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(LifeSiteNews) – Privacy-focused alternative search engine DuckDuckGo bills itself as an alternative to the content-manipulative practices of Google and Bing, but may have just undermined that reputation with an announcement that it will begin “down-ranking” sites associated with Russian disinformation in its search results.

“Like so many others I am sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create,” company founder and CEO Gabriel Weinberg said Wednesday. “At DuckDuckGo, we’ve been rolling out search updates that down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation.”

He added that the company “often place[s] news modules and information boxes at the top of DuckDuckGo search results (where they are seen and clicked the most) to highlight quality information for rapidly unfolding topics.”

While misinformation (state-sponsored or otherwise) is a staple of war and a favored tactic of the Kremlin, abuse of the label in recent years to denote true-but-politically-contentious claims – particularly by major information and communication platforms on the internet – has led many, primarily on the political Right, to prefer that such platforms abstain from rendering any such verdicts about information sources so that individuals can freely consume competing sources and decide for themselves who to trust.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have appointed themselves arbiters of “quality information” on issues such as election integrity, domestic extremism, and most prominently COVID-19 science. Critics argue that such calls do not merely make the public aware of genuine falsehoods but are primarily intended to suppress open debate about the proper response to COVID-19, particularly on aspects of the pandemic and the ensuing policies that Democrats and their allies have been wrong about, including lockdowns, masks, COVID vaccines, natural immunity, and the lab-leak theory of COVID’s origins.

DuckDuckGo has enjoyed a spike in popularity as an alternative to more mainstream search engines that manipulate search results, but this latest announcement threatens to undermine that popularity, as expressed by numerous respondents to Weinberg’s announcement:

Weinberg engaged with a handful of critics, denying that the move undermines “the whole point” of DuckDuckGo and suggesting that judgments about the quality of results are intrinsic to search engines:

Brave Search, another privacy-focused search alternative from ousted Firefox CEO Brendan Eich, has yet to make any similar announcements about intervention to manage “misinformation” in its products.