Calacanis-flavoured rumours doing the rounds in the blogosphere suggest that some of Digg's top posters have been paid, or offered payment, by PR firms.
He may have resigned from his position at Netscape, but Jason Calacanis is still keeping an eye on events surrounding Digg. He reports in his blog that a number of Digg's top 50 users are on the payroll of a leading (unnamed, of course) PR firm.
He points out that, in contrast to the top Digg users who feel they should be paid for the work they do on the site, Netscape's navigators wouldn't dream of doing this sort of thing, as they are already paid for their efforts.
Not that he expects these revelations to damage Digg too much:
"Will this problem kill digg? Nope, because the audience can bury things. Will this problem undermine trust in digg? Of course.
My prediction is social news sites without a paid staff of editors cleaning the site up will be less trusted than ones with editorial staffs."
Calacanis had offered $100 to anyone with information on Digg scams, and received reports of users being enticed to write and digg stories by marketing and PR firms. Muhammad at the Mu Life talks about one such example.
The popularity and influence of social news sites like Digg has led some marketers to attempt to exploit this audience, with some sites offering cash for diggs.
CNET offers a good overview of the issue, though Digg CEO Jay Adelson believes that Digg, with its user-moderation, has a 'foolproof system'. We're not so sure that the wisdom of crowds is foolproof, exactly. We do know that, in the real world, people behave differently in groups, and that most individuals have some sort of price for selling-out.
That said, we're also huge fans of websites that focus on user-generated content, and for every brand that successfully games / exploits these sites, there will be another that receives all sorts of bad press for being found out...
Risk = reward (sometimes).