dead to me, including Slashdot and Boing.
posted by mecran01 at 9:48 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Journolistas include real journalists representing traditional media, and they conspired to swing a Presidential election by burying stories, smearing opponents, and at least discussing the possibility of having the government censor a rival news organisation.
I went through and read the stories you linked to, and not unlike seanyboy's linked articles, I'm scratching my head. No matter what you declare those Journolist stories to be about, the meat of the links you've given don't back up your claims.

The "Smearing Opponents" link doesn't have anything to do with smearing anyone: it's a number of Journolist members discussing the after effects of Palin's big initial speech in the 2008 campaign, and expressing frustration that Fox News, the Washington Times, and 'conservative media' were displaying a huge amount of message coordination in the wake of the event. One person suggested that Journolist members could coordinate their own messaging similarly, and Ezra Klein stepped in to say that it was an unacceptable use of the list. Other journalists then scolded the person who'd suggested it, explaining very specifically that it would be a betrayal of their jobs as journalists. This in contrast to the Digg Patriots, who explicitly chose targets for silencing based on political affiliation, coordinated eagerly, and even created false identities to hide the extent of their coordination.

The 'burying stories' link is about a discussion thread in which two journalists -- Spencer Ackerman and Chris Hayes of The Nation -- urged other journalists to scold news outlets pursuing the "Jeremiah Wright Hates America' story during the 2008 campaign. They also scolded fellow Journolist members who had written stories about Wright's racial comments. Ackerman says that those pursuing the story should be called racists, other Journolist members disagree, and it drifts off like most discussion threads. This in contrast to the Digg Patriots, whose entire purpose for existing, whose entire mission, was to bury stories from progressive and liberal sources. That is the claim they explicitly made to each other.

Finally, the 'Discussing the possibility of the government censoring a rival news org' one was particularly interesting. The debate wasn't anything like that, actually: A UCLA law professor asked if the FCC could decline to renew FOX News' license, and the liberal journalists smacked the idea down, saying that it would be disastrous to have the government playing favorites. I'm not sure what the corollary might be on Digg Patriots -- they actually did spend their time specifically silencing people they believed to be their enemies. No hypothetical discussion needed.
You distinguish between the DiggPatriots and the members of Journolist by depicting the latter as a mere debating society. I think this lets them off the hook too lightly.
To recap, the "conspiracy to smear opponents" was a discussion thread where some people got angry at Sarah Palin, the "conspiracy to bury stories" was a couple of people angry that a story they thought was absurd did get weeks of coverage, and the "discussing government censorship of a rival" conversation was just that -- someone suggested it and was soundly smacked down. Frankly, when one actually reads the text of the discussions you link to, they come out looking pretty good: they are all liberals, to be sure, and they are opinionated, but they clearly take their responsibility to the truth very seriously.

In the articles you linked to to prove your point, every time a member of Journolist suggested doing anything other than chatting about the issues, they were smacked down by fellow list members and/or the list moderator, and were told that their actions were inappropriate. Judging from the material you linked to, the worst one can say about them is that they have blind spots about what is a worthwhile story, and get angry when others disagree. That is a terribly serious issue -- and one that I rant about here on MeFi quite a bit -- but pretending that it is the same as a careful, deliberate campaign of deception and censorship is quite disingenuous.

This is in contrast to the behavior of the Digg Patriots: they carefully coordinated to bury stories by their own admission, they targeted specific individuals and ideologies for silencing even if they specifically thought the stories were truthful and noteworthy, they created false identities to avoid detection and instructed other members to do the same, and they created false identities in order to frame their ideological opponents.

Jason Blair's behavior is probably the only corollary to the Digg Patriots in the world of journalism that I've seen. Ongoing, deliberate deception is there in spades. Blair wasn't ideologically motivated (personal glory seemed to be his big goal), but the deliberate ongoing deception, the creation of false people to back up his plans, and so on have strong parallels.

Of course, the obvious answer is that the Journolist members have more responsibility -- they're journalists and members of the media, not just users of a web site. That said, any honest comparison of their behaviors reveals that "people with the same ideology, talking and venting" is not te same as "people with the same ideology deliberately coordinating to silence other views, and carefully planning lies and deception to cover their tracks."
no decent person would resort to the DiggPatriots' techniques. None the less, their tactics simply reflect the infantilised US political culture. It's not about reason or cogent arguments; it's about shouting down your opponents. That's the whole idea of the Digg ranking method and I think it's perverse to say that the DiggPatriots's ought to have limited themselves to more traditional methods of gaming the system.
The dangers of "shout 'em down, then you win!" political discourse are real, and I agree with you 100%. But as someone who spends a fair amount of time working on social ranking algorithms for a variety of sites, I can say wholeheartedly that what you describe is the abuse that Digg and other social sites try to prevent, not the expected mode of operation. I fail to see what is "perverse" about telling people they shouldn't lie, conduct extended campaigns to frame their opponents of sexual harassment, create fake black sock puppets to appear minority-friendly, or deliberately bury news stories they agree with just to prevent their ideological opponents from gaining a following.

Suggesting that they simply used "nontraditional means of gaming the system" suggests a fundamentally amoral view of discourse. At the end of the day, I care about the truth. I would hope that others here do, too.
posted by verb at 12:49 AM on August 8, 2010 [20 favorites]


When Alice plays a game, she follows the rules to the letter. What is the fun of winning a game if you don't play it fairly?

When Bob plays a game, he treats the rules as suggestions. What is the fun of playing a game if you don't win?

...

If two Alices play a game, the game is perfectly fair, and both Alice's know that whoever won was the smartest and/or the luckiest.

If Bob plays against Bob, the game may be crooked, but both Bobs know that whoever won was either the smartest or the sneakiest, and that's fine too. There may be quiet accusations of cheating, but they won't be too loud -- because both sides cheated, close investigation of the game would be bad for everyone.

If Bob plays against Alice, and Bob wins, Alice may wonder if Bob cheated, but at least Alice will know that she didn't cheat. Bob doesn't care what Alice thinks, because he won.

If Bob plays against Alice, and Alice wins, Alice is confident that she won the game fair and square against whatever Bob threw at her, so she's happy. Bob, however, will demand an investigation with dire allegations of Alice's nefarious, underhanded and outrageous cheating. Because Bob has already lost this game, he has nothing to lose right now but much to gain next time if Alice loses her "Alice" credibility.

...

Game theory: cheaters will claim honest people have cheated. Not only because they think honest people are stupid for not cheating, but because such an accusation is, even if disproven, an effective defamation of character that tilts the meta-game in cheaters' favour.

...

The only thing that keeps our society even moderately intact is our instinctive evaluation of the honesty of a trading partner. Some cheating is tolerated if it is subtle and does not threaten the fabric of society, but large-scale cheating and/or perceived ethical violations result in mass reprisals up to and including all out war.

The scary thing is that we're getting near that tipping point.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:07 AM on August 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


A Vast Right-Wing Digg Conspiracy Expose Shows JournoList Scandal to Be a Lot of Conservative Hot Air
posted by homunculus at 8:31 AM on August 8, 2010


and expressing frustration that Fox News, the Washington Times, and 'conservative media' were displaying a huge amount of message coordination in the wake of the event.

Back before Fox News was a gleam in Rupert's eyes, the conservatives saw mainstream media giving the same factual news as "message coordination" by the vast left-wing media conspiracy, because it contradicted their philosophy. Taking a "lesson" from that, they began deliberately coordinating their messages, leading up to todays coordination, which uses the exact same phrases and terminology across different outlets, so that you don't even need to see the coordination activity to know it's happening. Colbert and Steward hae done a number of brilliant mashups illusttrating this phenomenon. And they think this is equivalent to what they perceive the "librul" media doing by reporting factually. And it would be just sad if it weren't so effective in manipulating their true believers.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Colbert and Stewart have done a number of brilliant mashups illustrating this phenomenon.

Al Franken used to do a segment on his radio show that did the same thing, called "Who Got the Memo?"
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2010


I know which of the seans in this thread I agree with. Also verb.
posted by cthuljew at 3:08 PM on August 8, 2010


Buried By The Brigade At Digg
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2010


This reminds me of the sub-story in the novel Ender's Game (never read the rest of the series) where Ender's brother games some online forum to achieve world domination, or something silly like that.

Oh, and the guy that wrote that book is kind of a dick.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:10 AM on August 9, 2010


Currently on the hoempage at Digg:

Sponsored by Cheetos
Digg Needs You!
battleofthecheetos.com - Battle others to win the honor of being the General of Digg!

posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia Editing for Zionists
posted by homunculus at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh.

“People in the U.S. and Europe never hear about Israel’s side, with all the correct arguments and explanations.”
posted by Artw at 8:08 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just reading an article on attempting to predict a story's eventual popularity from its initial popularity on Digg and Youtube (Predicting the Popularity of Online Content, Szabo & Huberman; CACM article, earlier working paper). They built a simple statistical model of story popularity over time for each site in order to see how predictable it was.

They found that stories' trajectories are generally pretty predictable, although Digg and Youtube follow somewhat different statistics (no real surprise). But their Digg results were a little odd-looking: in addition to a big cluster of stories following one pattern, there was another cluster of stories following a much different pattern, with a lot of early activity and less late activity (fig. 3).

The authors don't talk about this second cluster in any detail but it made me wonder if it's related to this fpp's story. On the one hand, you'd expect the Digg Patriots to generate two outlier clusters: one for stories they promote and one for stories they suppress. On the other hand, though, in both cases the stories the DPs affect are going to have less late activity than predicted (either because they've been effectively suppressed, or because they've been promoted even though people don't actually want to read them).

Or on the third hand maybe the second-cluster stories are different in some completely other way, like being double posts or especially ephemeral or something.
posted by hattifattener at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fox News Scrubbing Wikipedia Entry on $1 Mil. Donation
posted by homunculus at 11:29 AM on August 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


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