Some submissions get automatically penalized based on the title, and others get penalized based on the domain. It appears that any article with NSA in the title gets an automatic penalty of .4. I looked for other words causing automatic penalties, such as awesome, bitcoin, and bubble but they do not seem to get penalized. I observed that many websites appear to automatically get a penalty of .25 to .8: arstechnica.com, businessinsider.com, easypost.com, github.com, imgur.com, medium.com, quora.com, qz.com, reddit.com, rt.com, stackexchange.com, theguardian.com, theregister.com, theverge.com, torrentfreak.com, youtube.com. I’m sure the actual list is longer. (This is separate from “banned” sites, which were listed at one point.
The problems that HN is trying to avoid by doing this is understandable, but I do think it has been gone about in the wrong way. ((Not that it matters, as HN is largely an Android-VC-HackerNews circle-jerk anyways.))