DuckDuckGo blocks search results hijacking websites

What just happened? Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has removed several major pirate websites, such as The Pirate Bay, 1337x and YTS, from its search results. This decision also includes YouTube’s pull services, which are considered a gray area in terms of legality.

DuckDuckGo is one of the most popular privacy-focused search engines and a renowned alternative to data-hungry Google. Unlike other search platforms, the site does not log sensitive user information or share its search trends with advertisers.

The site made another move that differentiates itself from Google last week: hack-free search results. Friday, Torrentfreak discovered that the site has de-indexed several popular pirate websites, thereby removing them from search results.

DuckDuckGo has completely removed all domains for these sites from its database, with search results either being empty or showing only one result. This crackdown includes several types of pirate sites, including torrent indexes, movie streaming portals, and blogs offering pirated video game downloads. However, many less popular hacking websites remain visible.

The change removes DuckDuckGo’s potential vulnerability to copyright issues, although it does not host any copyrighted content. Google has an automated system that weeds out possible DMCA-infringing entries, but that has done little to deter search results from the most popular pirating websites. They also downgraded hacking websites in some regions, like the UK.

Surprisingly, the removal includes the homepage of youtube-dl, an open-source Python-based downloader for YouTube and other online videos. Despite challenges from the RIAA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation defended the legality of youtube-dl, saying the tool is crucial for archival and documentation purposes.

DuckDuckGo has yet to respond to reporters’ questions about the omission. The company recently entered the browser wars with the launch of its privacy-focused desktop browser for Windows and Mac, following its popular free browser for Android.

Image credit: Dawit

Amanda J. Marsh