It was possible for users to have disproportionate influence on Digg, either by themselves or in teams. These users were sometimes motivated to promote or bury pages for political or financial reasons.
Serious attempts by users to game the site began in 2006. A top user was banned after agreeing to promote a story for cash to an undercover Digg sting operation. Another group of users openly formed a 'Bury Brigade' to remove "spam" articles about US politician Ron Paul; critics accused the group of attempting to stifle any mention of Ron Paul on Digg.
Digg hired computer scientist Anton Kast to develop a diversity algorithm that would prevent special interest groups from dominating Digg. During a town hall meeting, Digg executives responded to criticism by removing some features that gave superusers extra weight, but declined to make "buries" transparent.
However, later that year Google increased its page rank for Digg. Shortly afterwards, many 'pay for Diggs' startups were created to profit from the opportunity. According to TechCrunch, one top user charged $700 per story, with a $500 bonus if the story reached the front page.
Digg Patriots was a conservative Yahoo! Groups mailing list, with an associated page on coRank, accused of coordinated, politically motivated behavior on Digg. Progressive blogger Ole Ole Olson wrote in August 2010 that Digg Patriots undertook a year-long effort of organized burying of seemingly liberal articles from Digg's Upcoming module. He also accused leading members of vexatiously reporting liberal users for banning (and those who seemed liberal), and creating "sleeper" accounts in the event of administrators banning their accounts. These and other actions would violate Digg's terms of usage. Olson's post was immediately followed by the disbanding and closure of the DiggPatriots list, and an investigation into the matter by Digg.
Too late in the game, Digg reinvents itself as an editorially-monitored newsgroup, where an expert editorial staff picks the topics, not "power users" or anonymous accounts. Reddit seems poised to fall into the same trap Digg did - a recent survey indicates that something like 80% plus of comments come from less than 10% of the users. Even 1% of users account for nearly half the comments. In other words a small and vocal minority controls most of the discussion. And since we don't know who these people are, we have no idea if they are 14-year-old high-schoolers, Russian troll sites, or Rabid Trump supporters or what.
It would be like the Washington Post or the New York Times handed over its editorial control to a random bunch of homeless people. Oh, wait, I think they already did that. Or at least that is what I get from reading both papers.
There was a reason why we had "editors" at papers. There was a reason why the restaurant or movie reviewers in the papers were people who were paid for their opinions. Today, the rabble rules. Opinions about everything from politics, to restaurants, to movies, is determined by popular polls made on the Internet - polls that are all-too-easy to spoof for political or financial gain.
But reality, as I have noted time and time again, plays its ugly hand. A shitty movie is going to bomb no matter how many people shill for it on the Internet. And a good movie can't be kept down just because some folks feel that the casting was too "politically correct" or whatever. A crappy restaurant can't be kept afloat by Yelp! nor be put out of business by false rumors of child abduction.
So what's the point? Well, the point is, I think, that these social media websites are just that - websites. Just some HTML and an URL and not much more. They become trendy just like rock stars and rap starts become trendy - and just as quickly vanish into the night. There is no real substance to them for the long haul. Even the Beatles broke up.
And the folks who run these sites know this, which is why they continually tweak the sites and redesign them (often with horrific results). They are drowning in flop-sweat, knowing full well that if they don't change the site they will be relegated to the trash-heap of Internet history, but at the same time, if they don't change the site in just the right way, they will be relegated to the trash-heap of history.
You can bet Mark Zuckerberg doesn't sleep well at night.