Remember us warning you about Buzzmachine's Jeff Jarvis. Remember us specifically pointing to his interview last July on Beet.TV and his announcement "we're the bosses now!" Remember his 6 million person pitchfork-and-torch-bearing mob, "ready to storm castle Dell"? Remember Jeff saying that companies will be forced to "hand over control... in ways they'd never have dared before"? Remember us calling it the infamous "Greenmail Interview," and him a demagogue.
Well, here we are. Hate to be an I-told-you-so but apparently, Jeff's world is coming true. Hold that thought.
Beware the Mob - Digg could happen to you
By Ephraim Schwartz
In what can only be described as a lynching of an Internet site, Digg, the online site for and by the people, was taken over this week by a mob, albeit it appears to be a completely self-organizing mob, that kept posting stories that included the key to break a digital rights copy protection code built into HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
According to our IDG News Service Digg Bends to Users Will on AACS Encryption Key, "the company began removing the posts after it received a cease-and-desist letter from another company claiming these posts violated its intellectual property rights."
As far as can be determined, those who posted were not part of some officially organized effort but rather fed off one another as the posting momentum grew. No sooner would Digg take down one post than someone else would put up another post that included the key.
Attempts to game automated Internet mechanisms are nothing new. Companies that wanted to raise their Google search profiles, for instance, are constantly stuffing keywords into their opening paragraphs or metadata in order to move up the rankings.
Howard Stern tried to aid and abet a Web site that exhorted American Idol fans to vote for Sanjaya, even though his singing skills are well below par.
Now we have the even scarier phenomenon that took place on Digg. Citizen journalism, as I wrote about it last week (Beware Mob Media) is one thing. But now we see this idea taken to its illogical conclusion.
While some may hail the idea of "the people" forcing Digg to surrender and say it would not take down the posts even if it potentially means its own demise, the specter of the owner -- who in a sense is just like the owner of a brick-and-mortar store -- having to acquiesce to an unruly mob that doesn't like what the store is selling or not selling, bodes ill for the future and the value of the World Wide Web.
I don't see this as a victory for the people. In my previous blog post on the subject, I cited examples of the dangers of a mob mentality. Here is yet another.
Let's look beyond the issue of digital rights management. Instead of praising this as a victory of the people over the giants of Hollywood and the recording industry, we should consider the bigger issue of what keeps a democracy intact.
A large part of that is, I believe, the willingness of all of us to accept and follow the rules. The old cliché that says your freedom stops where my nose begins, was never more important than today.
END NOTE: How disconcerting it was yesterday to see so many PRs with their pitchforks and torches raised high. In the name of free speech? Forget it... proud looters the lot of 'em. I hope all their corporate clients keep that in mind.