Muhammad Saleem, a very perceptive blogger who is also a top submitter at Digg and Netscape, has written a post that looks at the problems with “socially-driven” news sites, using as an example a fake news story that someone submitted to Digg about Sony recalling 650,000 PlayStations. The story made it to the front page of the site in only a couple of hours, and stayed there until it was apparently removed. Muhammad sees this as another example of how many people don’t read stories.
He’s right, of course. And there’s no question that the geek-heavy audience at Digg is likely to vote up stories like the PlayStation one regardless of whether it’s true or not — as appears to have happened in this case — just to take some shots at Sony. However, I’d like to point out that fake news routinely makes its way into newspapers and onto TV newscasts as well, and in those cases there are a heck of a lot more checks and balances in the system (theoretically at least) than there are at Digg.
In those cases, the fake news lingers in print and video — and in various databases — long after it has been shown to be wrong, which often gives rise to urban legends about people getting abducted so their organs can be removed, etc. At least in the Digg case, commenters on the story repeatedly pointed out how fake it was. That’s a service social media can offer that traditional media can’t (at least, not yet).
Muhammad and I have been having a discussion via IM about the fact that Digg appears to have removed the story, not just from the front page but from the site completely. He argues that this is wrong, and that Digg administrators should have removed it from the front page but left the story up and flagged it as inaccurate. As it is, it looks as though the site is trying to pretend that the incident never happened. Tony Hung says that by removing it, Digg is going against its stated principles as a social media site. What do you think?