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Privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo has completely removed the search results for many popular pirate sites, including The Pirate Bay, 1337x and Fmovies. Several YouTube ripping services have also disappeared, and even the homepage of the open source software youtube-mp3 is endless.
Launched in 2008, the DuckDuckGo search engine is a go-to service for Internet users who value their privacy.
Unlike many competitors, the site does not detect users’ IP addresses or other sensitive information.
In recent years, the site also stood out by providing cleaner results than competitors like Google, which is actively changing its algorithms to downgrade pirate sites. At one point, Google even pointed users to DuckDuckGo when searching for Pirate Bay proxies.
DuckDuckGo fears responsibility
However, the privacy-focused search engine is not immune to potential copyright issues. This only became apparent when it removed several search shortcuts to ‘pirate’ sites. These “bangs”, as they are called, were seen as a potential liability for copyright infringement.
“We operate globally, just as bangs do, and products that actively facilitate interaction with illegal content can make us and our employees face significant legal responsibility and jeopardize the entire service,” DuckDuckBangs Tagawa explained.
DuckDuckGo ended up removing around 2,000 bangs for popular sites including The Pirate Bay, 1337x and RARBG. At the time, the search engine emphasized that these sites were still listed in the search results. However, that seems to have changed now.
Pirate domains are deindexed
When we did some research earlier today, we noticed that several popular pirate sites no longer appeared in DuckDuckGo’s results globally. Initially, we thought some popular pages had been removed following DMCA removal notifications, but clearly more is happening than that.
For example, searching for “site: thepiratebay.org” should return all results that DuckDuckGo indexed for The Pirate Bay’s primary domain name. In this case, there is none.
The lack of results is not tied to a specific country, and manual tinkering with the region settings did not change anything either. Apparently, DuckDuckgo has simply removed all thepiratebay.org URLs from its index.
This removal of the entire site is also not limited to The Pirate Bay. When we do similar searches for 1337x.to, NYAA.se, Fmovies.to, Lookmovie.io and 123moviesfree.net, no results are displayed. For RarBG.to and Fitgirl repacks, we get only one result, instead of the hundreds of thousands we see on other search engines.
The absence of results does not only apply to the pirate sites themselves. For example, there are no results for the streaming portals Flixtor and Primewire. In addition, the associated status pages, which only contain links to the official domains, are not indexed either.
Even several popular stream rippers have been completely deleted from the search results. It includes 2conv.com, Flvto.bid and several others.
Youtube dl gone?
The most surprising omission is that the official website of the open source software youtube-dl is not indexed by DuckDuckGo. This site certainly does not host or link to any copyright infringing material.
The YouTube dl code repository was previously removed from GitHub following a removal message sent by the RIAA. After taking a closer look at the case, Github eventually restored it.
We do not know why the official youtube-dl.org site is not in DuckDuckGo’s search results, but at least the official GitHub repository can still be found.
TorrentFreak contacted DuckDuckGo to find out why these domain names do not appear in their search results. At the time of publication, we have not yet heard back. However, it would not be a surprise if the move is copyright related.
A few months ago, Google also started removing several pirated site domains from its search results. In the case of Google, however, these delistings are regional and associated with ISP blocking orders.
It is worth pointing out that many pirate sites are still to be found in DuckDuckGo. But the search engine could certainly provide some transparency to help clarify what exactly is happening.
Rightsholders will be happy to see pirated sites removed from DuckDuckGo, but it’s not without risks for users. While seasoned pirates are likely to still be able to find those sites, more shady knockoff sites will now appear higher in their search results.