Digg: Astroturfing For Obama

Tonight I read Rusty Schackleford’s post in which he seemingly caught a PR firm connected to the Obama campaign astroturfing for Obama by posting and spreading inaccurate videos about Sarah Palin on Youtube. While this may not seem like anything new for people who have been using the major social media outlets, the question of who financed the videos that all strangely use the same voice over voice as recent Obama videos creates some campaign finance law issues.

Being a former digg “frequent submitter” I know of hundreds of now popular websites that employed this same technique to increase eyeballs and ultimately ad revenue with success. I have even called out Ron Paul supporters who took the technique to the next level. I had never heard of astroturfing, as I don’t run in political circles but according to Shackleford it is nothing Digg users should be unfamiliar with:

David Axelrod is also known as The master of “Astroturfing”, which is what PR industry insiders call the practice of “manufacturing grassroots support.”

Now being thoroughly familiar with the manipulations of Digg by political entities I ran a simple search for sarah palin on digg and lo and behold I came across plenty of sock puppet accounts that hit Digg’s equivalent of hitting Powerball – 1 story submitted, 1 story promoted to the front page.

  • http://digg.com/users/BeerGodd
  • http://digg.com/users/linocut – joined Sep 10 2008
  • http://digg.com/users/stevenrl – joined Sep 9 08
  • http://digg.com/users/manucpa – joined Sep 7 2008
  • http://digg.com/users/carlisle99
  • http://digg.com/users/Bri345 – joined Aug 31st 2008 (From Wasilla Alaska no less!)

What do you want to bet these accounts only ‘digg’ dirt on McCain/Palin?

You see astroturfing has been going on at Digg.com since day one. Most stories are promoted to the front page through a very active digg community subset that is constantly harassing me on IM to digg their stories. Everyone knows it has been going on at Digg, Republicans have just been too slow and stupid to catch on.

Digg Takes A Step Back From Disintermediation

One of the driving forces that led me to become a frequent user of Digg was the idea of disintermediation of news; that the userbase set the rules and determined what sites were newsworthy and which sites should be banned. In recent months following the DVD encryption key mayhem that rocked the site, things appear to have changed without much of anyone taking notice.

Muhammad Saleem noted a while back:

As I recall, according to Digg policy:

When submitted stories are consistently reported as spam and users complain via our feedback email about submission spam, we ban the domain. The domain will not be unbanned.

That section of the Terms of Use has recently been changed to:

Digg may remove any Content and Digg accounts at any time for any reason (including, but not limited to, upon receipt of claims or allegations from third parties or authorities relating to such Content), or for no reason at all. To report Terms of Use abuse, please email: abuse@digg.com

A search of front page promoted stories submitted from prisonplanet.com for example reveals 30 stories promoted to the front page of Digg. Conversely, searching while excluding buried stories reveals that only 16 of those stories haven’t been buried by the users. In addition, two stories were reported by the userbase as possibly inaccurate. It even appears that prisonplanet has been banned in the past only to be reinstated.

(NOTE: I don’t write this to single out prisonplanet.com, it was merely the first site I found that had a lot of buried stories. LGF or MichelleMalkin.com probably fit the bill as well)

This recent step back from the ideal of “disintermediation” has been subtle but the motivations for it are very cloudy. Can any of you think why they would do this?