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Search Engines, Social Pressures, and the Fall of Neutrality: DuckDuckGo's Dilemma

Search Engines, Social Pressures, and the Fall of Neutrality: DuckDuckGo's Dilemma

Today I woke up and saw that DuckDuckGo began censoring content. Their founder announced on Twitter that DuckDuckGo will now down rank content containing misinformation being spread from Russia.

This news comes as an incredible disappointment to users of DuckDuckGo who use it to avoid bias from human intervention in search engine results.

This type of change however seems to be commonplace. Modern tech companies increasingly take more active roles in political stances, now that their brand images are global.

Why? Normal people want to status-signal and tech founders want attention. Thus, tech founders benefit from saying things that act as social proof for average Joes. Tech founders get negative feedback from social media just like we do, but they encounter so much more of it that they adapt their language and behavior to satisfy the loud and persistent demands of their status-signaling followers.

Twitter's social pressure can be prepared for, but it's powerful and hard to ignore. Instead of assuming virtuous founders will stand up to opposition, we should assume that business founders and their executives are human. We should assume they will defend themselves and their public image when they're attacked in the public square and often cave as a result.

Technologies created for crypto can help consumers get and keep the products and product visions they sign up for. By choosing to use decentralized technologies instead of partnering with other tech companies, founders insulate themselves from social pressures and operate more independently.