Popular privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, commonly considered an alternative to Google, has announced that it will be “down-ranking” sites associated with “disinformation,” along with adding “information boxes” to “highlight quality information.” The announcement received widespread backlash from DuckDuckGo supporters, who view the changes as adopting the censorship policies of the Masters of the Universe.
In a recent Twitter post, the CEO of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo announced that the company would be downranking “sites associated with disinformation,” which has been a popular tactic by Google for years to reduce user access to content it considers objectionable.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg tweeted about the decision, stating that it was an effort to reduce Russian disinformation online. “Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create. #StandWithUkraine️,” Weinberg stated, adding: “At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.”
Weinberg goes on to say that DuckDuckGo will also be placing news modules and information boxes at the top of certain search results to highlight “quality information for rapidly unfolding topics.” This was a method used by many search engines and social media sites during the coronavirus pandemic to push official government narratives and information — that regularly changed drastically — to internet users.
DuckDuckGo's mission is to make simple privacy protection accessible to all. Privacy is a human right and transcends politics, which is why about 100 million people around the world use DuckDuckGo. (We don't have an exact count since we don't track people.)
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) March 10, 2022
Many were quick to point out that DuckDuckGo’s democratic approach to information was one of the major selling points of the website in the first place.
Disinformation like the Russian bounty story? Or that drone strike that killed kids? Or Jussie Smollette? Or the Covington kids hoax?
— Cernovich (@Cernovich) March 10, 2022
DuckDuckGo had a nice run.
— Joshua Lisec | The Ghostwriter (@JoshuaLisec) March 10, 2022
This is not the way bro. We no longer trust anyone to decide for us what is 'misinformation'. Let us make our own calls about that. Otherwise you're just another tentacle for some Ministry of Truth
— Geoffrey Miller (@primalpoly) March 10, 2022
What is your falsifiable definition of disinformation?
Will you be transparent about what sites you have labeled as such and how you determined that?
Will it be all sources of government disinformation getting down-ranked?
What's the definition of "associated with" you are using?
— Michael Byrne (@michaelbyrne) March 10, 2022
Weinberg responded to some detractors, stating that the point of DuckDuckGo was to provide added users privacy, not display unbiased search results.
The whole point of DuckDuckGo is privacy. The whole point of the search engine is to show more relevant content over less relevant content, and that is what we continue to do.
— Gabriel Weinberg (@yegg) March 10, 2022
Google has ramped up its censorship efforts in recent years, particularly around large public events such as the coronavirus pandemic and the recent invasion of Ukraine. Breitbart News recently reported that Google-owned YouTube removed a six-year-old documentary by filmmaker Oliver Stone on the Ukrainian uprising that overthrew president Viktor Yanukovych and installed a pro-EU, pro-NATO government.
Breitbart News reported extensively in 2020 on Google’s blacklisting of Breitbart using techniques similar to those described by Weinberg. Leading up to the 2020 election, Google blacklisted all Breitbart page results for searches related to Joe Biden.
As Breitbart News senior technology reporter Allum Bokhari wrote:
Breitbart News spoke to an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert, a 25-year industry veteran, whose job consists of analyzing traffic data from Google’s own website performance portal, Google Search Console.
The expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had never seen anything like this graph — and that it indicates highly probable manipulation on the part of Google.
“I’ve never experienced such a wholesale removal of rank and visibility on specific concepts on a site as I have seen being applied to Breitbart,” said the expert. “Removal is the key, not dropping in rank, which would be an organic devaluing. These ranks are just simply gone, overnight, while other topics have been untouched.”
“The sheer fact that there are thousands of pages of Breitbart content that reference Biden that were ranking before May 6, that now have no rank or impressions on search is a sign of manipulation, not algorithmic devaluing.”
Breitbart News will continue to cover search engines and the continuing struggle to find a solid replacement for Google Search.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org
Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.