This post is illegal

posted 07 May 2007

This weekend I did... nothing. Well, I went to Matt's Frigid Bitch on Friday. And then I went home, and left the house only twice for the rest of the weekend, both times venturing less than a block to pick up food. Dunno, I've just been feeling really antisocial and energyless recently. I think I've been working too hard.

To spice things up a bit: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0. That number, which appears roughly 1.9 million times on the web at the moment, is illegal, at least according to the MPAA, who are currently issuing takedown notices right and left across the Internet, trying to suppress it.

My reaction to such an obvious case of censorship is pretty predictable, and I'm by no means alone. In particular, over on the Web 2.0 version of Slashdot, Digg, there was an open revolt as the owners of Digg attempted to take down every reference to the number in response to a cease-and-desist letter from the MPAA. The users of the site responded by submitting nothing but articles referring to the number. This is particularly fascinating since Digg consists entirely of user-submitted content -- so what do you do when your users post nothing except things you don't want to show?

It turns out that, sensibly, what they do is pay attention to their users: the founder of Digg has declared on his blog:

...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.

Of course, it's only sensible, not admirable, because as he obliquely acknowledges, Digg's only other option is to die immediately, as their users instantly destroy the site they create anew for the operators every day. This is a side of the Web 2.0 phenomenon, overloaded with hype as that term is, that has not been much explored: when you empower your users, that power includes the power to destroy your site.