How trustworthy is a search engine that filters results?

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 18, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

Reports started to come in today that Google has penalized one of the world's most popular torrent indexing websites Kickass Torrents.

Penalized in this case means that the site is nowhere to be found if you search for its name or derivations thereof when you use Google or a search engine that uses Google as its source.

The official domain of the service, is not listed on the first five pages on Google if you search for the name of the site.

Even worse is the fact that Google's action pushed a malicious impostor site to the top that is serving malware to visitors.

Other search engines, Bing and DuckDuckGo for instance, list the official site at the top. It is unclear why the site is blocked from appearing in Google's search results but there are a number of possible explanations such as "serving of malware from the domain", a DMCA takedown notice or a manual penalty.

It is clear however that Google is doing a disservice to its customers. Not only is the company not serving the correct and expected result at the top, it replaced it with a site that is serving malware to users who used Google to find the site.

There is an underlying issue that is even more problematic than the banning of a site in the company's search results, and that is one of transparency.

Can you be sure that Google is not filtering out results when you use the search engine? You may notice it at times, for instance when you search for a site directly and it does not come up, but what about searches that have no clear result at the top?

How can you be sure that the company is not filtering out sites that it does not want you to see for whatever reason? How can you be sure that you are getting the best results and not a biased list based on manual interventions and tweaks?

It seems that you cannot be sure, as there is no way of telling whether a result is genuine or tampered with.

Other search engines are not necessarily better when it comes to the filtering of results but at least when it comes to Kickass Torrents, it is Bing and DuckDuckGo that show the right result at the top.

Now You: What's your take on this? Is there a search engine that does not filter results?

How trustworthy is a search engine that filters results?
Article Name
How trustworthy is a search engine that filters results?
Google began to penalize the popular torrent indexing site Kickass Torrents in its results recently.

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Catrice Lechner said on March 5, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    search404 – privacy for the informed

  2. mason said on July 28, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Duckduckgo was brilliant in that provided a niche for search users who wanted a “private” search engine but let’s be honest, duckduckgo sucks, it does not provide very good results. A few years ago there were alot of alternative search engines popping up like ixquick and there are other competitors like yandex, but most of the minor search operators have switched to relying upon google(most likely paid to do so) or have gone defunct.

    Google is a monopoly and in an era it is perhaps the most insidious monopoly because it is free which does not incentivize consumers to readily switch and has become a dominant source to find and rely upon for information. So much so that the majority of computer and internet users are unable to use anything other than google to find information and Google long ago stopped being an internet search engine. A web device designed to allow us exploration and access of the internet ,into subtly narrowing down search results, changing the nature and scope of search queries, new google products and to dominate the web with it’s advertising so that I believe now 70 percent of websites use google adwords. What Google has done along with facebook and a few other internet institutions is kill the internet by commercializing it and attempting to control it!

    I don’t think it is such a bad thing that search engines and google have become useless, we as internet users can learn to access the internet a different way, a new way.

  3. Decent60 said on July 23, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Interestingly enough, searching for gives great results.

  4. wybo said on July 19, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    This is clearly a form of censoring.

    The search engines( & I use all came up with as a first result.

  5. TSJNachos117 said on July 19, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I like using It’s similar to StartPage (run by the same company), except that results come from a variety of source (such as Gigablast and Yahoo), as opposed to having only Google results. Like StartPage, IxQuick respects the visiters’ privacy.

  6. Bart Degryse said on July 19, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I’m a bit surprised by this article. Manipulation of search results is nothing new. The moment a search engine keeps its algorithms a secret there is some form of manipulation: you never know for sure why you’re getting what you get and especially if some result is pushed to the top or the bottom in any degree.
    I do understand search engines wanting to undo whatever manipulation by webmasters to artificially get their website higher in the results but nothing more.
    A recent decision by Google comes to mind. Penalising sites that are not mobile friendly. It is in my opinion not up to Google to penalise such sites. Not being mobile friendly doesn’t make the information in the website less valuable, only less accessible. Who cares a site is not mobile friendly when searching from a desktop computer, yet Google still penalises the site. Instead of penalising sites through all kinds of secret algorithms search engines should rather inform on the value of a search result. Why not just show all kinds of evaluations next to each search result: mobile friendliness 6/10, amount of ads 3/10, Chrome friendliness 9/10, webmaster attempts to manipulate the search results 4/10, etc. The next would be to make it easy for users to filter results on these evaluations: show me only results with at least an 8 for mobile friendliness and no more than a 2 for ads. Much like most online shops let you filter their products. Now that would make a good search engine in my opinion.

  7. Corky said on July 19, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Like it or not the Internet as a whole and search engines are increasingly being censored via things like DMCA notices, the right to be forgotten, RIAA/MPAA court ordered blocking and more.

    Yes Google and other search engines censor your results, but should we really be pointing the finger at the search engines when they’re only bowing to the pressure placed on them from governments and other organizations threatening legal action.

    1. Ken Saunders said on July 20, 2015 at 4:16 am

      “should we really be pointing the finger at the search engines”
      Yes. They’re not producing or distributing the content, they’re just showing you where it is. Well, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do. Point to where stuff is.
      I can show someone where to get illegal substances, but I can’t be convicted for that.

      Search services can’t reasonably, selectively choose to leave out one thing or another and remain unbiased, and trustworthy. Google is a left leaning organization. Why not block conservative sites. They don’t block child porn sites and images. How to make bombs. How to make drugs in your bathtub. How to murder someone and get away with it and so on.
      They still point to sites with illegal activities and gross and immoral content.
      They’re job is to show where stuff is, not police the Internet.

      1. Henjin said on July 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

        > “I can show someone where to get illegal substances, but I can’t be convicted for that.”
        Just try it and you’ll know that’s not how lawmakers and copyright holders think.

        Search engines aren’t immune to the laws. If you’re a regular reader of TorrentFreak, you’ll know that. Copyright holders sue them all the time, especially the popular ones like Google. To avoid that, they have to comply removal requests from the copyright industry.

  8. Ken Saunders said on July 19, 2015 at 5:51 am

    As a loyal Mozilla supporter, I tried to do the right thing and use Yahoo. I did it for a while, but I didn’t like several things that they did (yes I know that they’re Bing’s results).
    I’m back to using Bing as my default. I occasionally use Startpage (Google results of course), but I try and stay away from anything Google. It’s rather difficult considering how embedded they are into the Internet now.
    But, I don’t trust any results really. Unless they’re maintained by humans.

    For what it’s worth, I saw an article earlier about Google blocking ExtraTorrent. I don’t remember the URL, so…

    If this is Google on their moral high horse imposing their belief that torrent and file sharing sites are wrong, then they need to kill off Google Images because people think that the images on there are created by Google and they steal them, use them, and claim them as their own works.
    I have honest to God heard/read someone say, “I didn’t steal the image, I got it from Google. Or they just credit Google images as the image’s source. :|

  9. Torro said on July 19, 2015 at 2:28 am

    DuckDuckGo for the win! : D

    1. an said on July 20, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Well I have worse results with duck duck go than with google.
      they might not track me but they also do not serve me well.

  10. Azevedo said on July 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm
    Reply is the way to go.

    1. DonGateley said on July 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm

      Except that it requires Flash.

  11. exrelayman said on July 18, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Too bad. Unfortunately, DuckDuckGo does not shade links that I have previously clicked, a serious flaw. However, if you use StartPage with the WebOfTrust add-on, the malicious site link is flagged as such. Then you just click on the Wikipedia article on KickassTorrents where there is a link to the proper location.

    1. A different Martin said on July 18, 2015 at 11:57 pm

      @ exrelayman:

      Did you go into NoSquint’s site settings for DuckDuckGo?

      In Pale Moon, NoSquint’s button is permanently anchored to Pale Moon’s statusbar, on the lower right. It looks like a magnifying glass with a zoom percentage (e.g., 100%) next to it. With a DuckDuckGo page in the active (foreground) tab, left-click on the NoSquint button. Put checkmarks in the Unvisted and Visited boxes (or just the Visisted box, if you are happy with DuckDuckGo’s default color) and choose the color you want the links to be from the color-selection boxes immediately to the right. Then click OK.

      I use Firefox with the Classic Theme Restorer extension (and, even so, rather rarely), so I’m less sure where exactly NoSquint’s button shows up by default or whether it even shows up at all without being added via the user-interface customization routine. From a recent stint working on someone else’s computer, I think NoSquint may even use a different-looking button in the stock Australis interface. But once you’ve found the button, the procedure for making DuckDuckGo use different colors for unvisited and visited links should be pretty much the same as in Pale Moon.

      By the way, you can also set custom full zoom and text-only zoom levels (both global and site-specific), which is actually NoSquint’s primary purpose. It’s incredibly useful for people like me who can no longer read tiny text comfortably.

      1. Anonymous said on July 19, 2015 at 5:17 pm

        Thanks for your elucidations. I have in the meantime gone from StartPage to Ixquick. Funny, I had Ixquick at one time in the past and lost it when I had to restore to a backup image to fix a problem. I am very glad for this topic to arise on this blog, as some have reminded me about Ixquick, which I had forgotten about. And also glad and appreciative of your input as well as theirs.

        I am not willing to give NoSquint another try. On my windows 8.1 PC, immediately upon installing it all of my custom zoom settings for every bookmark I have was restored to 100%. This would necessitate resetting all my custom zoom levels. Instead, I simply closed Firefox and restored the Mozilla folder in Roaming with a current Mozilla folder I store on my external backup drive. My vision is not the best either, but the custom zoom built into Firefox is adequate for me.

    2. Duckeenie said on July 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      It’s not a flaw it’s a feature. “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”

      1. exrelayman said on July 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

        Oh, I see. Thanks. But I would pay the price of being tracked for the convenience of keeping track of where I have already been so I don’t keep going back where I did not find what I want. Except A different Martin seems to have offered the best of both worlds – so thanks to him also! These helpful comments are a great asset to this site.

        Update – did not experience desired effect using No Squint with DuckDuckGo. Returning to StartPage and allowing tracking for the sake of my convenience.

    3. A different Martin said on July 18, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      If you use Firefox or Pale Moon and you install the NoSquint extension, you can choose either global settings or site-specific settings that set unvisited links and visited links to fixed, different colors. I prefer to use site-specific rather than global settings, as I have run into too many sites that put links in backgrounds with the same (or nearly the same) color as my preferred link colors. It looks like there’s some kind of algorithm that determines whether a link shows up as visited or not — whether you visited it in the current session, whether you bookmarked it, whether you typed it in manually — because the mere fact that it’s in your browsing history from a previous session doesn’t seem to trigger the “visited” flag. (There are a few “visited”-related preferences in about:config, but I haven’t researched them.) Anyway, I chose site-specific link colors for DuckDuckGo, and now unvisited links are blue and links that I’ve clicked on are mauve.

  12. Maelish said on July 18, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    It’s not trustworthy in the least. Google some months ago announced plans to change search results so they would give you answers (I am paraphrasing here) based what what is “true” first. The problem is that truth is relative in a slew of topics, even in science.

    So while it seems like a fantastic idea on the surface, it is also an idea easily corrupted. “Truth” could easily become a gateway onto a slippery slope of politically correct search results. If you pick a topic like global warming, there are a lot of opinions and theories. Blocking out the search results of a group you disagree with is not merely authoritarian, it’s very totalitarian.

    Forbes has an article about Google’s plans here.

  13. br0adband said on July 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    No offense to people that want to use Google but, since KickAssTorrents is a valid active and very popular website, going to Google to search for content at KickAssTorrents is (which of course you can do at KickAssTorrents itself), well, just pretty stupid.

    I suppose people overall just don’t seem to understand that you can actually visit websites directly to get their content or search what they have to offer.

    Humanity just gets worse by the millisecond, I swear.

    1. Tom Hawack said on July 18, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      I read somewhere that Web search engines were making people lazy and therefor stupid as many of us rely on those engines to be more than a search tool when a second brain : no effort for memory, for organization, just look it up on the engine. Some even have the search engine as home page, even as new tab page and use it for everything, even in place of bookmarks! (“Why bookmark a link when I can just get the address back with G….e?” did I even hear!).

      I’d say, with you and with many others (but without even many more i’m afraid) that a search engine should be called only for what’s it’s intended for : search for information we know to have not. As well, never be logged into a search engine’s site when you search. Personally I clean cache, history and cookies (first two regularly cleaned, latter handled by Self-Destructing Cookies Firefox add-on) before calling a search engine, particularly Google.

      About tha article’s topic, search engines filtering their results : we know that results are already organized in function of the user’s country, then of his history, cache and cookies. We know that Google is accused by the EU of privileging its customers in the results’ order. Now I discover that results are not only biased in the way they are organized but as well in their very existence : more than A.B.C we have A.C … and no B. I guess one should never rely on a unique search engine and regularly as well swap his default web search engine. Generally speaking, the basic laws every novice spy learns to track and therefor we should symmetrically handle : avoid habits and don’t leave little stones on your journeys.

      1. Tom Hawack said on July 19, 2015 at 8:45 am

        @fokka, comfort? Slavery is comfort of mind. Laziness is comfort. Freedom is comfort as well once you decide to install a water tap rather than to go searching for a well. The point here is that the well is a search engine at distance time/space = zero and that the water tap needs 1- to be installed (great effort!) and 2- to be accessed (distance time/space slightly higher than that of the well).

        You see, the point is not effort for effort, effort as an aim is ideology. I rather focus on liberty and consider the effort it requires as a bonus for intelligence. Evolution never ran after effort as a quest, but effort lead to emancipation. Now, for those who consider comfort as the easiness of grabbing life without influencing it, why not? Why not just forget one’s privacy, one’s dignity, and just grab the food served in one’s mouth. Infantilism can be tempting.

      2. fokka said on July 19, 2015 at 2:25 am

        it’s not about what is the well, it’s about what is comfortable that was the point.

      3. Tom Hawack said on July 18, 2015 at 9:07 pm

        Indeed, Tim : why ride your horse to the nearest well when you already have the water tap at home? Why search for what we already have? Search engines are the well. I guess that’s the way you meant it.

      4. Tim said on July 18, 2015 at 8:49 pm

        I read somewhere that having taps in peoples homes was making people lazy.

        I’d say, with you and with many others (but without even many more i’m afraid) that a water tap should be called only for when you don’t have time to ride your horse to the nearest well.

  14. Jeff said on July 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the fake/malware version of KAT was set up by RIAA/MPAA themselves as a long term ploy to dissuade people from even trying. Then they got google to adjust the results (probably with money).

    RIAA and MPAA have long been trying stupid and desperate measures to plug holes in the dam.

  15. Oxa said on July 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Google’s search engine lost its way a long time ago. I can no longer find pages with the words I specify. Instead Google serves up pages its algorithm thinks I want, thousands of them that do NOT have the words I specify. StartPage, because it uses Google’s engine, is no better. As far as I’m concerned, we’re now back in the pre-Google days, where you had to try a half-dozen search engines to get results that were useful.

    1. Ingo said on July 19, 2015 at 12:50 am

      Exactly my observation aswell

      1. DonGateley said on July 20, 2015 at 9:20 pm

        Exactly. This is why you _must_ use a VPN that doesn’t log and provides a kill switch if you don’t want to give away your IP. Without one it is fair game.

      2. wybo said on July 20, 2015 at 12:40 pm

        Then none of the search engines can be trusted not to record your IP address . From DuckDuckGo to IZquick!.

    2. dostiers said on July 19, 2015 at 12:25 am

      >StartPage, because it uses Google’s engine, is no better.

      Try instead. It’s run by the same company, but aggregates results from several search engines, not just Google

      1. Tom Hawack said on July 19, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        @wybo, would you play your life on this conviction, “Startpage indeed uses Google but does NOT record your IP address!.” ?
        I wouldn’t. Doesn’t mean it’s not true, only means I have no way to be sure it is.

      2. wybo said on July 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        Startpage indeed uses Google but does NOT record your IP address!.

    3. DonGateley said on July 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      @nebulus: For anyone using Firefox there is an extension, Searchonymous, that inhibits automatically logging into Google when you search. It also works against Google Alerts, however, so you have to temporarily disable it when you want to edit your alerts.

    4. Jeff said on July 18, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      I’d suggest going Into Google search settings, and disable personalized results.

      1. Nebulus said on July 18, 2015 at 4:11 pm

        I wouldn’t search the internet using Google while being logged on to Google…

  16. joncr said on July 18, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Filtering is inherent in any search engine. Results are identified, ranked, and displayed algorithmically. That’s filtering.

    Maybe Google will publish some info about this, maybe they won’t. Since European legislatures and courts apparently hold Google responsible for the content anyone publishes on the web, perhaps that’s a place to start.

    1. fokka said on July 19, 2015 at 2:21 am

      there’s filtering and then there’s filtering. of course it’s odd to complain about a search engine filtering results, because that’s more or less its sole reason. but that’s just the one, the needed, form of filtering. filtering out websites on more or less political reasons is a complete different thing and in this case isn’t really much different from censoring parts of the internet.

      i hope google will reverse that decision soon. i’m already very sceptical of the company, but censoring free information is where they clearly overstep a line. good thing i’m already using duckduckgo.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.