US media is reporting that using privacy-oriented search engine DuckDuckGo has become an important theme during the COVID-19 academic for the US right-wing. According to the New York Times report, the praise for the search engine shows how right-wing Americans and conspiracy theorists are changing their online activity away from major high-tech companies like Google, which have more significant moderation:
On an episode of Joe Rogan’s popular podcast last year, he turned to a topic that has gripped right-wing communities and other Americans who feel skeptical about the pandemic: search engines. “If I wanted to find specific cases about people who died from vaccine-related injuries, I had to go to DuckDuckGo,” Mr. Rogan said, referring to the small privacy-focused search engine. “I wasn’t finding them on Google.” 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. Some have posted screenshots showing that DuckDuckGo appears to surface more links favorable to their views than Google does. In addition to Mr. Rogan, who has recently been at the center of an outcry about misinformation on his podcast, the search engine has received ringing endorsements from some of the world’s most-downloaded conservative podcasters, including Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino. “Google is actively suppressing search results that don’t acquiesce to traditional viewpoints of the left,” Mr. Shapiro claimed last March. “I recommend you install DuckDuckGo on your computer, rather than Google, to combat all this.” The endorsements underscore how right-wing Americans and conspiracy theorists are shifting their online activity in response to greater moderation from tech giants like Google. 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.
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In October 2021, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported how China was exploiting search engines to push conspiracy theories about the origins of Covid-19.