An Australian company called uSocial.net, founded by 24 year old Leon Hill, openly sells votes to promote stories on Digg.com to the front page. Hill claims he sells 200 digg’s for $200, with a special offer currently running for 400 Diggs for $314.50.
Hill uses a dozen or so people to place votes using software developed himself and has been using the software for three months. Digg actively bans users who they suspect of gaming the system, but so far Hill and his associates have yet to get caught.
Leon Hill, a former aircraft technician, said he had spent nine months researching and developing the software that allows his employees to “game” Digg on behalf of uSocial’s customers.
Leon Hill has received a fair amount of mainstream news coverage from the likes of the Times in the UK and LA Times.
In a telephone interview with the Times, Hill said:
“I know that a lot of people are angry with me. But people ranting have been good publicity for me and I know that I am providing a valuable service for small business owners and a lot of companies out there – for them it is a godsend,”
He also said his service was a much cheaper and more effective form of internet marketing than other methods and that he had been told by lawyers that he was doing nothing illegal.
Hill acknowledges that Digg has sent him a cease and desist letter back in December. The letter states that paying another user to “digg” content was specifically banned. Hill responds to the letter by saying he will not stop, and as far as he is aware – they have no way of making him stop.
In a separate interview with the LA Times, Hill says
“I’m not in their [Digg’s] country of operation, and the people that I’m employing are scattered across the world,” Hill said. For these reasons, he believes Digg won’t succeed in bringing a case against him. Hill calls the letter nothing more than a “scare tactic.”
Hill said that, since launching uSocial, he had been inundated with customers. Mr Hill claimed that he was now processing 2-3,000 paid-for votes a day. The majority of the requests were for Digg, he said. He has also apparently signed contracts with respected organisations such the Darfur foundation, the U.S. Marines, the Mormon Church and the Korean Department of Tourism.
“We just finished testing with Yahoo Buzz, we’ve been getting amazing results with that — better results than what people are getting with Digg.”
As many of you know, this isn’t the first time stories similar to this have made news. There have been stories of posts across freelance recruitment sites, gumtree and craigslist – all requesting ways to get links to the Digg homepage. Another site called SubvertandProfit.com also claims to provide similar services to businesses, providing ways to get onto the homepage of major social networking sites.
What makes this particularly unique is the unprecedented level of transparency and openness, much of which Hill has used to his advantage.