Digg Political Bias

There has been quite a lot of discussion recently about whether Digg is being gamed and how much of a democracy it really is. Digg’s top user has gone in the middle of the row.

Now, I’m not even totally sure how Digg’s algorithms work and how much power moderators have on Digg but Digg at heart remains a democratic way to get news – you’ll see the articles that other people are reading and voting for. I’m not going to comment on how democratic Digg.

However, the democratic nature of Digg and the fact it has such a big readership makes it popular ground for people to inflict their political biases on others. Digg readers tend to be pro-Apple, anti-Microsoft and pro-Google. Pro-Apple articles get dugg to death and make the homepage easily even if they aren’t factual. Anti-Apple comments are dugg down and buried, even if they are factual. The Apple fanboys therefore bias Digg towards their own political bias.

Casual readers reading Digg will probably quickly become Apple fanboys simply because so much good stuff is written about them. The website no longer becomes a place where people with different views and opinions are shared; it becomes a place for zealotry to breed.

The benefit of a website with an editorial is that the news and stories are more likely to be factual and the coverage more fair. You can trust what you see on the BBC or CNN to be unbiased.

There are non-democratic websites with political motivations too – BoingBoing is pro-freedom and anti-DRM, Slashdot is pro-OSS. Digg doesn’t have an open political bias but it’s editors (the people) are far from unbiased and may often digg articles which say what they want rather than what is really happening.

Looking at Digg objectively one asks whether Digg is really democratizing news or whether it’s just another publication, like the New York Times, which uses web surfers around the world to generate the content for them.

9 thoughts on “Digg Political Bias

  1. I agree with you completely. It looks like they’re making progress toward fixing it, so that’s good. Anything Anti-Bush, Pro-Google, Pro-Mac or Anti-Microsoft goes straight to the front page.

  2. In a way I don’t think it’s a problem. All new sources have bias, even the BBC and CNN are accused by many of bias. Though like you I agree they tend to be pretty fair.

    As long as you know what your getting it doesn’t matter too much. I know if I by The Telegraph or the NY Times. If I read slashdot, watch FOX etc. Generally speaking what I’m getting.

    The same goes for Digg.

    Supposing it was a completely democratic process where the news that got the spotlight was pretty much representative of the user bases political views. There would still be bias. Just like political forums on message boards. Where on the whole it tends to be more one way than the other depending on the boards demographic.

    So whether it is or isn’t fair or where it goes from here you’ll always need to take things in a certain context. 

  3. `The people getting what they ask for’ is exactly the definition of democracy. What you’re saying is not that digg is undemocratic, but rather that you’ve spotted where democracy sucks 😉

  4. This happens with normal papers too – people have a tendancy to buy the papers with the same bias that they have, and therefore might miss the other half of an argument.

    That said, I’d rather trust a newspaper published by a small independant company than one owned by a large corporation where conflicts of interest are more likely.

  5. Interesting thoughts!

    Tim: Thats true but in a real democracy everyone gets a vote and it’s representative. Digg’s users are not a good sample of the internet population.

    I think another point I wanted to make was that just because a lot of people agree on something doesn’t make it right. I remember watching a video on the Colbert show or something where people edited Wikipedia adding false information about elephants.

  6. Are countries that currently claim to be democracies actually `real democracies’ in your view? Note that prisoners do not get the vote and there is a bar that you have to be on the electoral role and be bothered to respond on the day (by post or in person). In much the same vein, you could say that Digg is accessible to all and it’s up folks to go there. (Although it’s not really; I tried to register and got put off by both a Captcha *and* a verification email that actually failed sender-verification. Problem solved, one might say – I read, irregularly, but don’t post or vote or anything.)

  7. Welcome to the "tyranny of democracy!" A lot of times people don’t like what the majority digg, so that lead to bias accusations….Tocqueville called that the "tyranny of the majority’ and this is sorta an example of that.

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