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The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here's My Proof

We’ve heard about a purported ‘Bury Brigade’ on Digg time and again, with sketchy pieces of evidence here and there but no concrete proof. Until now.
The Digg.com FAQ describes the ‘Bury Story’ feature as,

Stories can also be removed by users with the ‘Bury Story’ feature within digg. Once a story receives enough ‘buries’ it is automatically removed from the digg Upcoming or Popular sections. The number of reports required to bury is based on a sliding scale that takes several factors into consideration (such as number of diggs, reports, time of day, topic submitted to, etc.).

While that system is supposed to be used to remove superfluous or irrelevant content from Digg, the mechanism is often abused to remove useful and insightful content by malicious users for self-serving and vindictive reasons. My observations are based on data collected by David using a mechanism that he tried to explain to me via email. You can get this data by using the Digg Spy JSON Array:
The Digg Spy Array (set max items to any number)

http://www.digg.com/spy_update?timestamp=11600000&showtop=2&showitems=1&showdiggs=1
&showburies=1&showcomments=1&showtop=2&maxitems=25

This will give you the results in the following manner:
For a comment:

{"type":"comment","itemid":"1445140","uid":"Krymore","date":"2007-02-27 13:13:19","timestamp":
"1172610799","plk":"http://digg.com/offbeat_news/Pennsylvania_boy_sues_school_for_banning
_Jesus_Halloween_costume","title":"Pennsylvania boy sues school for banning Jesus Halloween
costume","url":"http://www.canada.com/topics/news/oddities/story.html?id=0dd2a2ca-
2d04-40d5-998b-92cdcd0173ba&k=44020","dig_count":"668","area":"Popular","userimage":""}

For a Digg:

{"type":"dig","itemid":"1439073","uid":"cyberzerocool","date":"2007-02-27 13:13:19","timestamp":
"1172610799","plk":"http://digg.com/videos_people/Amazing_poker_chip_trix","title":"Amazing
poker chip trix","url":"http://www.vidmax.com/index.php/videos/view/708","dig_count":"225",
"area":"Popular","userimage":"/userimages/c/y/b/cyberzerocool/small4166.jpg"}

For a Submit:

{"type":"item","itemid":"1453190","uid":"jflint","date":null,"timestamp":"1172610797","plk":
"http://digg.com/software/Google_Maps_Traffic_on_your_mobile","title":"Google Maps + Traffic on
your mobile","url":"http://www.google.com/gmm/index.html","dig_count":"1","area":"Upcoming",
"userimage":"/userimages/jflint/small.png"}

And For a Bury:

{"type":"report","itemid":"1446721","date":"2007-02-27 13:13:16","timestamp":"1172610796",
"reason":"Duplicate Story","plk":"http://digg.com/world_news/The_Mad_Cabbie_Driver_Praises_
Hitler_Then_Runs_Down_Customers","title":"The Mad Cabbie: Driver Praises Hitler, Then Runs
Down Customers ","url":"http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070226
/NEWS03/70226043","dig_count":"79","area":"Upcoming"}

By collecting all the data just for reports, you can create an output that looks like this:
diggburiesreleased The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here's My Proof
You can see which user did the burying, on what story, and on what basis. By looking at just some of the data, you can get quite conclusive hard evidence that not only does the bury brigade exist, but it is hard at work burying any content that doesn’t suit its ideology. Here are some examples:
Burying Sony
undefined burried Sony slashes prices on Blu-ray player (Spam)
adm58 burried Sony slashes prices on Blu-ray player (Spam)
glenjammin burried PS3 price is right: Sony Australia – Or Sony Ripoff (Spam)
Burying Microsoft
xoineg burried 3d Photo Viewer by Microsoft (Inaccurate)
phinnfort burried 3d Photo Viewer by Microsoft (Spam)
adm58 burried How to resize a partition in Windows Vista (Spam)
I have looked at the outbound links and none of them seem spammy to me. The only thing that stands out about them is that the first set has to do with Sony and the second set has to do with Microsoft. And surprise surprise, adm58 is burying front-page stories about Microsoft/Sony as spam. Shame on you!
Have a look at the data for yourself and catch yourself a genuine ‘Bury Brigade’ member today!
**Update**
I just wanted to thank all of you for commenting on this article. Many of you have expressed a concern with the lack of data in this article and so I have made all the data available on the site. It has been cleaned up and presented several different ways so that you can perform your on analysis on it and come to your own conclusions.
If you do make use of this data, please let me know so I can look at it. Furthermore, if you are interested in collaborating, please let me know, and I will be glad to help in any way I can.
The data is also available is CSV form. All you have to do to get it is ask.
Many thanks to [Chris Finke](http://www.efinke.com/) for helping me with the data cleaning and sorting.
[buries-raw-data.html](http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/other/buries-raw-data.html)
[buries-top-users-with-reasons.html](http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/other/buries-top-users-with-reasons.html)
[buries-top-stories-with-reasons.html](http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/other/buries-top-stories-with-reasons.html)
[buries-top-users.html](http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/other/buries-top-users.html)
[buries-top-stories.html](http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/other/buries-top-stories.html)

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30 thoughts on “The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here's My Proof

  1. Neil, I understand where you’re getting that from. The Bury Brigade is not necessarily a group in the way that this is a concerted effort. But it is a group in that it is a group of people that act in a similarly ignorant way. So while they may not be working together, they have similar habits, i.e. it is more than one person, with similar habits of burying content they simply don’t agree with, not matter how important or relevant it might be.
    I didn’t give them the name, and I can understand the confusion it causes.

  2. I agree with Neil, you showed some cool Digg features, but no details about this suposedly sinister group, no details of satanic rituals etc :-)

  3. In the case of LGF, my feelings are that Digg users were noticing what they consider too many posts from one source hitting the homepage. Instead of letting them be, they began to mark them as spam.
    I am in agreement with Neil and Danp on this one.

  4. This is fascinating stuff. It’s the first time I’ve seen someone get bury-related data out of Digg in any scalable fashion. I wonder how far back historic information goes.

  5. Three people burying two stories as spam does not a brigade create.
    I believe that there’s probably a few small, loosely organized ones but this is far from ‘hard’ proof. You’d need a much bigger sample size of the bury’s to work with.
    Neil has a point, this proves pretty much nothing. I’d love to see you do further research on the matter. Pick a large amount, like all visible buries over the course of seven days and run statistical analyses on them.

  6. does this still work? I can’t see any “report” entry on the page even after burying a few lame stories

  7. As Dave above says, the big story here is the fact that someone extracted the who-buried-it info from Digg. The bury brigades could have been spotted even earlier with careful observation of the Digg Spy – this is just putting a name tag on them.

  8. LGF is a site that:
    1. Essentially is comprised of anti-muslim stories.
    2. Continually bemoans about how Digg users are stupid.
    #1 annoys people, and #2 sets them off (ie – burying)
    There is nothing surprising nor is there a ‘brigade’

  9. There should definitely be an algorithm in place to prevent gaming of digg in the reverse. Burying promoted story in a concerted effort (if happening) is just as much gaming digg as front page promotion techniques.

  10. Could it be that there is just a sort of organic hatred of sony and/or microsoft among legitimate diggers? I’m not too sure about sony, but I know a lot of just general comp. users who do not like microsoft. If there are a lot who also use digg, and they all choose to independently “bury” those same stories, is it not just a legitimate expression of the community’s preferences? Just asking. I think it is funny to use this commercial product based example, though, when a better case could probably be made in the political arena.

  11. The second thing Digg tells you to do when you submit a story is “Link Directly to the Source: Save people time by linking directly to the original news story.”
    LGF, Media Matters, and Think Progress add little to nothing to a story and often get buried due to the fact that people would rather read the article and make up their own mind instead of being told how to feel about it. I wonder why Digg doesn’t just block the sites because they can lead to legitimate news being buried.

  12. Loved the article, and yes, I do hate in this day and age where censorship can take on new forms within this electronic age. It bugs me how ignorant people can be about dealing with things they don’t like to encounter. Rather than bury a story or article, post an opinion on your disagreements, or just ignore the story altogether.
    From reading the data list you provided, I notice how one user acts as if he/she is the Queen Victoria of Infodata (my own personal term). Because who give this person the right on determining what news is acceptable or not for the public? What he/she might consider lame might be of real importance to another. And as johndi indicated, this blind attitude of some of these users can end up inadvertently burying legitimate news articles.
    You’d think Digg would be a bit more responsible with how their bury feature is being used. But that’s progress for you.

  13. I don’t understand – there is no “uid” tag in the bury block. How did you cross reference users against buries?

  14. Oddly the list shows me burying stories that I actually dugg. That’s impossible to do. But neat list anyway. Good work!

  15. “But it is a group in that it is a group of people that act in a similarly ignorant way. So while they may not be working together, they have similar habits, i.e. it is more than one person, with similar habits of burying content they simply don’t agree with, not matter how important or relevant it might be.”
    you seem to have an opinion (calling them ignorant) about a group of people you don’t know, that are acting in their own individual ways. just b/c you don’t agree with their independent, but similar habits, that makes them ignorant to who? you? seems that this is what digg was supposed to be…people making independent judgements, posting of opinions, you just don’t happent to like the opinion.
    instead of standing in the middle asserting your opinion is superior, less ignorant than the rest, and you know what should be important and relevant, why not find another social network?

  16. I’ve suspected it for a long time, and the common biases are clear to people who have the ability to synthesize abstract information. Now, you’ve come along and put actual numbers to the intuition. Congratulations on a great effort and let’s see if digg can actually respond in any meaningful way.
    (my prediction: they will have to hire moderators or forever be taken over by the “mob” you’ve described)

  17. Interesting read, I’m not a keen Dig reader but I could see that there are those who would try and exploit the system with such a big user base.
    Xro – Perhaps they will impose limits on how often you can bury stories? From their view I’m sure moderators sounds expensive ;)

  18. Its called voting as a block, and I’m not convinced there is anything wrong with it. Every group on digg with an axe to grind does it, it comes as no surprise. In fact, by publicizing it, you’re encouraging more people to participate instead of acting as individuals, they maximize their impact by teaming up.

  19. I show up as a frequent burier, but I am certainly not trying to game the system.
    I bury people who submit post after post to 1 and only 1 site, almost always their
    own blog. It is easy to verify by looking at their profile and seeing that they only
    submit or digg articles on 1 and only 1 site. I consider this spam and bury accordingly.
    This is especially annoying when 1 user submits 10-20 posts to their own site in a matter
    of as many minutes – I think you’ll agree that this happens quite often, and I don’t think
    there’s any other name for it but spam. Burying is an important function, it is not always
    “censorship” of views one disagrees with. There’s inhibition as well as excitation among neurons. Sure it can be abused, but burying on digg is probably mostly legitimate.

  20. You aren’t seeing a Bury Brigade. You’re just seeing the natural evolution of any “web 2.0″ community.
    Digg has no way for a user to say “not one of the things here interests me”. If I don’t find anything I like on Digg, I just leave; I don’t go through and Bury every single item on the site. So the people who like what’s on the front page Digg that stuff and Bury other stuff, and the people who don’t like it leave, and eventually you have a large contingent of people who all think the same way. Bam, it’s a Bury Brigade! Only not, really, because it’s just that the community has chased off anyone who disagrees with it. In a majority-rules system, the Majority does indeed Rule.