Is this the first full blown online riot? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s funny. Digg has been plagued with leftwing mishchief-makers who bury posts by conservatives originating from this site as well as the boss’ blog and LGF, and Digg’s owners haven’t really done much to stop it. But now there’s what amounts to a digital prison riot going on because a Digger posted the hacked HD-DVD code in a post. Obviously, Digg wasn’t going to let that stand or they might have serious legal problems on their hands. So they deleted that post and banned the Digger who posted it. But another post popped up with the same code. And they deleted that one, and then up came several, then several hundred, then too many to count, all getting thousands of Diggs to push them up the chain to the front page. And Digg’s founders were getting slammed by their own community as sell-outs and shills for The Man, etc. Here’s how Gizmodo describes the digital battle:

The power of Web 2.0 is in full effect over at Digg, where users are revolting over Digg’s decision to pull a story (that netted over 15,000 diggs) and reportedly boot a user for posting the HD-DVD AACS Processing Key number, which would allow someone to crack the copy protection on an HD-DVD. The front page (along with two and three) of Digg consists entirely of stories flaunting the number or criticizing Digg for its actions.

Digg’s Kevin Rose explains his side of the story here:

I just wanted to explain what some of you have been noticing around some stories that have been submitted to Digg on the HD DVD encryption key being cracked.

This has all come up in the past 24 hours, mostly connected to the HD-DVD hack that has been circulating online, having been posted to Digg as well as numerous other popular news and information websites. We’ve been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention.

My sympathies lie with Kevin on this. He’s being accused of censorship, a charge that really only ought to be leveled at the government and only when censorship is actually occurring, when all he’s doing is abiding by intellectual property law. The HD-DVD encryption code is a piece of property. Rose couldn’t let Digg become the place where the HD-DVD code got out. Doing so might destroy him and the site he founded and thereby the community that’s rioting against him now. Of course, the Digg community seems to be eating itself alive anyway at this point. For those of us who’ve had problems with the kids over at Digg, this riot is hardly a surprise. In some ways it’s the logical outcome of Web 2.0.

And it’s all going to be moot: Engineers will probably have a new encryption code in a day or so, making the code that has now spread beyond Digg to Slashdot and elsewhere useless. Until it gets hacked and posted at Digg, of course.

Update: Digg has indeed reversed itself, and Kevin Rose posted the code on his own blog.

We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Died trying to what? This looks to me like an attempt to appease the mob. That seldom works out very well.

Update: Exit question–Is the Digg riot is proof that libertarian ideals don’t work in the real world?