Manipulating Digg

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 30, 2007
Updated • Jun 16, 2013

Digg is one of the most important social news sites on the Internet. It is not completely user driven but comes close to that. Every registered user may submit links which are then added to the website and enter the voting process.

Those links - with a title and short description - stay in the upcoming stories section for no more than 24 hours. Users may also vote on submissions which increases a submissions' popularity on the site increasing the chance that it is moved to the frontpage of the service where it gets more exposure.


When a story reaches a certain amount of votes in that 24 hour period it will be published on the frontpage of Digg making it a very popular article throughout the Internet. Digg sends a large amount of visitors to that site as soon as the article hits the frontpage.

Besides that, other websites report about this story as well and send even more visitors to the site. Most say that the visitors that are send this way are useless for the website. Many website owners fear the Digg effect, the effect that a server crashes due to the load that all the visitors from Digg cause.

The system seems fair at first glance. Every user has one vote and can submit stories. If enough users like the story it gets promoted. This is indeed a fine system if it there were not for users who manipulate the votes either way. Some webmasters will manipulate a system if it benefits their websites. And the votes and stories on Digg can be easily manipulated in two ways.

The first way is the more obvious one. If you need X diggs to make it to the frontpage you create a group of webmasters, friends, relatives and people that get paid to digg so that your submissions rise in popularity quickly regardless of their quality. Whenever you publish a link on Digg you send that group a message and they start digging the story like crazy.

Many webmasters prefer to get digged a lot in the first hour after publishing the article because articles with many votes in a short period of time attract more users and therefore more votes. Other users will recognize the article and the ball gets rolling.

Webmasters who manipulate Digg want between 15-30 votes from people they know every time they submit an article to and the rest of the necessary votes will be given by the Digg community itself.

The second method manipulates Digg the other way round. Instead of voting on their own stories to give them more votes, those webmasters report stories to digg as "spam or inaccurate" or the like to bury it before it can reach the frontpage. This system works pretty well, let me explain how it can be that articles get buried down just a few minutes after they have been published at Digg.

I personally think that the friend list is the key. If you add someone as your friend you see all submissions, diggs and comments. Instead of adding real friends you add users as friends that you want to harm by burying their stories. Whenever such a users posts an article you see it immediately and send an email to your friends who help you bury it.

By manipulating articles that deal with a certain topic they can push their articles - the only ones that do not get buried - to the frontpage. This is like creating a monopoly on certain news items on Digg.

Both ways of manipulating Digg have no justification and the Digg team should do everything in their might to prohibit Digg gaming. Instead of burying stories it could be very useful to make it possible to vote negatively for a story which would subtract one positive vote from the article. This would make it much harder to bury articles in the first minutes of appearance.

Someone suggested that Digg should prevent that articles can be voted for by direct linking to them but I do not think that this is practicable at all. Many plugins for websites and browsers like Firefox exist that rely on this feature. How many websites have you seen lately that have "digg this" buttons all over their articles ?

Digg could probably analyze gaming patterns and manipulate those accounts as well. Instead of banning them outright their votes would not count anymore. It would be shown but it would not count. Same would apply to buries. Have another idea ? Let me hear it.

Update: Digg has been acquired by another company recently which has changed the system significantly.


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  1. Martin said on May 2, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    alamster what do you mean exactly ?

  2. alamster said on May 2, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    server crash for digg effect?

    any sample?

  3. martin said on May 2, 2007 at 4:53 am

    have you had a look at the slashdot entry on the same topic ?

    Basically, it compares digg to hotornot. If a vote is made on a page that was referred from from outside the hotornot domain, then it doesn’t get counted.

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