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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
The Digg Guy
After reading through an article about different Terms of Service, one which particularly highlighted Digg's Terms of Use, and their "No Reason at All" clause, in which posts anc comments could be deleted by Digg moderators "for no reason at all," I found myself thinking up possible reasons behind "not having any reason."

What immediately came to mind was sponsorship. A Fox news show received attention when its hosts suddenly appeared with McDonald's iced coffee drinks - which raised the question: how likely would Fox report an unrelated story against McDonald's, when McDonald's had just payed a hefty sum of money to the network.

The article (Handling executions in a Digg democracy) lists occurences of comments being deleted - particularly ones which were against news host Katie Couric, at a time when Katie Couric and Digg had formed a partnership for interview questions. Katie Couric, wanting users to submit questions for her to pose to politicians, received criticisms and negative comments which were promptly removed from the website, and the users in question were banned. When some asked why, Digg pointed to their harassment clause, but also pointed out their "no reason at all" statement.

But is there ever really no reason at all? For actions to be dictated without reason suggest a few possibilities on Digg's part:

a) Digg has flawed code - an unknown bug, impossible to track down, which results in the spontaneous deletion of comments, and banning of account. And while flawless code is rather impossible, it's not likely that Digg would use this as the reason for their no-reason.

b) Moderators make a regular habit of randomly deleting data from the website's database. Reasons for which are completely unknown to all.

c) "No reason at all" is your typical umbrella clause to be brought into effect to cover points that were either missed, forgotten, or were not considered at the time of writing. Moreover it also covers points in which embarassing admissions, admissions of fault, or any other form of admission. And beyond that, it covers whatever else they wouldn't want to be telling us. Such as, perhaps in the example given by the article, that Digg had just formed some quiet temporary partnership with CBS and Katie Couric, in which Digg had received a large cheque, and to maintain good relations and honor it's relationship with CBS they quickly removed whatever could possibly be seen in a negative light.

I, for one, have no stake in any of this. I just found the "No reason at all" clause to be somewhat peculiar. For one, how could one argue that the actions they took were part of the "no reason at all" category of actions? If a legal matter were to arise, would this argument uphold in a court of law?

"No reason at all" implies a randomness to me, and moreover implies that any search for a pattern would prove fruitless. Like looking for a pattern in an irrational number, the moment one seems to arise, it would be immediately shattered .

Of course, to get philosophical about the idea of randomness, true randomness of an infinite array of digits could very have a pattern up until a certain digit - and if it so happens that that certain digit falls out of the range you are looking at - one would assume to have found a pattern. And while not completely a different discussion than what I'm arguing, it is not one likely to be solved in a single article.

The point remains that if one can show a motivation, a reason for actions - or, to prove by contradiction - prove that the actions could not have been random because there was nothing random about them - could this argument be hold?

Does "No reason at all" not leave a door open to allow whatever reason is available to walk straight in and sit on the couch? And the more one affirms that the action had no reason, even ludicrous reasons seem the more plausible.

Of course in a court of law, and even outside it, the honus falls upon the accuser to prove the reason they are suggesting was the actual reason - and what could result is an argument so convoluted, so impossible to follow, it would just be a waste of time.

And yet, "No reason at all" remains an open door. Open for those who want to form their own reasons to replace the lack of reason, and open for those like myself, who are dumbfounded by the inclusion of "no reason".

Would not a reason such as "In certain rare instances, comments will be deleted for reasons that will not be divulged to the user except with the promise that this will not be a power abused, but one to provide and increase the reliability and quality of the product."

At least with a reason like that, we're given a reason, and though we may feel put off by the censorship, there is reassurance in knowing the censorship was founded on some rational, and not simply the outcome of an array of events, all set off by a butterfly flapping it's wings in Chile.


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