Far-right influencers have often encouraged people to use the small privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo instead of Google, claiming that the giant search engine has censored conservative views.
Praise for DuckDuckGo turned to outrage this week, however, the company said it would reduce Russian disinformation on its site.
Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive of DuckDuckGo, Tweeted On Thursday, search engines ranked websites “associated with inappropriate information” lower in their search results.
“Like many others, I am sick of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the huge humanitarian crisis it is creating,” he wrote.
DuckDuckGo has little control over its search results as it is provided by Microsoft’s Bing, which announced it would comply with an EU order banning access to Russian state news agencies RT and Sputnik.
But the criticism from the far right was directed at DuckDuckGo. Conservative website Breitbart said DuckDuckGo was adopting Big Tech’s “censorship policies.” In social media channels dedicated to conspiracy theories, users pledged to switch to options such as the Russian search engine Yandex. The hashtag #DuckDuckGone trended across Twitter across the United States on Friday. And on YouTube, users criticized the company for silencing the noise.
“If you’re using DuckDuckGo, I’d suggest you stop using it and switch to something else,” said Turl Warwick, a self-described libertarian YouTube user with nearly half a million followers. He added: “I want thousands of people to stop using it.”
In a statement, Kamil Bazbaz, vice president of communications for DuckDuckGo, said the affected sites were engaged in “active disinformation campaigns”, meaning they were like other low-quality websites already penalized by search algorithms.
“It’s not censorship, it’s just search rankings,” he said.
The American pocket expresses support for the Kremlin and believes that the reaction highlighted the difficulties that some tech companies face in limiting the spread of Russian propaganda at a time when Big Tech companies are censoring their views.
Last month, The New York Times reported that search results on DuckDuckGo and Bing came across more unreliable websites than similar searches using conspiracy theories words introduced into Google.
DuckDuckGo controls about 3 percent of the search engine market in the United States. This 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 suspend its relationship with Yandex, a Russian search engine that was providing specific links to results in Russia and Turkey.