Startpage launches News tab to help users escape filter bubbles - gHacks Tech News

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Startpage launches News tab to help users escape filter bubbles

Search engine Startpage launched its new News offering on November 21, 2019. The new feature promises to deliver news to users that is not curated or personalized. In other words: every user who looks up the same term at the same time gets the same news returned when using Startpage News.

Note: Startpage ownership changed recently and that caused some controversy. Check out our coverage of the event here and here.

Google, Facebook, and other services that provide you with news may do so based on the information that they have accumulated about you. A very basic example would deliver news to you based on your location in the world. If you are from Australia, chance is high that you would like your news to cover Australia more than other parts of the world.

Curation or personalization goes beyond that simple example though. If you read conservative, liberal, or left-leaning media more than others, chance is that services may prioritize sources that fall into those categories over others that don't. The same may be true in other areas, e.g. science, religion, sports, or other political areas.

The filter bubble may fortify believes and positions and while that is not bad all the time, it may mean that the information is biased to a certain degree.

Startpage users who run a search on the site may notice the new News tab on the results page. A click on News displays only news source as results.

startpage news

The system itself works similar to Google News and other news providers: type a search term to get a list of recent articles published by newspapers and online sites.

Startpage guarantees that users are not "targeted with select stories and opinions" when the News feature is used. The search engine removes "all personally identifiable information" from search queries before passing the search term to "the search engine" and returning "the exact same results that anyone else in the world would receive".

Startpage does not mention the service that it uses to display news to users. I asked a company representative about it and was told that News is pulled from Microsoft's Bing search engine.

Startpage displays a thumbnail, title, a short description, the source, and the time the news was published on the results page. A click on the news title opens the site the news was published on in new tab in the browser.

Startpage implemented its anonymous view mode on the News page so that users of the service may open the article using a proxy. Anonymous view hides the user's IP address from the publication.

Closing words

Startpage expands its service and the inclusion of news is certainly a step in the right direction, especially since the service promises that users won't be put in a filter bubble and the added ability to open news in anonymous mode.

Now you: do you use search engines to look up news?

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Startpage launches News tab to help users escape filter bubbles
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Startpage launches News tab to help users escape filter bubbles
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Search engine Startpage launched its new News offering on November 21, 2019. The new feature promises to deliver news to users that are not curated or personalized.
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Comments

  1. Astounded said on November 21, 2019 at 6:32 pm
    Reply

    OT: Does anyone else have problems using Qwant with a user agent spoofer extension? I get a page telling me:
    “Qwant helps you to better protect your privacy!

    Your browser sends an information called “User Agent” to websites that accurately describes the type of browser you are using. In your case the User Agent is so specific that it can be used against you to recognize and track you (your current User Agent is Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/68.0).

    For security reasons and to better respect your privacy, we recommend that you change your User Agent to no longer be recognizable.”

    Why do they care about my user agent? Where is the “privacy” that they promote???

    1. ShintoPlasm said on November 21, 2019 at 7:23 pm
      Reply

      Getting the same message in Opera Touch on Android. Really weird…

    2. Yuliya said on November 21, 2019 at 7:47 pm
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      people use this? it looks kinda’ crappy tbh: https://i.imgur.com/NEMzCBA.png

    3. Anonymous said on November 21, 2019 at 8:26 pm
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      What did you not understand exactly ? Your browser sends your user agent automatically to sites, here this message did not use it to track you, it used it to warn you that yours look a little too recognizable for any site that would want to track you, because it’s the one of an older Firefox version (68 instead of 70). If you have problems understanding this, maybe you should not play around with user agent extensions.

      They want to look like they care a lot about your privacy because being more private than Google is their business model, this is the why of this lecture on user agents. They are also exaggerating the threat to look more caring.

      1. Astounded said on November 21, 2019 at 9:39 pm
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        The problem is, it won’t let me procede to the search results unless I update my browser :-O

        So, it appears they want the REAL user agent to do tracking on their own.

        Anyway, it’s not default search anyway. Just tried it because someone mentioned it as an alternative to Startpage. After this, though, no thank you. I’ll stick to DDG – no questions, just the results.

  2. Hy said on November 21, 2019 at 7:16 pm
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    Thanks for this Martin! I didn’t know about it. A welcome addition to Startpage, I agree.

    What I don’t like is that for some reason they made the font on the “News” results page smaller and thinner and more difficult to read than their regular results page, and I have to strain slightly when looking at it. It makes trying to quickly scan down the page of results more difficult and tedious. The font on the “News” results page should be the same as on their regular search results page. Here’s hoping they fix it soon…

    1. chesscanoe said on November 22, 2019 at 12:21 am
      Reply

      Personally I will stick with DDG, but if you are intent on circumventing the font problem, I suspect the Chrome extension Font Changer with Google Web Fonts™ version 3.1.0 will do the trick.

      1. Hy said on November 23, 2019 at 1:58 am
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        @chesscanoe: I didn’t know about that–thanks!

  3. Bevode said on November 21, 2019 at 7:20 pm
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    Startpage, duckduckgo and qwant have the same problem, not usable on a ipv6-only network.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on November 21, 2019 at 9:14 pm
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      What do you mean, not usable?

  4. Anonymous said on November 21, 2019 at 8:10 pm
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    Corporate news outlets are an endless stream of disinformation vomit, and at the same time carry considerable political power. People don’t just trust a politician to be on their side just because he has the job. Why do they still trust a random corporate news source just because it sits here on the site they’re browsing ?

    1. NA said on November 22, 2019 at 12:05 am
      Reply

      If you want Pravda, it’s fine! I still agree with you, except your alternative will be worse than the disease. More and more people are realizing self and group interests win over “principles,” and it has always been that way!

      1. Anonymous said on November 22, 2019 at 5:29 am
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        Mentioning Pravda as the alternative to Fox and CNN shows how brainwashed Americans are. There are many news sources besides the US and Russian governments and their corporate shills. Maybe you have trouble thinking for yourself and need to be told what to do.

  5. Damien said on November 21, 2019 at 9:34 pm
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    Well, I still don’t have a news tab, here in France… :-)

  6. Sol Shine said on November 21, 2019 at 11:24 pm
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    I like this new addition to StartPage.
    It makes it easier to find only news articles if that is only what you are looking for.
    I use the advanced search mode that you can set in the settings.
    It gives you more control of your search terms.

  7. Hy said on November 22, 2019 at 1:41 am
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    Off-topic: the recent events at Startpage had me taking a glance at other search engines, and I used the Firefox “IndicateTLS” add-on which Tom here mentioned awhile back to see how they fared and compared with one another. Here are the results for the engines I looked at, indicating which TLS version they use, whether or not they use HSTS, and what their Qualys SSL rating is (I don’t know if table formatting will hold up when I post):

    Bing TLS 1.2 HSTS A
    DuckDuckGo TLS 1.3 no HSTS A+
    Qwant TLS 1.2 HSTS A+
    search.privacytools.io TLS 1.3 HSTS A+
    Searx.me TLS 1.2 no HSTS A
    Startpage TLS 1.3 HSTS A+
    swisscows TLS 1.3 no HSTS A+
    Yahoo TLS 1.2 HSTS A+
    Yippy TLS 1.3 no HSTS A

    As can be seen, only two search engines scored highest across the board: Startpage and privacytools.io, and only one scored lowest in all three categories: Searx.me. FWIW

    1. Anonymous said on November 22, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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      That is strange: search.privacytools.io (te best?) is based on searx (the worst?) ??

      Moreover searx very often has an error message from Google or DDG !
      And my experience is searx does not remember my language setting, so getting weird search results.

      1. Hy said on November 22, 2019 at 7:01 pm
        Reply

        Anonymous said: “That is strange: search.privacytools.io (te best?) is based on searx (the worst?) ??”

        Yes, I agree: at first glance that can seem strange! But if we remember that what is being compared is the TLS version, HSTS (or lack thereof), and Qualys SSL rating for these different SITES, then it makes sense. The privacytools.io site uses TLS 1.3, HSTS, and has an A+ rating from Qualys. The searx.me site uses TLS 1.2, does not use HSTS, and has an A rating from Qualys.

        Privacytools search does say their search engine is “powered by Searx,” but that is not related to which TLS version and other security credentials the privacytools.io site uses.

  8. ULBoom said on November 22, 2019 at 3:42 am
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    Confused. Startpage no longer recommended since it’s owned by the “privacy” division of an aggressive ad company but we see articles on one of its “anonymous” features?

    Delisted:
    https://www.ghacks.net/2019/11/16/startpage-search-owner-changes-raise-serious-questions/

    Nonsense response:
    https://www.ghacks.net/2019/11/18/startpage-replies-to-questions-about-ownership-change/

    Nothing there to justify relisting them for sure!

    The System 1 thing began almost a year ago (Dec 2018 is the furthest back I could find) and it took them this long to spin up typical tech gibberish?

  9. CommonSenseRules said on November 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm
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    In the end, ‘news’ offered by the mainstream media come from a few censoring entities (a.k.a. news agencies). If you expect more than just the manufactured fake news junk to brainwash the masses, local media and independent news sources are what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, startpage.com is neither a search engine nor a news outlet and all they offer is the same made up nonsense Google and the MSM throw at the people.

  10. basicuser said on November 22, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    “do you use search engines to look up news?”

    No. If you use Google or Facebook, etc. you may just as well watch the Idiot Box.

    Over time I have assembled lists of aggregators and point sources to use as starting points to follow issues of interest. I may read a few dozen items from newspapers, blogs and special interest web sites on a given day. That’s my own personal bubble I guess. Regardless of search engine, if you don’t want to create a search bubble, scrub cookies & search history and don’t remember browsing & download history and clean any other caches your browser may offer

  11. John Fenderson said on November 25, 2019 at 6:41 pm
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    “do you use search engines to look up news?”

    Occasionally, yes, but I don’t use their news tabs to do so — I’ve not yet found a search engine that has a news tab that I’m comfortable with. I just do a general web search.

  12. Muhammad Firza said on December 4, 2019 at 4:56 am
    Reply

    I don’t interesting the News section Startpage, because it’s really fear about political usage of internet (and also brainwashing to usage https), mainstream media about hoaxes, violence all over the world, worst viral and everything. Also this website is retaining our privacy, how TLS version is suitable for visit this website. That is the Startpage’s news section to be usage for the corporations to consumed by people who depressing privacy & security.

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