Far-right influencers have often encouraged people to use the small privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo instead of Google, saying the giant search engine was censoring conservative ideas.
However, praise for DuckDuckGo turned to outcry this week after the company said Russian disinformation on its site would be kept to a minimum.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg tweeted on Thursday that the search engine would rank websites “associated with disinformation” lower in search results.
“Like so many others, I am sick of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the massive humanitarian crisis it continues to cause,” he wrote.
DuckDuckGo has little control over its search results as they are provided by Microsoft’s Bing, which announced it would comply with the European Union’s order to restrict access to Russia’s state-owned news agencies RT and Sputnik.
But the criticism from the far right has been directed at DuckDuckGo. Conservative website Breitbart said DuckDuckGo “took over the censorship policy” from Big Tech. On social media channels devoted to conspiracy theories, users pledged to switch to alternatives such as the Russian search engine Yandex. The hashtag #DuckDuckGone was popular on Twitter in the United States from Friday. And on YouTube, users criticized the company for muting votes.
“If you’re using DuckDuckGo, I suggest you stop using it and switch to something else,” says Tarl Warwick, a self-proclaimed libertarian YouTuber with nearly half a million followers. He added, “I want tens of thousands of people to stop using it.”
In a statement, Kamyl Bazbaz, DuckDuckGo’s vice president of communications, said the affected sites were involved in “active disinformation campaigns,” meaning they were similar to other low-quality websites that were already being penalized by search algorithms.
“This isn’t censorship, it’s just search results,” he said.
The backlash underscored the difficulties some tech companies face in limiting the spread of Russian propaganda at a time when parts of America are showing support for the Kremlin and believing that Big Tech companies are censoring their views.
Last month, The New York Times reported that search results on DuckDuckGo and Bing turned up more untrustworthy websites than the same conspiracy theorist searches entered into Google.
DuckDuckGo controls about 3 percent of the search engine market in the United States. The site is especially popular among privacy activists because the company does not track its users, unlike Google and Bing.
The company also announced this month that it would cut its relationship with Yandex, the Russian search engine, which offered certain links for results in Russia and Turkey.
This post The far right sues after search engine DuckDuckGo vows to limit Russian propaganda.
was original published at “https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/technology/duckduckgo-russia-disinformation.html”