DuckDuckGo and Facebook reverse policies to join in hating Putin and Russia

Horror at the death and destruction inflicted on Ukraine by Russia's invasion is a normal and healthy reaction.  So is anger at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched and continues the warfare.

But with saturation-level war propaganda (some true, some not) dominating the media, many are tempted to enhance their own standing by virtue-signaling their hatred.  Virtue-signaling in a moment of mass frenzied hatred can have unanticipated longer-term consequences.

Jacob Fraden writes today of the absurd boycotting of the music of Russian composers like Tchaikovsky and the cruel treatment of musicians and artists who, in his words, "had the misfortune to come from the USSR or Russia."

The world of tech has joined in the frenzy, with two prominent companies discarding their previous policies in order to join the herd.

In what may prove to be a costly decision, Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of search engine DuckDuckGo, discarded his company's anti-censorship policy toward search engine listings:

Like many people (DuckDuckGo claims a hundred million users), I had turned toward it in order to avoid Google's bias that ranked conservative sources as "disinformation" and the like, only to find that the thumb on the scale has migrated over to DuckDuckGo.  And I have plenty of company in my dismay and anger at the alternative.  NicheGamer summarizes some of the blowback:

"The replies on this are quite amazing. Can you see how swiftly most of your user base has been put off by this announcement?," wrote one user in reply to the policy changes. "Loyal long time supporters are talking about abandoning the service. Please reconsider your stance on this. It's a dangerous slippery slope for all of us."

Another user said "This is not the way bro. We no longer trust anyone to decide for us what is 'misinformation.' Let us make our own calls about that."

In the original announcement, Weinberg said DuckDuckGo's mission has always been "to make simple privacy protection accessible to all" and that "privacy is a human right and transcends politics."

However, when confronted by users upset at the new "disinformation" policies noting this is not the point of the search engine at all, Weinberg noted they never committed to anything outside a guarantee to privacy and not being tracked.

"The whole point of DuckDuckGo is privacy," Weinberg said. "The whole point of the search engine is to show more relevant content over less relevant content, and that is what we continue to do."

If you look at the replies to Weinberg's original tweets, many users are unhappy with the new policy changes, which mirror similar "disinformation" policies on Facebook, Twitter, and other tech platforms.

In response to the policy changes and its founder seemingly refusing to listen to any concerns from users, many have already begun switching to other alternatives that guarantee both privacy and unaltered search results.

Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, already are notorious for shadowbanning and other biased practices, but both sites had held to a policy of not allowing calls for violence.  Not any longer, as Reuters first reported in an exclusive:

Meta Platforms (FB.O) will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to internal emails to its content moderators.

"As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as 'death to the Russian invaders.' We still won't allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians," a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

The calls for the leaders' deaths will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method, one email said, in a recent change to the company's rules on violence and incitement.

Both companies may call these moves temporary, but principles once discarded are no longer principles, but rather practices subject to change at the whim of management.

The larger point is that opposition to Russia's invasion is fine, maybe even virtuous.  But hatred poisons the hater.  I suspect that DDG will regret its decision.  Facebook now is on record endorsing hatred and violence and will find that will come to bite it, too.

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