Stuart A. Thompson, writing for The New York Times, under the provocative headline “Fed Up With Google, Conspiracy Theorists Turn to DuckDuckGo”:
Other research has also found that Bing’s algorithm surfaces less
trustworthy information than Google does when searching for
conspiracy theories. One study last year showed that
slightly fewer than half of all results on Bing and
DuckDuckGo for six popular conspiracy theories mentioned or
promoted the ideas. Google fared better, with about a quarter of
links mentioning the ideas but nearly none supporting them. Yahoo
fared worse than Bing and DuckDuckGo, and the Russian search
engine Yandex fared worst among the group.
Newer and more esoteric conspiracy theories are far more likely to
return misleading results because of the so-called data
void. Conspiracy theorists tend to publish content about
new ideas long before mainstream sources, dominating search
results as the terms begin spreading online. Other topics never
grab the attention of mainstream sources, giving the conspiracy
theorists a long-term presence in search results.
What a tricky problem for search engines to solve. This Times story does suggest that Google is ahead of rival search engines at presenting results that don’t support bunk conspiracy theories, but I don’t think it’s clear what the “correct” balance is here. If you really do want to see the crazy “QAnon” theories for yourself, you should be able to find them, no? But at the same time search engines certainly don’t want to legitimize radicalizing nonsense.
★ Wednesday, 23 February 2022