Digg vs HD-DVD: a social network revolts — updated

by Mathew on May 1, 2007 · 6 comments

Update:

After trying and failing to remove all the Digg posts containing the AACS key, Kevin Rose says Digg has decided to let the community (or crowd, or mob — depending on your point of view) have its way.

“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.”

Unwise? Perhaps. But still admirable, I think. Jeff Nolan disagrees, and doesn’t believe that Kevin should have let the mob bully him into defying the law. Tony Hung thinks Kevin has made his bed and now has to lie in it. And Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes that this is a great example of the Streisand Effect at work. Staci at PaidContent wonders what this means for Digg as a business.

Also, be sure to read Danny Sullivan’s excellent overview of the whole fracas, along with his thoughts about whether the DMCA even applies in the case of Digg (or Google, which has also been asked to stop indexing sites with the key). And Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker says the AACS is being silly — but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop.

Chilling Effects has a copy of an AACS takedown letter that was sent to Google, which Danny Sullivan has done such a great job of dismantling. And for more info on the AACS argument, check out EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann’s explanation here.

Original post

What do numbers mean? And are they protected the same way that words are? What if they are commercially restricted in some way? Take the numbers 0x09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0. Harmless, right? Except that they are the hexadecimal code that can be used to decrypt HD-DVD discs in Linux. Someone posted them to Digg yesterday and that post was removed, and since then dozens of similar posts have been removed — and some users have been banned. Cory Doctorow’s class blog was removed after a legal threat.

snipshot_e413t23gb5th.jpgThis isn’t exactly a new fight. The crack for the AACS key has been around for awhile now — you can even get the code on a T-shirt. But the folks behind AACS (including Microsoft, Intel, Sony and IBM) continue to threaten websites that post the numbers. There have clearly been such threats made to Digg, as co-founder Jay Adelson suggested in a blog post that tried to explain why Digg posts keep disappearing and users are being banned. But the Digg community just keeps on posting them again and again, like a tidal wave — one page had more than 15,000 Diggs before it disappeared — making Jay and the rest of the gang at Digg look like King Canute trying to stop the ocean. Jay says the site has no choice:

“Our goal is always to maintain a purely democratic system for the submission and sharing of information… however, in order for that to happen, we all need to work together to protect Digg from exposure to lawsuits that could very quickly shut us down.”

Fair enough, right? But there’s a wrinkle: Jay and Kevin Rose are partners in Revision 3, the video blog startup — and it is sponsored in part by HD-DVD. Now there are dark rumours about why the Digg team is so quick to remove posts and links, and to ban users (thanks to The Last Podcast for that link). Just another weed in the garden of social media? Perhaps. A test of what the term “Digg community” means, definitely.

  • http://peerdawson.typepad.com /pd

    Until they ban us all :)-

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    ………………./…./
    …………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
    ………./’/…/…./……./¨¯
    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ……………………..’…../
    ……….”…………. _.·´
    ……………………..(
    …………………………

  • http://neilsanderson.com Neil Sanderson

    A couple of things are unclear to me:

    If Digg wanted to prevent people posting the code on the Digg site, why couldn’t they use automatic filtering, such as is typically used to prevent obscenity? Surely they must have had such a system in place, along with the ability to quickly tweak it to target any specific text string. (Perhaps their system couldn’t cope with the rate of postings?)

    If, on the other hand, people were simply posting links to the code on other websites, is Digg actually liable?

  • Mathew

    That’s a good point, Neil. I’m pretty sure they were using some kind of filtering, but it may have gotten too much for either their automated filters or their human ones, I don’t know.

    The point about links is a good one too — it’s my understanding that sites can’t be held (or haven’t been held) responsible for content posted in comments or chat forums, etc., at least not in the U.S. anyway. But that may be just for the purposes of libel — not sure about the DMCA.

  • http://www.redcanary.ca Trevor

    I can answer the filtering question: it was slipping through because users were burying it in images and applying other forms of obfuscation. Crafty.

    A pitchfork revolt! I wonder, is this unique to Digg, or is a situation that all social networks will find themselves in sooner or later?

    What happens if The Daily Show gets pulled from YouTube? How do you stop this? What are the implications for big brands that are clamoring to create their own soc-nets? Are they ready for such Frankensteins? Will this dissuade them?

    What this shows me is that if you build it, they will come…and then kick you out if you polarize/anger enough of them. This didn’t happen with the Facebook hacker though… I guess his was not cause celebre enough. Fascinating.

    Please keep updating.

  • http://www.verbatimdvdcases.net/ verbatim_dvd_cases

    This is so interested! Where can I find more like this?

  • http://www.verbatimdvdcases.net/ verbatim_dvd_cases

    This is so interested! Where can I find more like this?

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