Internet “Censorship,” part 1:

No, this is not about the Verizon-Google deal — I’ll be posting about that momentarily. This is a somewhat more mundane illustration of a different phenomenon (though one that is related, perhaps obliquely, to the issue of “net neutrality” at the heart of the Viacom-Google kerfuffle). It turns out — at least if this story at alternet is to be believed — that the insanely popular social media site (25 million hits/month) is being “gamed” by “a group of influential conservative members [who] have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives.”

It’s not pretty, although pinpointing the precise locus of wrongdoing — and I think there is wrongdoing here — is not a trivial matter. Surely, people who want to vote to “bury” all articles presenting “progressive” (or, for that matter, “conservative”) viewpoints are entitled to do so (aren’t they?). Nothing wrong, that is, with “deliberately trying to ban” progressives/conservatives, at least where “ban” means “make them go away by using the voting system in the manner in which it was intended to be used.” Nor, I suppose, is there anything wrong with organizing a community of “activists” who search out objectionable (to them) content and try to bury it. But sites like Digg are valuable — and they are valuable — only insofar as they embody, implicitly, a kind of “one person/one vote” principle. If that goes away, the value of the site goes away with it; if 50 people have 50 different accounts each, then I’m not, as a user, getting much useful information when I see that a particular article had 2500 negative and 2500 positive votes . . .

[Update: From some of the comments [on the blog, and/or sent to me offline] it appears that I may not have been as clear as I wanted to be in this posting [perhaps I have ‘net neutrality’ on my brain]. I had hoped, that by putting “censorship” in quotes, that I was indicating my uncertainty about whether or not there is anything going on here worthy of the term. The use of multiple aliases to game Digg is, in my view, a Bad Act — worthy of censure (though it is probably not unlawful). As some of you have pointed out, the evidence appears to be that Digg is quite successful at weeding out those attempts, to which I say — that’s great, and might help restore my faith (to the extent I choose to have any) in the Digg rankings. But it does not excuse the attempt to get around those protections, in my view]

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