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News Analysis Feb 23, 2022 4:06 PM EST

NY Times calls DuckDuckGo a 'haven for conspiracy theorists' as users ditch big tech for uncensored alternatives

Google's censorship has led to the popularity of DuckDuckGo. The New York Times hates this.

NY Times calls DuckDuckGo a 'haven for conspiracy theorists' as users ditch big tech for uncensored alternatives
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

Everyone who uses the internet knows at this point that when using search engine Google, results are curated. That curation, whether to tailor search results to a user's browsing history, provide promoted results, or to steer users away from what the search engine has classified as "misinformation" or "disinformation," can be frustrating when users can't find what they're looking for using a keyword search.

This intentional curation of search results have led many users to switch from Google to other search engines that are more transparent in how results are gathered, such as DuckDuckGo, but for The New York Times, this is yet another indication that a person is likely a conspiracy theorist.

"Praise for DuckDuckGo has become a popular refrain during the pandemic among right-wing social media influencers and conspiracy theorists who question Covid-19 vaccines and push discredited coronavirus treatments," the Times writes. To back up their claim, they note that podcaster Joe Rogan, Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro, and Fox News host Dan Bongino have all indicated that they use the platform.

Endorsements from these men, the Times writes, "underscore how right-wing Americans and conspiracy theorists are shifting their online activity in response to greater moderation from tech giants like Google." And it's not just in the realm of search engines that the Times slams users who don't use the most popular product.

"They have increasingly embraced fledgling and sometimes fringe platforms like the chat app Telegram, the video streamer Rumble and even search engines like DuckDuckGo, seeking conditions that seem more favorable to their conspiracy theories and falsehoods," the Times writes.

"That attention," the Times writes, "has put search engines in a difficult position, fielding queries from a growing set of Americans who seem increasingly gripped by conspiracy theories. They must now try to deliver relevant results of obscure search terms and avoid surfacing possible misinformation, all while steering clear of censorship claims."

What the Times misses in this analysis is that Americans have become increasingly distrustful of Big Tech, and mainstream media, for good reason. Many of what were called "conspiracy theories" have proven to be true, yet mainstream media wouldn't cover it, and Big Tech suppressed it.

That Covid leaked from a lab was termed a conspiracy theory at the beginning of the pandemic. Then-President Trump made the claim, along with countless others, including congressional legislators. Saying this online could get users banned from social media platforms, writing it in print and would get fact-checkers suppressing the content. Turns out, there's every good reason to believe that Covid leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, and that gain-of-function research played a role in its origins. Searching for such things, and finding them, in the early days of the pandemic on Google was not particularly possible.

This is just one of so many examples: Trump/Russia collusion turned out to be a lie, and it's now been proven that Trump never colluded with Russia to skew the 2016 election. Mass media hyped that claim for years, backed up by search engines and social media. The New York Post released reporting in October 2020 showing links between Hunter Biden, his dad, and Ukrainian oligarchs. Big Tech claimed the reporting was based on hacked material—it wasn't—and suppressed it.

When people started catching Covid despite being vaccinated, this, too, was suppressed as "misinformation." We now know that so-called "breakthrough cases" are far from rare, and vaccinated people are likely to catch and spread Covid just like their unvaccinated counterparts. Saying this online in spring 2021 would have been a bannable, suppressible offense.

That Big Tech platforms are now chasing users and trying to gain back their trust is not a surprise after more than two years of suppression of Covid discourse because officials and so-called experts claimed it was "misinformation" or "disinformation."

That trust will not be re-gained, however, if the Times and their ilk in corporate media and Big Tech refer to those who no longer trust Google as "conspiracy theorists." The Times referred to a statement from Google, that said "There is no merit to the suggestion that search results were manually edited."

"But," the Times writes, "the company added that its algorithm would automatically adjust itself in some cases, shifting to rank trustworthy links higher than more relevant ones." A search engine with an agenda is not one that is likely to deliver accurate results.

Google, corporate media, and social media platforms have lost the trust of the American people, that's no conspiracy, that's fact. And they did it by assuming that they knew the truth and were the only purveyors of reality. They are not. Americans know this, and they know, too, that when a product no longer suits their needs, they can ditch it and get one that does.

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