Silicon Valley Sleuth reported this morning how several stories about Google buying Sun suspiciously made it to the front page of Digg.com. These "baseless rumours" were all submitted and promoted by a small group of Digg members that seemed to be working together.
I found this story through Digg itself, where it was posted on the front page. It later mysteriously disappeared from Digg though, and a URL search indicated that the story was since marked as "buried".
The Digg Blog says the following about this burying feature:
Digg now allows logged in users to bury stories as 'inaccurate'. Once enough people bury the story, it is removed from the queue and the following banner is displayed at the top:
No banner is displayed though, which makes me wonder if it was buried because enough people marked it as inaccurate (the same people who were promoting these Google+Sun stories maybe?) or whether an admin removed it in an effort to hide how easily Digg can be manipulated. There's currently an update on Silicon Valley Sleuth stating that it seems unlikely the Digg system was actually manipulated in this case, but this update wasn't there when the story was buried, and also doesn't make the theoretical possibility of this happening any less likely.
Due to the automated nature of Digg (which uses user-votes to determine how prominently to display a story) it certainly seems possible for a group of people to get together and promote stories in order to get them onto the coveted front page, while at the same time burying stories they don't like. Worse than that, what would stop someone from automating this process and creating a couple hundred accounts for this purpose? To reduce suspicion, these accounts could digg random stories from time to time, or even undigg stories once they've made it to the front page.
If this is not going on already, I predict it will soon. Compared to the trouble BlogSpammers are going through in order to game sites like Google, DayPop or Blogdex, gaming Digg seems relatively easy. While Digg claims to have ways to prevent manipulation, one can't help but wonder whether it's enough, and I'm sure there are plenty of spammers out there just dying to beat the system...