Digg Removes BP America Sponsored Submission From Front Page

UPDATED: 10/8/2010 – 2:07 p.m. CST

Digg removed a BP America sponsored submission from their front page after determining it “crossed the acceptable threshold” of negative community feedback, the company stated on its official Twitter account.

The submission — Offshore world looks good after Gulf oil spill, scientists say (with video) —  attempted to downplay the ill effects of offshore drilling despite massive regional devastation from BP’s own drilling efforts earlier this year.

Many, like the masses over at Reddit, wondered why Digg would ever agree to a such blatant PR spin job by BP America. The company, however, said they do not review will allow anyone to submit content for this particular type of advertising, which uses a self-serve platform allowing anyone to artificially promotes a link of their choosing to the front page for a price.

“Digg accepts advertising from any company as long as the company and the content do not violate our Terms of Service (inappropriate language, illegal business such as gambling or porn, etc.) and as such, BP has initiated an ad campaign with Digg, similar to ad campaigns that they have already been running in recent months with Google, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post,” stated Chief Revenue Officer Chas Edwards in an e-mail response.

“Specifically, BP is currently running a ‘Digg Ad’ which is a promotion that every Digg user knows appears as the 3rd placement in the story list on our homepage,” he said.

A negative community reaction seems to be the only way to alert Digg of sponsored submissions that may violate Terms of Service. This feels like a highly volatile strategy for a website that has a reputation of power users who know how to “game the system” to hit the front page.

Edwards also added, “this ad is clearly marked ‘Sponsored by BP America’,”  which can mean different things to different people.

In this case “sponsored” actually means “advertisement” — not “endorsement”, but personally I can understand the misinterpretation. At the very least, there is some confusion among users about the relationship between Digg and its ad clients.

UPDATE #1 – Digg’s Director of Communications Michele Husak contacted me to point out that the “Sponsored Submissions” are not on a self-serve platform and are also reviewed by their team prior to being published on the site.

So, apparently Digg was well aware of what it was doing when it reviewed and approved BP America’s “Sponsored Submission”, presumably because Digg didn’t see anything wrong BP promoting good press about the Gulf oil spill. The ad was yanked from the site based entirely on the negative reaction from the community.

Below is the E-mail response from Husak: