FuckFuckNo Part II 2022-03-10
This post is in reference to a previous post I had made about the DuckDuckGo search web site. Basically, more than a decade ago I found myself disappointed with the fact that Google was plenty happy to treat me [and any information they could find about me] as a commodity that they can make money off of. I tried a few different search engines and, at that time, found that DDG and Startpage/IxQuick were probably about as good an alternative to Google as I could find. Disconnect.me was pretty good, but also pretty short lived unfortunately. One of the features that I liked about DDG was that it has a !bang feature that can be used to customize your search in various ways. For example "!w snorkasaurus" could be used to specifically search Wikipudia for that name. Another thing that I considered important was DuckDuckGo's assertion that they would not "bubble me". What this means is that they would not show me customized search results based on their understanding of who I am. Basically they would not record my search queries and the links I click on, and try to figure out what I like so that they can show me personalized search results. This is called bubbling because it is like living in a bubble. A bubble that doesn't offer you results that you may not agree with or that you don't find interesting.
Recently, the CEO of DuckDuckGo posted the above statement to Twatter. I don't think anyone should pay attention to Twatter, but since most people disagree with me, they use it anyways. I found out about the statement via a federated social media framework, and what I saw made it appear as though someone had pointed out that the point of DDG was to specifically not censor search results. I don't know much about Twatter [and am not really that interested in finding out] but it appears as though the reply from the CEO of DDG to that comment was:
The whole point of DuckDuckGo is privacy. The whole point of the search engine is to show more relevant content and that is what we continue to do.
Except you are also deciding what is information and what is disinformation for your users. So, instead of monitoring my browsing and presenting me with customized results, you are monitoring what is being labeled as news, and deciding which pieces I should be permitted to see. Some might see it as a subtle distinction, but I think it is an important one. That decision is not yours to make, it is mine... and if I make the wrong decision it is on my head, not yours. I happen to run some publicly available DNS servers [shameless plug] and specifically do not censor any domains. Does that mean malware and hackware sites can be resolved via my servers? Yes. Because it is not my place to tell anyone what they can or can not access. People who want to access those sites may do so and people who want to be sheltered from them may use any number of methods to do so. If I start blocking domains, where do I draw the line? Should I block child porn? Should I block viruses? Should I block specific governments? Should I block download sites? Like a search engine, DNS servers provide a way to "find things", and blocking anything means making decisions about what other people can see. That is not how a free Internet works. People should have access to everything, and should decide for themselves what they want to block or ignore.
So, the next time you want to suggest that someone use DDG because it is more private than Google... don't forget to mention that [just like Google] DDG makes some decisions for users regarding what they are permitted to see.