Digg just can’t get a break. On the heels of news that the company had to lay off 37% of its staff and saw the departures of both its CRO and CFO, last night a report surfaced alleging that Digg was gaming its own system, ostensibly to favor certain partners. If true, this would have further undermined user trust in the site’s democratic voting system, and the evidence was convincing that something out of the ordinary was going on. Now Digg has just responded to this accusation with a blog post that boils down to, “Yes, we do have fake accounts voting up stories, but they’re for testing purposes”. Here’s a relevant excerpt:
Before doing that, I’m going to address a story submitted to Digg that called out activity of a number of our internal test accounts. As with many sites, we continuously run tests on the site to expose vulnerabilities in our own security. In this case, we did have a number of our internal test accounts Digging content from the Upcoming section of the site. We learned a great deal about some vulnerabilities in how users can inappropriately Digg stories into the home page. We have already made some changes over the last few weeks and are going to be making some other changes to the site this week to address a few of the issues we found. Similar to how good security companies try to break their own security, we have always tested and will always run tests to find spam vulnerabilities on Digg.
Most importantly, we should have been forthright with our community about our testing efforts and we’ll certainly do so in the future. Rest assured that Digg does not in any way receive financial gain from this activity and the accounts were not used to submit any content.
Digg founder Kevin Rose followed up on the blog post with a comment explicitly saying that Digg has always used such test accounts:
We’ve never taken a single dime from a publisher for any activity on Digg (outside of standard ad units). We’ve used test accounts since day one and will continue to use them as we validate our various spam/promotion algorithms.
Along side the post explaining the fake accounts, Digg’s Jen Burton detailed some of the new (or at least, returning) features that would be coming to Digg in the next two weeks. These include the ability to sort content by images and video, suggested users, the Bury button, and a ‘Breaking News’ module.