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Civil disobedience hits Digg

Digg surrenders to its user base of self-anointed Robin Hoods.

Digg exploded into riot on Tuesday.

A story was posted that contained the hexadecimal decryption key that allows Linux users to decode and play HD DVDs. The Digg staff received a request from the Advanced Access Content System License Administrator to remove the story, interpreting the request as following the law and as falling under Digg's preexisting terms of use that prohibit the posting of infringing content. Jay Adelson explained this in his blog post at 1 p.m. on May 1.

Digg getting bombed by HD DVD cracks. CNET Networks

The Digg user community was not to be silenced, and found a way to route around this censorship. Digg users posted links to hundreds of stories that contained the decryption key, and each one was Dugg up, until the entire site seemed to be nothing but a repository for this one string of hexadecimal digits. A few Digg users found their accounts suspended for misuse.

At 9 p.m., Kevin Rose reversed course, with another blog post: "...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. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."

This online riot illustrates three points.

1. If a DRM method can be cracked, it will be. And if it is, the crack will get out. It will be printed on T-Shirts or Dugg to high heaven until it becomes as laughable as Rot-13.

2. Laws and lawyers cannot restrain a revolting mob of wanna-be online anarchists. For that matter, even Digg's iconic founders can't control an online horde.

3. Mobs are not smart. Stampeding a server (or a police line or a stadium) makes a strong point and may eventually lead to changes in laws or policies, but there is often a price paid for those actions. In this case, Digg itself may be the price of revolt.

For (much) more on this story, see TechMeme.