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Diet Google: DuckDuckGo Will ‘Down-Rank’ What It Decides Is ‘Disinformation’
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.

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.

I must confess that the biggest selling point for me was simply that they weren’t Google. I’ll stick with DDG, at least for now, but won’t be cheerleading for them the way I had been until this move. It’s like this:

DuckDuckGo is apparently deciding that it has the judgment and authority to define and determine what is “relevant,” just like every other search engine. The company’s argument is that privacy and propaganda are two separate matters. Consequently, it appears the only difference between it and other search engines is that, by refraining from tracking its users, DuckDuckGo won’t know who they are censoring and propagandizing. And, per Weinberg’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” defense, if any user expected more that’s on them, not on DuckDuckGo.

Perhaps. But what is on Weinberg is the fact that, like others in a lengthy line of morally weak Big Tech titans, he evidently can’t resist the temptation to shape how and what his users should consider and conclude.

As for dissatisfied DuckDuckGo users and countless others around the world, the key question remains: Where can they find a search engine that both respects privacy and rejects censorship?

Ain’t one, I’m afraid. Hopefully some enterprising soul will step up quickly to fill this new gap.

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