Democratic Underground

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Democratic Underground
Alexa rank 11,936 (2846 in US) (As of 29 November 2015)[1]
Launched January 20, 2001; 15 years ago (2001-01-20)[2]
Current status Active

Democratic Underground, also known as DU, is an online community for U.S. Democrats. Its membership is restricted by policy to those who are supportive of the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates for political office.[3] DU was established on January 20, 2001, the day Republican George W. Bush was inaugurated president.



DU used to post regular columns, and on any given day guest columns sent in from contributors; however, since its upgrade to DU3, it no longer features user columns on its homepage.

  • Mondays: A well-received feature of DU1 and DU2 was its Top Ten Conservative Idiots, a rundown of what DU administrators find as the most outrageous right-wing activities in the past week.

This column has not run since 20 January 2011, however. [1]

  • In the past, DU occasionally featured a Hate Mailbag of hate mail, but no new updates have been posted since 2005.

Bernard Weiner and Ernest Partridge of The Crisis Papers were frequent guests appearing on the homepage as was William Rivers Pitt of Truthout—these columns are now only available as user journals. [2]


The DU Forums are sites for political and non-political[clarification needed] discussions by registered DU users. The main forums on DU have been re-arranged since the close of the 2004 US election season.[4]


DUers are active in U.S. politics in many ways. Many of them attend political protests and rallies, volunteer for campaigns, and write letters to editors of newspapers and members of Congress. Some are among the members of the Democratic Party infrastructure, serving as precinct chairs. Others actually work within the confines of various legislative and congressional bodies as staff. Many active posters at Democratic Underground have worked for various causes in both paid and unpaid positions, in campaigns and for special interest groups such as the AFL-CIO and SEIU. Others are members of the DLC, Progressive Democrats of America, MoveOn, and Democracy for America.


The website is owned by Democratic Underground, LLC (a limited liability company), and run by David Allen, who posts under the screen name "Skinner"[5] while on the boards and handles most of the issues relating to the forums. The other two administrators are Dave Allsopp, a co-founder, known as "EarlG" (of Washington, D.C.) and Brian Leitner, known as "elad" of Portland, Oregon. Allsopp and Leitner handle the articles and technical issues, respectively. Previously David Allen used to design websites for Blue Dogs/Third Way Democrats in Washington, D.C.


DU runs quarterly fund drives. Everyone who donates is recognized with a gold star next to his or her user name for the succeeding twelve months. Before each fund drive, members are invited to suggest charities that might benefit, and ten percent of the money raised is donated to those charities. For example, after the fund drive in the fourth quarter of 2009, Skinner announced that a total of $1,855 had been donated to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Modest Needs (helping low-income workers), Treehouse for Kids (aiding children in foster care), the Remote Area Medical Foundation (providing medical services in remote areas), America's Vet Dogs (providing service dogs to veterans), and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.[6]


Discussions from posters at DU have drawn criticism. One example of this was the dialog about the 2004 tsunami disaster, in which a few posts explored the possibility of "earthquake weapons". The posts were reported by The New York Times[7] and Fox News.[8] The DU administrators deleted these posts and the threads were locked. The administrators officially disavowed what they called "kooky tsunami conspiracy theories". They added, "One wonders why the author [of the Times article] did not spend five minutes over at Free Republic and instead write an article about how conservatives think the tsunami was some sort of retribution from God, or how Muslims deserved it."[9] The administrators also sent a letter to the Times, which was printed.[10]

Another example is the conspiracy theories revolving around the August 2006 terror plot to blow up airliners between the UK and the US, which received mention in USA Today.[11] Some posters felt that the American government's push to release the announcement of the plot[12] was a conspiracy to bump Joe Lieberman's primary loss out of the news cycle.[citation needed]

The site also saw criticism when, in 2003, a poster explained why he or she wished to see continued bloodshed in Iraq.[13]

The site was also criticized by the online Oregon newspaper for a thread about a video posted by the newspaper in which a former Israeli soldier described what the newspaper called "the war crimes committed against the Palestinians back in 1948." Because some DU posters criticized the piece, the newspaper wrote that DU had "decided to take a stand for apartheid", although it described another post in the thread (one critical of Israel) as "absolutely correct".[14]


Two posters to Democratic Underground were investigated by the Secret Service for posts that, according to David Allen, violated the DU policy stating "Do not post messages that could be construed as advocating harm or death to the president or other high-ranking official in the United States government."[15] Neither the comments nor the posters' identities are public knowledge, but David Allen said that both members had been banned prior to DU being notified of the investigation, and that no subpoenas have been issued to date.[16]


Democratic Underground has been criticized by some current and former members for an overly broad censorship policy that extends outside the bounds of its stated terms of service, for banning members with opinions perceived as unpopular among the membership, and for limiting free speech for political reasons.[17][18] The site uses a "jury system" in which any member can anonymously alert on any post, whereupon seven anonymous, randomly selected online members who have not posted in that thread will decide whether the post violates the terms of service. The poster is not permitted to defend his post. If a majority votes to hide it, the post is replaced by the words "This message was hidden by Jury decision," and the poster is sent a generic message purporting to explain the jury decision. The most common message is a compendium of possible reasons for censoring the post, e.g., "This post is disruptive, hurtful, rude, insensitive, over-the-top, or otherwise inappropriate." The post can, however, still by read for a short while before it is permanently deleted, by clicking "Show".[19] Posters who are censored five times in 90 days are suspended or permanently banned.[20] In addition, there is a task force called "The Malicious Intruder Removal Team" (MIRT), that actively and aggressively censors and bans members whose views or expressions of opinion they deem offensive for any reason. The MIRT is made up of discussion forum members who volunteer to serve. Their role is "to keep the discussion forum clear of conservative trolls, spammers, and other undesireables." No defense or appeal from their decisions is permitted.[21]

Copyright infringement lawsuit[edit]

In 2010, Democratic Underground was sued for alleged copyright infringement in a member's posting of a few paragraphs from an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The suit was brought by Righthaven, an entity that finds Review-Journal quotations online, buys the copyright for that story from the newspaper, and retroactively sues for copyright infringement.[22] In response to the lawsuit, DU asserted that the quoted excerpt (five sentences of a 54-sentence article) was fair use, and counterclaimed against Righthaven for fraud, barratry, and champerty.[23] DU is being represented in the case pro bono by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, attorneys from the firm of Winston & Strawn, and Las Vegas attorney Chad Bowers.[23] After Righthaven lost a similar suit against Realty One Group over 8 of 30 sentences quoted from a news article, Righthaven asked the judge in the case against Democratic Underground to dismiss Righthaven's claim against DU.[24]

In June 14, 2011, Judge Roger L. Hunt ruled that Righthaven be dismissed from the case because Righthaven had never owned the copyright of the article and gave Righthaven two weeks to explain in writing why it should not be sanctioned.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. 
  2. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved 2016-08-14. 
  3. ^ "Terms of Service". DU. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  4. ^ "Democratic Underground - Lobby". DU. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  5. ^ "Democratic Underground - Contact Us". DU. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  6. ^ Allen, David (November 23, 2009). "THANK YOU to everyone who donated during our fund drive! Here's how much we gave to charity...". Democratic Underground. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  7. ^ Schwartz, John (2005-01-03). "Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate". The New York Times. pp. A10. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  8. ^ Hume, Brit (2005-01-04). "Disaster's Cause?". Fox News. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  9. ^ "Skinner" (2005-05-05). "About the New York Times, Fox News, and Kooky Tsunami Conspiracy Theories". DU. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  10. ^ Allen, David (2005-01-10). "To the Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  11. ^ Raash, Chuck (2006-05-10). "Terrorists were brewing a fresh date of infamy". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  12. ^ "Source: U.S., U.K. at odds over timing of arrests". 2006-08-14. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  13. ^ Taranto, James (2003-11-05). "Dems Gone Wild--III". Opinion Journal. Archived from the original on May 26, 2008. 
  14. ^ King, Tim (Jan 5, 2012). "'Democratic Underground' Attacks Salem-News Writers Opposed to Racism". Salem News. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  15. ^ "We think you should be aware that the Secret Service contacted us today". Democratic Underground Thread - David Allen
  16. ^ "I think some of you have the wrong idea about this Secret Service thing". Democratic Underground Journal - David Allen
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "DU Juries". Democratic Underground. July 23, 2013. Retrieved 2015-01-04. 
  20. ^ "Terms of Service". Democratic Underground. 
  21. ^ "Terms of Service". Democratic Underground. 
  22. ^ Green, Steve (August 11, 2010). "Righthaven sues Democratic Underground website over R-J posting". Las Vegas Sun. Las Vegas, Nevada. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  23. ^ a b Green, Steve (September 28, 2010). "R-J owner faces counterclaim in copyright lawsuit campaign". Las Vegas Sun. Las Vegas, Nevada. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  24. ^ Kravets, David (18 Nov 2010). "Righthaven Says It Will Stop Suing Over News Excerpts"., Threat Level. 
  25. ^ EFF Press Releases > June, 2011 > Righthaven Copyright Troll Lawsuit Dismissed as Sham. Retrieved 2011 June 16.

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