User Rights and the Social Web

While the recent Digg bans have caused much online controversy, little attention has been given to the larger issue affecting users of social sites, namely user rights.

Last year, Mike Arrington, Robert Scoble, Joseph Smarr and Marc Canter wrote a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. The document asserts that all users of the social Web are entitled to certain fundamental rights when it comes to ownership of their information.

Our question is: what rights do the banned diggers have?

While their submissions and Diggs remain on the site, their profile information is simply wiped out; they vanish, as if they never existed.

Digg argues that by not disclosing the reasons for individual bans – but for breaking the TOU – they are abiding by their privacy policy, and thus protecting the user.  We argue that they’re hiding behind their privacy policy; the banning process should be transparent and open, particularly with users who want their voices heard.

Surely it’s a conflict of interest if the operating company, whose goal is to make money [now or in the future], can be the same body that determines which users can have access to the site and which can not?

Users should be offered a formal appeal process, be it public or private, and be given an opportunity for further recourse through a third party arbitrator if no resolution can be agreed on.

Additionally, while Digg certainly should remove any inappropriate content, any users that have had an account suspended or terminated should still be able to login, and their account should remain functional so that they can review or transfer their content.

Thoughts?

Update: Neal Rodriguez put together a five minute video with some excellent points; check out Dear Kevin and Jay

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9 Responses to “User Rights and the Social Web”

  1. Very astute. But what will happen is the disgruntled Digg users will simply migrate to StumbleUpon or some other competitive site of similar purpose. Isn’t vain for people to beg you to “Digg my post” so they get tons of transient, non-qualified traffic?

    Traffic means almost nothing.

    Quality work will attract an audience without artificial traffic boosters like Digg.

  2. Lid says:

    Hi Steven,

    I think you’re right, non qualified traffic is fairly pointless.

    Still, I think with so many social sites out there, it really is time that someone starts fighting for user rights. I was actually thinking of Flickr when writing this; imagine putting up your entire library of photos, only to have it all wiped out? Not that I would expect Flickr to do that, but the recent Digg bans have certainly raised an interesting point – for me anyway: social Web users need some rights.

  3. Mark Dykeman says:

    I think you make an excellent point about a more formal banning/appeal process for Web 2.0 websites (or websites in general that support communities and users). Digg’s relative silence and opaqueness on this issue is vexing. To be fair, though, they probably aren’t the only website that is occasionally seen as draconian – they just happen to be a well known and popular site.

  4. Melissa says:

    “We argue that they’re hiding behind their privacy policy; the banning process should be transparent and open, particularly with users who want their voices heard.”

    Excelent point!

  5. Swizec says:

    Isn’t the whole point of banning that the user is banned and … you know … can’t get back on? The problem isn’t in user rights, it’s in the primary fallacy of web2.0: users think third parties are safe alternatives to personal storage.

    When you store money at a bank and get “banned” for, say, tax fraud, nobody would make an outrage out of you not being able to get your content (ie. money) back. Why is it different in the case of websites and data? Just don’t do stupid things that get you banned.

    As for unqualified traffic, traffic DOES mean something. Even if you have quality content it needs to get out there somehow, it won’t just attract readers on its own, you have to tell them it’s there.

  6. Lid says:

    Hi Mark,

    You bring up an interesting point. Digg is the biggest when it comes to social news sites, but this only makes this entire issue worse; they are the example other sites look to. For that reason – if nothing else – they should consider setting a better example – blazing the way…

    Thanks Melissa :)

    Hi Swizec

    That’s our entire point; Web 2.0 sites must become safe alternatives.

  7. Interesting post… there are a lot (or were) sites asking you to Digg this post are they being banned? I’ve seen some post with well over the hundreds in Diggs.

  8. knud says:

    Hi

    I am working on a site which try to solve many of the problems with digg.com.
    You can find it on http://crowdnews.eu.

    The main problem with digg is the voting system.
    When only top voted stories get on the front page it has
    to be a subject that many can relate to,
    which result in stories with a low information content.

    Crowdnews solves this by using sharing instead of voting.
    Every have a personal news page on which they can subscribe to other users and when those users share stories they will appear on the personal news page.

    Join me on CrowdNews

  9. bizsugar.com says:

    User Rights and the Social Web…

    While the recent Digg bans have caused much online controversy, little attention has been given to the larger issue affecting users of social sites, namely user rights….

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