What just happened? The privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has removed several major pirate websites, such as The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and YTS, from its search results. This move also includes YouTube-ripping services, which are considered a grey area in terms of legality.
DuckDuckGo is one of the most popular privacy-focused search engines and a renowned alternative to the data-hungry Google. Unlike other search platforms, the site doesn’t keep a log of sensitive user information or share its search trends with advertisers.
The site has made another move that differentiates itself from Google in the past week: piracy-free search results. On Friday, Torrentfreak discovered that the site deindexed several popular pirate websites, effectively removing them from search results.
— yugatech.ph (@yugatech) April 16, 2022
DuckDuckGo removed all domains for these sites entirely from its database, with search results being blank or only bringing up a single result. This crackdown includes several types of pirate sites, including torrent indexes, movie streaming portals, and blogs with downloads to cracked video games. However, many less popular piracy websites remain visible.
The change removes the potential vulnerability of DuckDuckGo to copyright issues, despite not hosting any of the copyrighted content. Google has an automated system that eliminates possible DMCA-infringing entries, but that has done little to deter search results for the most popular piracy websites. They have also demoted piracy websites in certain regions, such as the UK.
Surprisingly, the removal includes the homepage to youtube-dl, a Python-based open-source downloader for YouTube and other online videos. Despite challenges from the RIAA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has defended the legality of youtube-dl, maintaining that the tool is crucial for archiving and documentation purposes.
DuckDuckGo has not yet responded to questions from journalists about the omission. The company recently entered the browser wars with the launch of its privacy-focused desktop browser for Windows and Mac, following their popular free browser for Android.
Image credit: Dawit