A Very Angry Digg Nation


Update: Digg just took their site down. Kevin Rose on the company blog gives his response:

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

Nerd anarchy? An e-Rebellion? Or just mob justice… which ever way you look at it social news site, Digg is facing the greatest crisis of its young life. The front page of Digg has been taken over by stories about and related to a hacked HD-DVD key.

To recap, someone has posted a link to a story about the said key getting cracked, and included the key in the title and description of the story. Digg staff took down the story, fearing that it would get sued by MPAA, as outlined in this blog post by CEO Jay Adelson.

This resulted in a proverbial take-to-the-streets riot, and now most of Digg front page stories are either related to the key-story, or are variants of the original deleted story. Ryan Block of Engadget is not alone in wondering, “How did such a loyal userbase as Digg’s so quickly divert its all-consuming energy to defying — even damaging — the company to which it was so loyal?”

One of my readers (hi Jon) sums it up nicely, “I think the real story here is user-generated content biting back when it’s actively censored by the site generating revenue from it.” Another dear friend is wondering if this is going to lead to traditional media wrinkling their nose at the social media and its ills.

It is hard for me to form an opinion on this right now – for I am watching this drama unfold in near real time with morbid fascination.

The questions on my mind now (but no answers)

1. Is it legally liable for the actions of its community which was initially pointing to a story published by an independent publications? If that is the case, then YouTube-Viacom drama becomes even more intriguing.
2. If not, then did Digg act rashly?
3. Can Digg recover from this set back?

Thanks Jon, Brian and everyone else who sent this in.



Pfft.. Digg is overrated, there are an infinite number of sites that can fill its shoes frack.it, reddit, netscape…

Wai Yip Tung

Sounds like the big loser is MPAA. Their hardball tactics totally back fires and the encryption key is so widely known that it is now impossible to censor.


The question of legality is, however, very difficult because, frequently, the law in question was developed for print and broadcast media.

Web 2.0 applications permit use of media and interaction with it which were never considered when the IP laws were drafted. Hence, now, there are many difficult areas that go right to the core of the issue.

Is Digg a publisher or a technology service which permits others to publish ? Quite hard to answer that one and it’s fundamental .

Hence, to answer Random Thouoghts’ question … do new businesses consider legality … of course we do. However, speaking personally, I can assure you that the legal advice we receive is very confusing and confused because even the advisors can see multiple approaches.


Herb Kornfeld

Digg was clearly brought down by a very powerful minority and not by a majority of its fan base. Digg will die because stunts like this have demonstrated Digg’s lack of credibility


Daniel, I agree, but when dreaming up a business, I hope the talk of “is it actually legal” doesn’t take all that much thought.

Then again, if you go close to the edge, maybe there is more profit if it works. We know the guys on Wall Street think that way.

Maybe playing it safe is too easy (and unprofitable)


Random Thoughts, I think that sticking the label of “illegal activity” to Digg in particular, and to all user generated content sites, is superfluous. Any business is subject of legal suit risk, some to lesser extent, some to larger. The larger the business, the larger risk of suit. It’s not black and white, it’s fuzzy.

Nick Hawkins

Between digg’s bury brigades and the spam that shows up there, it’s useless to me as a news aggregate. So, screw ’em.

Ferhat Savci

I’m a computer scientist specializing in DRM and legalese comes with the job.

Publishing a trade-secret is illegal, but only the source is responsible. Follow on…

The concept of a copyright exists for material published or meant to be published; trade-secrets are, by definition, not meant to be published: once they are out, they are out and are not protected by a copyright. If found, the parties responsible for making the secret public can be successfully sued, but not the publisher.

Digg can’t be sued or even taken to court for linking to a published (or even publishing) a trade-secret. They certainly acted rashly and probably without consulting their legal position. They probably got courageous about going to court and “dying trying” after a consult, but it was too late.

The party that discovered the trade-secret and made it public may rot in jail, if caught.

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