Digg Cleans House, Bans 80+ Script Users

Reports are bubbling up that Digg has permanently banned over 80 users for running scripts that help them automatically perform certain tasks on the site.

The mostly lengthy account has been published on the Get Smart Blog under the title The Grim Reaper has visited Digg. The post lists 86 usernames that were unceremoniously dropped from the site without forewarning. The tone of the author and his commenters, all apparently Digg users (or ex-Digg users) themselves, is dramatic: “So many brave and valiant Diggers…it is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions to see such wasted talent.”

Among those banned was a user named Diggboss who had developed a GreaseMonkey script for checking up on friends to see whether they’ve dugg the items that you’ve submitted or shouted. The script used Digg’s own APIs and didn’t automatically Digg any stories, yet Digg’s Terms of Use vaguely prohibits “automated means to access the Site” and any “organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg’s services.”

In an official blog post from last week, Jen Burton from Digg suggested that scripts were primarily forbidden because they “place additional load on Digg servers (slowing things down for everyone)”. It’s quite clear, however, that Digg is also concerned with preventing users from gaming the system by recruiting their friends. The Duggboss script may not have automatically submitted stories, but it did help users pursue a strategy of scratching backs for homepage hits (a strategy that ensnared Mark Cuban’s own brother).

Many users are defiant that Digg should dismiss long-time contributors on the grounds that they had run scripts. And some think Digg is shooting itself in the foot by giving users reason to jump ship:

Script? All I have to say about that is WHO CARES! Is Digg doing great in traffic and usage? YES! The site could be a little easier to use if you ask me and if script enables people to use it faster….. so be it! It only works in Digg’s favor and you would think they would understand that. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next few months. Digg might just become a ghost town and Yahoo Buzz could be the next guru.

But that’s nothing new.

[Copyrighted image courtesy of Cyril van der Haegen]