Digg controversy buries journalistic objectivity

News organization accuses conservatives of burying Digg stories, but the outlet loses credibility by showing its own bias.

Are conservatives gaming Digg? Probably, but there are two sides to any story.

A report by liberal news organization AlterNet claimed on Thursday that conservatives are "burying" stories on the news aggregator. "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."

Conservatives--in this case, "Digg Patriots"--"cheat" by voting down Digg submissions with a liberal bent, AlterNet claims. "This model also made it very susceptible to external gaming whereby users from certain groups attempt to push their viewpoint or articles to the front page to give them traction."

I'm not going to argue with the basics of the report because this sort of thing goes on with both conservative and liberal groups. (AlterNet could have easily expanded the scope of "certain groups" to include liberals but chose not to.) I am going to take issue, however, with its tenor and balance, as it was implied by some blogs that the AlterNet findings were coming from a neutral source.

Specifically, when AlterNet inserts a paragraph listing all of the things Digg Patriots allegedly hate, then claims generally in the last sentence that Digg Patriots "just love to hate," Alternet forfeits any claim to balance--and possibly veracity.

I visit Digg's front door often, and what I usually find is hardly proof that conservative groups are succeeding in any way. Here's a very unscientific sampling of what I've found as some of the most-dugg (top 10) submissions as I randomly visited the Digg front door during the last few days. "Fox News is shockingly old" and "Conservapedia:E=mc2 Is A Liberal Conspiracy and "Liberals Start F*** Tea Party Campaign." (I've omitted the last ink because the original headline uses three letters of a four-letter expletive.)

A September 2008 report from PBS titled "Digg Puts Focus on Politics, Bringing Charges of Liberal Bias" says: "AJ Wysocki...opened his (Digg) account because a liberal political radio show he frequently listens to, The Young Turks, enlisted him as a 'Web soldier,' and charged him with promoting the content of the show online."

That story, though a bit dated, is every bit as relevant in 2010 and underscores that neither left or right is above organized activity that promotes their cause.

That said, many overtly liberal and conservative Digg submissions are often self-defeating anyway because they're so nakedly slanted--the Digg headline is often written to make someone or something seem over-the-top evil--as to be immediately suspect, if not outright bogus.

Alternet should try to rise above the pure partisan tenor of many Digg submissions and show some semblance of balance, which would make its reports infinitely more credible.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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