DuckDuckGo Down-ranks Sites Spreading Russian Propaganda
The DuckDuckGo web search engine is now demoting websites known to spread Russian propaganda following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Gabriel Weinberg.
“Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create,” Weinberg said.
“At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.”
Besides demoting disinformation-linked sites in results, the search engine is now also started displaying information boxes at the top of the page to help users find accurate information “for rapidly unfolding topics.”
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Weinberg stated that DuckDuckGo’s primary purpose of helping users find more relevant content over less relevant content remains the search engine’s “whole point.”
“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,” Weinberg added.
Katie McInnis, DuckDuckGo’s senior public policy manager for the US, also said in a Tuesday House hearing that the company “paused” the partnership it had with the Yandex search engine in Russian and Turkish markets because of the war in Ukraine.
Weinberg is yet to provide any information on what sites will be automatically down-ranked in search results because they are pushing Russian disinformation.
This is the first time DuckDuckGo and its CEO have announced taking action to disrupt attempts to target its users with disinformation.
When asked on Twitter if DuckDuckGo is now censoring search results, Weinberg said that “search engines by definition try to put more relevant content higher and less relevant content lower — that’s not censorship, it’s search ranking relevancy.”
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A DuckDuckGo spokesperson was not immediately available for comment when BleepingComputer reached out earlier today.
Update March 11, 17:10 EST: A DuckDuckGo spokesperson sent the following statement:
Search engines by definition put relevant higher-quality sites over lower ones for every search. This isn’t censorship, it’s just search rankings. DuckDuckGo is not censoring results. We are simply using the fact that these sites are engaging in active disinformation campaigns as a ranking signal that the content they produce is of lower quality, just like there are signals for spammy sites and other lower-quality content. Current examples are Russian state-sponsored media sites like RT and Sputnik. In addition to this approach, for newsworthy topics, we’re also continuing to highlight reputable news coverage and reliable “instant answers” at the top of our search results where they are seen and clicked the most. We’re also in the process of thinking about other types of interventions.