Update: Okay, it was all a joke. The guy says he used to be a Ron Paul supporter but is no longer one, and the “Diggbot” download links went to an “about”-type page. More about Ron Paul and spam in my “ronpaul” tag on del.icio.us.

For more info on Ron Paul, see Ron Paul vs the New World Order, an excellent roundup of Ron Paul‘s questionable ideological roots in conspiracy, survivalist, libertarian, anarchic, anti-taxation circles; and my own later entry on the topic.

I’m just getting the hang of Digg lately, having been reattracted to it by the recently added social profile functionality, and I was curious as to why Ron Paul gets so much play in the 2008 elections “upcoming” stream; maybe too much, even given the influence of a core community of passionate, connected, rather vocal online libertarian supporters (pejoratively called “paultards” or “ronbots” or “ronulans”). My suspicions were especially piqued by the number of strange diggs on a jokey throwaway post — this was either the result of people who don’t RTFL, or an automated bot at work.

Then a quick search found the Ron Paul Diggbot — Google-cached from August, as the actual page appears to have been pulled. From the description, the Diggbot searches for Digg posts with “Ron Paul” in the title, and can digg these posts up to the front page, auto-register fake Digg users, and post comments by these generated users drawing on a library of 1000 positive Ron Paul comments, all channeled through anonymous Tor proxies so as to obfuscate IP lookups.

My first thought on seeing it was that the Diggbot must be a joke or a prank, but the domain whois info points to a name associated with a very active user on various Paul sites, who later ran afoul of RonPaulForums.com after he claimed to have switched his allegiances over to Rudy Guiliani. Change of heart? Hacked username? Clever, over-involved troll? Without a look at what the Diggbot actually does, we may never know. It’s worth noting that the Diggbot was still up in August, as much as a month after its hoster was banned from the forums, and was available as an EXE, BIN, or DMG for Win32, Linux, and Mac OS X respectively, which I find odd for a function better handled as a hosted Perl, Python, or PHP script. The one reference to it on Digg appears to have been buried and deleted.

(The funny part is, Ron Paul didn’t really need faked grassroots online support, having raised a healthy five million over the summer, well-outdoing other minor candidates like Mike Huckabee. The net effect of all this unethical, overwrought, or community-saturating online involvement may well be the undoing of Ron Paul‘s surge in popularity, as people see a vocal community of, not passionate voters, but outspoken fanatics whose speech and activity consists of polarizing invective and frantic clicking which, intentionally or no, overtakes the flow of dialogue by sheer volume and frequency. Ron Paul‘s name becomes more associated with forum spam and unpleasant dogmatism rather than with the survivalist free market libertarian constitutional absolutism for which he was once better known.)

Related links:

Update: I sent this link over to the news desk at work, and Russell posted it to Digg, so feel free to digg me up, but remember, I think the jury’s still out as to whether the Diggbot is for real or not. Update: Not real.