I remember seeing sporadic bursts of activity here when Digg, one of the big aggregator sites, would link to something here, but I haven’t seen that in a while — but now I learn that there is a fanatically active group of conservative haters at work over there. They call themselves Digg Patriots (“patriots” is one of those words, like “family”, that usually get appropriated by people with an extremely narrow view of what it means.) They take advantage of a feature of Digg: in order for an article to get elevated to the front page, where it will get a lot of attention, it has to be voted up; however, Digg also allows people to vote down, or bury, articles. The Digg Patriots take advantage of this to organize what amounts to poll-crashing to suppress views they dislike. Obviously, I think poll-crashing is a fine and fair activity, except that in this case they take advantage of a Digg mechanism to bury their opposition, which isn’t exactly in the spirit of free speech. And they’re picking on me!
The DP group searches Digg for any articles from websites they want to drown out, sites such as Salon, News Junkie Post, Talking Points Memo, FreakOutNation, Five Thirty Eight, ThePublicRecord, Rawstory, The Nation, Media Matters for America, PoliticusUSA, Alternet, Fire Dog Lake, Political Carnival, TruthOut, DailyKos, The Joshua Blog, The Brad Blog, Huffington Post, Science Blogs, Smirking Chimp, Down With Tyranny, Crooks and Liars, MarioPiperni, Buzzflash, Bob Cesca’s REALLY AWESOME Blog, and The New York Times.
The Digg Patriots are rather sleazy — they use multiple aliases, violate various Digg rules, and actively work to get around bans — and they do try to suppress some good blogs and news sites, but I don’t think they can have that much influence on everything, and are mainly a threat to individuals they target, which makes them nothing more than petty bullies.
One thing we can do to counter them rather easily is to use those aggregators ourselves. You’ll notice that every site at Scienceblogs has this little bar across the bottom of each article:
Use it now and then, if you’re familiar with how those aggregators work. Clicking on the “Reddit” button, for instance, will pop up a window with the URL and title of the article filled in for you (that is, you are a registered Reddit user), and a button allows you to submit stuff to that site. Digg is tucked away under the “email+more” button.
The other thing you can do is browse those sites and search for the sources conveniently listed by the Digg Patriots above, and if you like them, vote them up. It’s a good way to help promote good sources, and as we all know, the NY Times needs as much help as it can get.
I’m not too concerned about the general effects of a group of know-nothings reflexively voting down liberal sites — they will be drowned out by the rising tide. But where they can do real damage is when they concentrate their activities on single groups or individuals. There is one fellow called R.J. Carter or CaptCarrot who went on a YouTube crusade against a youth group accusing them of promoting pedophilia and otherwise just generally trashing them with libelous accusations, and got accounts shut down and hurt innocent people, and that’s serious.