Yesterday, Digg power user LtGenPanda spotted some rather odd activity on the social bookmarking site. While looking into how the new Digg algorithm changed the makeup of the site's front page, he noticed that sites that a number of new sites that never made the front page before were suddenly very prominent on Digg. After further investigation, LtGenPanda spotted a group of 159 suspicious users with names like 'dd1' and 'diggerz29' that were systematically digging stories from major sites - either by hand or algorithmically. Once he made Digg aware of these accounts, these users' activity stopped immediately.

It took a while for Digg to react to these allegations that it was potentially gaming its own system for the benefit of its publishing partners, but the company just posted the following explanation on its blog:

As with many sites, we continuously run tests on the site to expose vulnerabilities in our own security. In this case, we did have a number of our internal test accounts Digging content from the Upcoming section of the site. We learned a great deal about some vulnerabilities in how users can inappropriately Digg stories into the home page. We have already made some changes over the last few weeks and are going to be making some other changes to the site this week to address a few of the issues we found. Similar to how good security companies try to break their own security, we have always tested and will always run tests to find spam vulnerabilities on Digg.

Most importantly, we should have been forthright with our community about our testing efforts and we'll certainly do so in the future. Rest assured that Digg does not in any way receive financial gain from this activity and the accounts were not used to submit any content.

Events like this are obviously not helping Digg, as it is going through enough internal turmoil already. One of the company's biggest challenges right now is getting its users to trust the service again. The fact that many of its users suspected that the company was gaming its own algorithm to help large publishers shows that Digg still has a long way to go to regain its users trust.

Digg also just announced that it plans to bring the 'bury' feature back to the site in the next few weeks and introduce an image and video filter, as well as breaking news module that will show highlight breaking news stories before they hit the front page.