Social news aggregator Digg was repeatedly brought down yesterday by users angry that it had bowed to the anti-piracy lobby.
The firestorm began when Digg's administrators acted on a Advance Access Content System (AACS) cease and desist order, which demanded it remove the link to an article revealing the encryption key for HD-DVDs, which was cracked by hacker muslix64 in December.
Much of Digg's audience, heavy on male college students and internet workers, saw the move as an act of censorship. Their response was to repeatedly re-post links, and vote them back up to the site's front page.
Pleading for the Digg hive mind to practice self-moderation, CEO Jay Adelson responded on the company blog at 1PM Pacific Time: "We all need to work together to protect Digg from exposure to lawsuits that could very quickly shut us down."
Diggers continued their revolt, however, overloading the site with the thousands of places where the encryption code can easily be found online, until servers started spouting 404 errors and moderators finally gave up trying to control the rabble about eight hours after Adelson's plea.
Founder Kevin Rose told users: "So today was a difficult day for us. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.
"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."
Digg boasts more than a million Diggers, and has remained light on advertising and sponsorship, despite its veneration by the business press as a poster child for the San Francisco web 2.0 hysteria.
This episode provides ample illustration of its reliance on, and vulnerabilty to, a particular community of internet users, who have no truck with DRM and corporate behaviour generally. One-time rival Reddit has seen its star dim rapidly since it "sold out" to Condé Nast, which publishes Wired.
It remains to be seen whether AACS has the stones to follow up on its threat, and take on the Digg mob. ®
Please don't bother trying to post the encryption key on our comment section. We are bound by UK copyright and patents law, not to mention the DMCA. Comments carrying the key will be rejected.