Thanks to Jason Calacanis and some other sleuths a seemingly large Digg scam has been uncovered. The original details of the scan can be seen here but I will paraphrase. There are actually a few different stories being circulated, several of which Jason has discussed. All of the stories involve the rigging of Digg or the paying of Digg users. Remember Digg is a user-run social bookmarking site and as such has very few on their payroll. Netscape on the other hand is a social news site that pays a staff to monitor what exactly is going on. In the end I think Netscape-modeled sites will be those to succeed but that rant will be coming in a later post.
So what's the big deal? A major marketing/pr firm has several of Digg's top 50 users (exact # unknown) on their payroll. This in and of itself is not so signifigant but couple this with an even larger scam and the authority of Digg begins to be eroded.
This second scam involved one of Digg's top 5 users being paid, at least supposedly, to submit a story about a company called JetNumbers. The user wasn't offered cash but instead the use of a free service which was declined. The user was suspended but has since been reinstated after issuing an apology. Heres some more info:
Email from the Company:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Nathan Schorr <email@example.com>
Date: Dec 7, 2006 12:15 PM
Subject: Using your ranking on Digg, work with us and get somethng out of it
To: [A TOP DIGG USERS]
My name is Nathan Schorr and I have been recently promoted as the Business Development Manager at JetNumbers Inc. Our company sells virtual telephone numbers. My job is to get people interested in our site, but my problem is that I have not had any success. While searching the web for possible business partners, I started to read about Digg and its popularity...that's where you come into play.
Given the fact that you are the number 8 user at the website, I am contacting you to see if I can somehow recruit you to start getting the word out about our service.
Please check us out, see what you think and get back to me.
Business Development Manager
Here are some other users who Dugg the story, note some high numbers mixed in there. It is now known who or how many took money to promote the story and which users simply voted for the article based on reading it.
Now for a bit of commentary on the situation. Do I think this will impact Digg? Sure do. How could it not. I mean I think any site would take a hit if the general population finds out what they thought to be popular stories were actually the highest bidders for the spot. As of right now nothing is proven and the extent of paid Diggs is unknown. This story has the potential to become huge. This is more of a "the facts of the situation as we understand them" post but I will be following this up with a commentary piece on Digg, social news sites, and how paid votes and sabotage may effectively kill social news sites.