DuckDuckGo reportedly removes search results for major pirate websites (updated)

YouTube-dl also appeared to be gone.

BRAZIL - 2021/08/10: In this photo illustration, a silhouette of a hand holding a mobile phone seen displayed in front of DuckDuckGo logo on a computer screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (SOPA Images via Getty Images)

DuckDuckGo's crackdown on dodgy content now supposedly extends to digital bootleggers. TorrentFreak has claimed the search engine no longer lists results for some major pirate websites, including The Pirate Bay, 1337x and Fmovies — look for anything from their domains and you'll come up empty-handed, according to TF. Streaming and stream-ripping sites like Flixtor and 2conv also produce no results using these methods, while other pirate outlets (such as RarBG) may only turn up one result instead of the hundreds of thousands you see elsewhere.

The site for the video download tool YouTube-dl also produces no results despite recent defenses of its legality. While the RIAA has portrayed YouTube-dl as a piracy tool, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, GitHub and others found that it doesn't rip DRM-protected material.

We've asked DuckDuckGo for comment. As TorrentFreak says, though, liability for copyright violations might be an issue. The company removed pirate "bangs" (shortcuts for pirate sites) as far back as 2018, and competitors like Google and Microsoft are already downranking piracy-related results. A move like this could protect DuckDuckGo against costly copyright battles.

Update 4/18 8:15AM ET: DuckDuckGo tells Engadget that The Pirate Bay and Youtube-dl were never removed from search results if you looked for them by name or web address, and that there have been problems with the "site:" queries used for these and other searches. Others frequently change domains and may not always be easy to find. These pages should now turn up in results, DDG said. We've updated our story accordingly.