Digg Decides It’s More Important to Be Liked

“But now, 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.”

It’s ironic that Kevin decided to take this course of action on May 1st, which also happens to be Law Day.

There is something really wrong with a “community” when it decides that the rule of law when applied to something they don’t like should be ignored. Despite having earlier stated that Digg must abide by the law, Kevin has apparently changed course because too many people complained that abiding by the law should not apply to them.

I think DRM sucks and think that the way we are protecting intellectual property is dysfunctional, but the fact remains that respect for the law is a foundation of stable society and our entire economic system.

Kevin is wrong for letting a mob bully him into doing something that he knows is wrong. He’s also wrong for deciding it’s more important to not piss people off than it is to do abide by a law that he doesn’t like. Welcome to the slippery slope.

PS – this is one more example of how companies built on community are finding that they don’t actually have that much ownership of the thing they are built around.

UPDATE:  I saw this post from Tony Hung though Mathew Ingram’s site. I don’t agree with Tony that Kevin Rose is motivated by greed or something other than noble intent, I simply think Kevin has made a strategic error in that he is allowing the “mob” to define his principles, and by extension reversing course on what had to be a well debated issue before it blew up into a public issue. At the end of the day, Kevin is responsible to the Digg community but he is also responsible to other stakeholders, including employees and shareholders (one group also being the part of the other) and to imperil the company in what is ultimately a losing case for them is irresponsible.

Ask yourself how you would react if Digg refused to take down a posting that included your social security number just because they have a policy about not removing posts from the site.

You can disagree with patent and trademark law, hate the DMCA, and think all lawyers are scum but that doesn’t change the fact that we are all obligated to abide by these laws and as a corporate entity the obligation equally applies even if your customers don’t like it. Mike Masnick is spot on right about the Streisand Effect but just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.


13 thoughts on Digg Decides It’s More Important to Be Liked

  1. Jesus christ! “Rule of Law”?

    I don’t think you know the meaning of the term.

    All laws in this country come from the constitution– and if you would read the first ammendement to it, you would see that the DCMA is illegal– if you believed in the rule of law, you would support the constitution.

    Mabury v. Madison- the supreme court ruled that all laws contrary to the constitution are null and void the moment they are signed– eg: they are not law between the time they are signed and struck down.

    If you believed in the rule of law, you would take up arms against your own government– because the US government has not followed the law for decades.

    So, either you believe in the rule of law, but not the constitution (thus are in a self contradiction) or you don’t really believe in the rule of law.

    When the vast majority of the actions of the federal government are illegal — the constitution is explicit about twhat the federal government is allowed to do, and %90+ of the budget goes to things not covered by the constitution– there is no rule of law.

    There is only tyranny.

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  4. Eh, I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re all obligated to follow the law, regardless of how unjust it is. But I agree with you that Diggs actions appear to be guided more by doing what’s popular than by doing what’s right.

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  7. Civil disobedience is also a noble tradition that forms our society into the relative freedom that it is. It is the force that helped reduce apartheid in America (slightly). It is the force that ended the bullshit Vietnam “police action”.

    Civil disobedience is the counteraction to out of control politicians, civil officers overstepping their bounds, and broken laws that hurt and kill rather than heal and help.

  8. What I don’t understand is the legal position here. Digg demonstrated that they knew about the posts and could take them down, but decided not to anyway. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve got to imagine they are going to get hammered over this one. I’m sure a PR campaign to repair and damage to their brand would have cost far less than the damages that they are likely to pay.

  9. Marcus,
    Civil disobedience in instances where morality is drawn into question is noble, civil disobedience over intellectual property law is not. It does an injustice to those who proceeded you to suggest there is moral equivalence to publishing a key to break DRM in DVDs, and not sitting in the back of the bus. Really, to devalue those occasions in history where civil disobedience was warranted with wanting to unlock DVDs is quite disingenuous.

    I suspect that Digg just did what was convenient and expedient rather than do the hard work of arguing for something that is manifestly unpopular. It’s a no-win for both sides, which is why we probably won’t see any legal action as a consequence, but we’re all worse off as a result of our judicial system not having the ability to enforce a law, even though it is an unpopular one which should be changed but changed through an orderly process and not through the actions of a mob.

  10. Sorry, didn’t see your comment above re: civil disobedience.

    Jeff, I have a right to access information that I have legally obtained. Period. End of story. Anyone that attempts to erect barriers to information infringes on my rights of access. It is a basic human right and should be recognized as such. You don’t think it’s the same as the Alabama bus protests, and I think it is. We’re probably just not going to agree :)


  11. Cyrus,
    First and foremost, I think you are right that we are going to agree to disagree, but I very much appreciate you taking the time to comment here.

    Re right of access, I wasn’t aware that access to information had been elevated to a basic human right, nonetheless, it’s the legality of the information itself that is in question here. Also, it’s a little premature to elevate Digg to the same level that of a taxpayer funded public service, the last time I checked Digg was a private business that pretty much could (and does) restrict individuals and content according to their own rules.

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