Firefox bins Russian search engines over misinformation fears

Firefox
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Mozilla has removed Russian search engine providers from its Firefox browser (opens in new tab), following claims they favor state-sponsored content over other media. 

The news was revealed in the release of Firefox 98.0.1. where the patch details note "Yandex and Mail.ru have been removed as optional search providers in the drop-down search menu in Firefox."

Besides being removed as optional search providers, all associated customizations, add-ons, bookmarks, and anything else that’s related to the search engines (opens in new tab), have been removed. Those affected will have their settings reverted to the default ones, meaning their search engine is now likely to be Google. 

Fighting propaganda

Confirming the changes to BleepingComputer, Mozilla explained that it feared these search engines might be favoring Russian propaganda over objective content.

“After careful consideration, we are suspending the use of Yandex Search in Firefox due to credible reports of search results displaying a prevalence of state sponsored content, which is contrary to the principles of Mozilla," a Mozilla spokesperson explained.

"This means for the time being Yandex Search will not be the default search experience (or a default search option) for users in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. In the meantime we are pointing people to google.com.” 

Mozilla’s announcement says nothing about the Ukraine invasion, although the media are quick to speculate that the change was made due to Russian state-sponsored media spreading misinformation about the war. 

Yandex, Mail.ru, and OK.ru, are the country’s three most popular websites, BleepingComputer says, as combined - they have more than 100 million unique monthly users. Back in 2014, Mozilla has made Yandex the default search engine for all Russian users, expanding to Turkey the year after.

There’s a stark difference in reporting the Russia-Ukraine conflict in Russia, and in the Western countries. While the West reports it as a Russian invasion of a sovereign nation, Russian media mostly follow the government’s narrative of a “special military operation” with the goal of “denazification and demilitarization” of Ukraine. Most, if not all, of the western media, cannot be consumed in Russia, and vice-versa. 

To bypass strict country restrictions, Russians have been increasingly turning towards Virtual Private Networks (opens in new tab) (VPN).

  • Here's our rundown of the best proxies (opens in new tab) right now

Via: BleepingComputer (opens in new tab)

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.