Crash! HD-DVD censorship diggs grave for news site

Digg crashes after users -- and HD-DVD aficionados -- revolt

HD-DVD revolt

Although Adelson's response was aimed to diffuse the dissatisfied Digg users who felt they were unfairly censored, it only further enraged them and has now exploded into a full-fledged Digg revolt.

Since his posting, the situation has major scene of discontent, with thousands of Digg users thumbing their virtual noses at Digg and the actions of the MPAA by posting the key into the comments sections, Digging any stories that contain the key and even coming up with creative ways to bypass action.

Some particularly creative methods for getting around deletions include:

  • Posting the processing key as an apparent WPA key in an act of Wifi sharing kindness
  • Creating screensavers consisting of nothing but the falling 16 hexadecimal digits
  • Making a riddle whose answers are each of the 16 digits
  • Selling T-shirts, Coffee mugs and bumper stickers containing the code

The result of this fallout has turned the processing key into the Hydra of the internet. For every site that removes references to the key, it seems two more pop up in its place. Even Google has been unable to stop the flood of pages being created. A simple Google query for the 16 hexadecimal code comes up with almost 300,000 search results.

Despite the processing key's widespread publication, the actual effect it will have on the high-definition movie industry will remain marginal as it only affects particular players and only then if a user has the proper programming expertise.

Digg founders relent

By late Tuesday night, Digg founder Kevin Rose had relented under pressure from the users. In a blog post, he noted that after reading thousands of reader comments, the will of the community was clear to Digg.

"You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company," he wrote. "We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences will be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."

The revolt marks a test case for social networking sites that accept user-generated content, said Dianne Lynch, dean of the communications school at Ithaca College. Lynch, who also writes regularly about Web 2.0 issues such as alternate worlds, noted that she couldn't access Digg Tuesday night because of the high traffic.

"The situation tests the validity and integrity of a social communities," she said. "The social community won."

Although Digg "saved itself" from by returning control to the community, refusing to do so could have had "serious" implications for the site, she said.

"If you're going to turn [the site] over to the community, you can't decide to change your mind without having serious implications," Lynch said. "User-generated content means that users will make a collective decision about is and isn't appropriate. As soon as you establish a user-generated site, you by definition give up the right to say, 'No' [to publishing content]."

If sites do began to edit content on such sites, "you have undermined or devalued the whole mission or purpose of that kind of exchange," she said.

Michael Arrington, who writes about Web 2.0 companies in his blog TechCrunch.com, wrote that calling the response by Digg users a revolt "is an understatement."

Until Tuesday, he wrote, "even Digg didn't fully understand the power of the community to determine what is 'news.' The users had taken control of the site, and unless Digg went into wholesale deletion mode and suspended a large portion of their users, there was absolutely nothing they could do about it."

(Additional reporting by Heather Havenstein)

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Mitchell Bingemann

Computerworld
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