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The power of social media community

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By | October 27th 2009

By Mark Kimathi

FoxNews.com referred to it as a ‘revolt’, while BBC.co.uk called it a ‘rebellion’, and The New York Times website talked of ‘uproar’.

It might even be considered the digital revolt of the 21st century. It goes to show how powerful the social media community is.

It started on May 1, 2007 when story submitted at Digg.com exposed AACS cryptographic keys. Digg is a social news website for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet, by submitting links and stories.

The voting up and down is the site’s cornerstone function, — digging and burying. As Wikipedia notes "Many stories get submitted every day, but only the most Dugg stories appear on the front page."

AACS on the other hand stands for Advanced

Access Content System. This is a standard for content distribution and digital rights management. It restricts access to and copying of the next generation of optical discs and DVDs. An AACS cryptographic key secures digital content to only play in pre-determined formats, players and discs. These "secret" keys have been making rounds on the Internet since 2004. But the particular key posted in the Digg website that fateful May 1, 2007 was like a master key, one that could decrypt any HD-DVD and Blue-Ray produced to that date.

Master key

Like Napster before it with music, people were excited in ways of copying this content.

Equally obvious was the AACS licensing administrators who represent interest of these content producers were not amused. They had been issuing cease and desist notices to website that display these keys. Digg.com happened to get one hours after the said post become popular.

Naturally, due to litigation concerns the Digg administration pulled down the said post, and that is when all hell broke loose. The Digg community sensed censorship and fought back.

The first post believed to have the title "Spread This Number. Now" was the pulled down followed by another hours later by Digg user ChesterJosiah. It got digged more than 15,000 times in a few hours taking it to the first page again. It too got deleted and the said user banned.

The next half day saw a barrage of similar stories submitted to the social news site all appearing on different website with the keys displayed in different formats. Not long before, the user had covered the first four pages of the most popular stories with only the AACS keys.

The site even got overwhelmed to the point it crashed. The administration later had to rescind on their decision to censor.

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