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DuckDuckGo will stop showing Russian propaganda in search results

 The search engine's founder said he was “sickened” by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The search engine DuckDuckGo will be down-ranking sites that spread Russian propaganda and disinformation. In a tweet, founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg wrote that the privacy-focused search engine would be releasing updates that would ensure Russian disinformation sites rank further down in search results. Earlier this month, DuckDuckGo announced it would pause its relationship with Russian-state owned search engine Yandex.

A number of platforms, including Meta's Facebook and Instagram, also cut posts from Russian state media. Google has been downgrading search results from Russia's state news agency since 2017

Known as a privacy-oriented search engine, DuckDuckGo does not track its users or sell data to third parties. The company primarily makes money from partnerships and non-targeted contextual advertising. DuckDuckGo, which regularly donates to digital rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and non-profit newsroom The Markup, has also received support from conspiracy theorists and far-right groups in recent years. A series of research highlighted in The New York Times has found that the search algorithm Bing that powers DuckDuckGo shows more websites promoting conspiracy theories than Google.

Many fans of DuckDuckGo criticized the search engine for its decision on Russia, likening it to “censorship”. It’s unclear whether DuckDuckGo will make a wider effort to down-rank disinformation. 

Weinberg did not detail in his tweet which Russian propaganda sites DuckDuckGo would target, or whether the search engine will target other types of disinformation, such as on climate change or COVID-19. 

DuckDuckGo provided Engadget with the following statement regarding this change:

The primary utility of a search engine is to provide access to accurate information. Disinformation sites that deliberately put out false information to intentionally mislead people directly cut against that utility. Current examples are Russian state-sponsored media sites like RT and Sputnik. It's also important to note that down-ranking is different from censorship. We are simply using the fact that 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. 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.

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