A social news website features user-posted stories that are ranked based on popularity. Users can comment on these posts, and these comments may also be ranked. Since their emergence with the birth of web 2.0, these sites are used to link many types of information including news, humor, support, and discussion. Social news sites allegedly facilitate democratic participation on the web.
Slashdot, started in 1997, was one of the first social news websites. It focuses mainly on science and technology related news. Users can submit stories, and the editors pick out the best stories each day for the front page. Users can then post comments on the stories. The influx of web traffic that resulted from Slashdot linking to websites led to the effect being coined as the Slashdot effect.
Fark was started in 1997, and featured news of any topic. On Fark, users can submit articles to the administrators of the site. Each day, these administrators pick out 50 articles to display on the front page.
Digg, started in December 2004, introduced the voting system. This system allows users to "digg" or "bury" articles. "Digging" is the equivalent of voting positively, so that popular articles are displayed first. "Burying" does not lower an articles score. However, if an article is buried enough times, it will be automatically deleted. Digg has a social networking aspect to it, as members can follow one another and build personal profiles accordingly. 
Reddit, started in June 2005, is a social news site where users can vote on articles and comments. Unlike Digg, users can directly affect the article's score. An "upvote" will increase the score and a "downvote" will decrease it. Articles with the highest scores will be displayed on the front page. There is also a page for "controversial" articles, that have an almost equal number of upvotes and downvotes. Free speech debates have arisen due to the shut down of obscene "subreddits" (including /r/jailbait, a collection of sexually suggestive underage pictures.)  Reddit introduced a system of user-created communities called "subreddits," which are essentially categories for a specific type of news. Comments on the featured posts are shown in a hierarchical fashion also based on votes. Users have the ability to earn "karma" for their participation and time on the website. 
Newsvine, started in March 2006, is a social news website mostly focused on politics, both international and domestic. The Newsvine home page allows users to customize "seeds" and story feeds. Users receive articles via "The Wire" from sources including The Associated Press or The Huffington Post, and from "The Vine" a stream of content from other Newsvine users. The "Top of the Vine" displays the most voted and commented on articles of the day, week, month, or year. Additionally, Newsvine allows members to create their own "Customizable Column," which can highlight a user's content posted, recent comments, and information about the specific Newsvine member. 
All social news websites allow the users to submit the content in some way. Each site differs in how the content is moderated. On Slashdot and Fark, for example, the administrators of the site decide which articles make it to the front page. On Reddit and Digg, the articles that get the most votes from the community will make it to the front page.
Many social news websites also feature a comment system, where users can form a discussion based on each article. Some of these sites have also applied their voting system to the comments, so that the most popular comments are displayed first.
Social news sites mitigate the gatekeeping of mainstream news sources and allow the public to decide what counts as "news," allegedly facilitating a participatory culture.
In addition to the characteristic of a collective intelligence, social news websites “implies the technical, economic, legal, and human enhancement of a universally distributed intelligence that will unleash a positive dynamic of recognition and skills mobilization.” That is to say that this collective intelligence that social news websites possess share a collective vision and awareness of how their actions are integrated with those of other individuals. Social news websites provide a new and innovating way to participate in a community that is constantly being flooded with new information. These social news websites “include opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship.” With that said, these websites can function collectively to shape and reshape democratic opinions and perspectives. 
Social news sites also support democratic participation by allowing users from across geographic boundaries the ability to access the same information, respond to fellow users views and beliefs, and create a virtual sphere for users to contribute within. 
- "Slashdot FAQ". Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- "Fark FAQ". Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- "The Case of Digg" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- "Reddit: “Jailbait is bad, but pics of dead kids are OK”". ExtremeTech. 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- Kristina Lerman (2006). "Social Networks and Social Information Filtering on Digg". arXiv:cs/0612046 [cs.HC].
- "Reading: the most basic use of Newsvine". Retrieved 2011-12-14.
- Levy, Pierre (1997). "Collective Intelligence". Collective Intelligence.
- Jenkins, Henry (2006). "Confronting Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century".
- Papacharissi, Zizi (2007). "The Virtual Sphere 2.0: The Internet, the Public Sphere, and Beyond".