Digg.com could find itself facing legal action after it gave way to its readers and ended efforts to take down stories containing the code to crack copy protection on high definition video discs.
The popular site, where users determine the placement of new stories by voting, could become a test case for the power of user-generated content on social networking sites.
The row erupted when executives at Digg began removing posts that contained a software key needed to crack the encryption used to limit copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Digg, which began removing the posts after it got a cease-and-desist letter from another company asserting that the posts violated its intellectual property rights, also began deleting user accounts of those posting the key.
That move outraged many Digg users, who repeatedly posted the key until founder Kevin Rose relented Tuesday night and stopped the deletions.
Stories about the key received tens of thousands of "Diggs," or online approvals from the community and by Wednesday afternoon, Digg's top two stories - both about the keys and user response to them - had received approximately 35,000 Diggs.
The revolt marks a test case for social networking sites that accept user-generated content. Michael Arrington, who writes about Web 2.0 companies in his blog TechCrunch.com, said that, "even Digg didn't fully understand the power of the community to determine what is 'news.' The users had taken control of the site, and unless Digg went into wholesale deletion mode and suspended a large portion of their users, there was absolutely nothing they could do about it."
Some Digg users said that most of the people posting the key never intended to use it for any malfeasance and likened the response to a user revolt.
The outrage, wrote one user, was more due to Digg removing the posts and "having absolutely no explanation and owning up to it. A simple 'We are sorry, we don't want to get sued' would look at lot better," the user wrote on the Digg site.
Digg CEO Jay Adelson did provide an explanation in a blog post Tuesday afternoon, noting that "to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention. Whether you agree or disagree with the policies of the intellectual property holders and consortiums, in order for Digg to survive, it must abide by the law."
But by late Tuesday night, Digg founder Kevin Rose had relented under pressure from the users. In a blog post, he noted that after reading thousands of reader comments, the will of the community was clear to Digg.
"You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company," he wrote. "We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences will be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."