DuckDuckGo Down-Ranks Russian Disinformation Sites, Going Against Unfiltered Searches Policy

Spencer Vida, Staff Writer

DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused internet search engine whose decision to down-rank “Russian disinformation” sites due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has upset many fans who come to it for uncensored searches and privacy. The engine will also be promoting quick links from the top searched sites that “highlight quality information.” DuckDuckGo’s CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, made the announcement on his Twitter account (@yegg), saying he was going to release an update that would make it so “Russian disinformation” sites rank lower than regular sites.

DuckDuckGo’s Gabriel Weinberg would make the following tweets saying: “Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create. #StandWithUkraine.” This would be followed by his next tweet where he would say: “At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.”

Many former DuckDuckGo supporters have pointed out a previous DuckDuckGo tweet wherein DuckDuckGo promoted its unbiased search results:“[W]hen you search, you expect unbiased results, but that’s not what you get on Google.”

Now that DuckDuckGo is planning to censor people’s searches, supporters are leaving in large numbers and are opting to use different search engines. As one user puts it: “The replies on this are quite amazing. Can you see how swiftly most of your user base has been put off by this announcement? Loyal long-time supporters are talking about abandoning the service. Please reconsider your stance on this. It’s a dangerous slippery slope for all of us.”

Another user who supports Ukraine says: “As much as I support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, I don’t like this. It should be up to the user to decide what is relevant. Search relevancy should have nothing to do with geopolitical issues like the war in Ukraine. Don’t let the platform start selectively controlling”

Gabriel Weinberg says, “The primary utility of a search engine is to provide access to accurate information.” He would go on to say that “disinformation cuts against this utility” and that currently, Russian state-sponsored media sites like RT and Sputnik are examples of his idea of disinformation. Weinberg says that down-ranking is different from censorship and that disinformation sites like that of Russian media are engaging in active campaigns to produce spam and low-quality content. The DuckDuckGo CEO also wants to up-rank “reputable news coverage” which comes from the sites made of DDG users’ most viewed sites that are approved by DuckDuckGo.” (PCMag)