Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, took to Twitter to refute claims that the search engine was removing independent media from search results. Weinberg said the headline of one message was misleading and “entirely made up,” and took a statement he made about Russia out of context. DuckDuckGo is a search engine focused on providing privacy and encryption to its users.
Here’s what you need to know.
Weinberg said a NewsPunch article’s headline was ‘completely fabricated’
A NewsPunch story written in March had a headline with the headline, “DuckDuckGo Announces Purge of Independent Media – ‘MSM Only Allowed’.” The story went viral about a month later after it began being shared on social media . Many people shared a post by a Twitter user, Chantal Gaultieror just shared a screenshot of the post.
Although the story is labeled “fact checked,” Weinberg said the quote about him was entirely made up and that he never said he would clean up independent media or only allow MSM in search results.
The article includes a few tweets from Weinberg, and none of those tweets say what the headline claims. Additionally, portions of the article appear to be opinion based, with the author writing statements such as “DuckDuckGo’s search results went s**t”.
Responding to numerous people who shared a screenshot of the story, Weinberg wrote, “This headline is completely made up.”
DuckDuckGo’s official Twitter account also responded to the tweet, which went viral, writing: “This report is wrong, we don’t “clean up” independent media and that’s easy to verify.”
Weinberg wrote to one person on Twitter: “That’s not true – I never announced that. Seems to be a completely made up headline. What independent media do you see cleaned up in search results when you search for it?”
Weinberg wrote that if you search the search engine for an independent media source, you will see that it has not been sanitized.
He wrote to another person: “Everything in the title is wrong. What independent media do you see cleaned up in search results when you search for it?”
The author of the NewsPunch article, Sean Adl-Tabatabai, was featured in a 2017 Evening Standard article. The Evening Standard noted that he was also the founder and editor of Your News Wire and a former MTV producer. Poynter reported that Your News Wire has been debunked 80 times, and PolitiFact gives the site a 69 percent Pants on Fire ranking. In 2017, FactCheck.org reported that News Punch was “the new site for Yournewswire.com, which has been a prolific billboard for misinformation and conspiracy theories.”
The rumor started after DuckDuckGo realized it was downgrading some websites associated with Russian disinformation
The rumor began after Weinberg announced on Twitter that DuckDuckGo would downgrade some websites associated with Russian disinformation. Those tweets were included in the NewsPunch article, along with a quote in the headline that Weinberg noted he didn’t say.
On March 9th he wrote“Like so many others, I am disgusted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to provoke. #StandWithUkraine️ At DuckDuckGo, we rolled out search updates that demote sites associated with Russian disinformation.”
DuckDuckGo also implemented news modules to help with rapidly changing search results.
He wrote in the same March Twitter thread: “In addition to demoting sites associated with disinformation, we also frequently place news modules and information boxes at the top of DuckDuckGo search results (where they are most viewed and clicked on), to highlight quality information for fast evolving topics… DuckDuckGo’s mission is to make simple privacy accessible to all. Privacy is a human right and goes beyond politics, which is why around 100 million people around the world use DuckDuckGo. (We don’t have an exact count as we don’t track people.)”
When Engadget reported DuckDuckGo’s downgrading of Russian disinformation sites, DuckDuckGo issued an official statement in response, stating:
The primary use of a search engine is to provide access to accurate information. Disinformation sites that deliberately spread false information to intentionally mislead people cut squarely against this utility. Current examples are state-sponsored Russian media sites such as RT and Sputnik. It’s also important to note that downgrading is different from censorship. We simply use the fact that these sites are running active disinformation campaigns as a ranking signal that the content they produce is of lower quality, just as there are signals of spam sites and other lower quality content. In addition to this approach, for hot topics, we’ll continue to highlight reputable coverage and reliable “instant replies” at the top of our search results, where they’re most viewed and clicked. We are also thinking about other types of interventions.
He said all search engines have to rank results, but independent media isn’t cleaned up
Weinberg tweeted that all search engines must have a system for ranking search results, but independent media sources will not be deleted or replaced with mainstream sources.
In response to a person claiming that DuckDuckGo is “rigging results” he wrote: “I’m not sure what you mean – all search results must be ranked. Do you have specific examples that you’re having trouble with that that I can investigate?
He shared a screenshot from DuckDuckGo’s homepage that describes the search engine’s privacy and filtering policies. His screenshot illuminated an answer to the question of whether DuckDuckGo is an unfiltered search engine.
The unfiltered explanation is:
Unlike some other search engines, we don’t change search results based on a person’s previous search history. Since we don’t track our users, we don’t have access to search histories at all! These other search engines show you results based on a profiling of data about you and your online activities (including your search history) and therefore may be targeted to what you think you will click on most often based on that profiling. This effect is commonly known as a search filter bubble, but using DuckDuckGo can help you escape it.
That doesn’t mean that our search results are generally “unfiltered,” because for every search you perform online, a search engine’s job is to filter millions of possible results down to a ranking of just a handful. In other words, a search engine must use human-coded algorithms to determine what appears first in the list of results, what appears second, and so on. Otherwise, you would just get a completely random set of results for each search, which of course wouldn’t be very useful.
DuckDuckGo removes pirate sites and pauses its partnership with Russian search engine Yandex
On April 15, Engadget reported that DuckDuckGo was removing search results for major piracy websites. However, this has nothing to do with the independent media purge rumor that Weinberg debunked.
DuckDuckGo doesn’t list major piracy sites like The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and Fmovies, Engadget said. However, Weinberg contradicted Engadget’s claim that YouTube-dl was also removed.
He wrote, “If you search for ‘YouTube-dl’, the official website is listed first in the top instant reply, and the official GitHub is the link below. We are examining whether further measures are necessary.”
Additionally, Protocol reported that DuckDuckGo is pausing its partnership with Russian search engine Yandex.
Katie McInnis, DuckDuckGo’s senior public policy manager for the US, told Protocol, “The index was used to provide traditional links – meaning non-news links – on the search engine results pages in Russia and Turkey.”
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https://heavy.com/news/duckduckgo-ceo-not-purging-independent-media/ DuckDuckGo CEO: We don’t purge independent media