Your one-stop shop for everything related to the Peace of Westphalia

Is DuckDuckGo blocking peaceofwestphalia.org?

This is not a post I ever imagined I would be writing on this site, but I am faced with an unusual problem and I don’t know what to think. I created this site nearly 8 years ago kind of on a whim, but with the intent to put up real content about a subject I am passionate on. Over the years, that has included posting about a number of events that are reminiscent of the Peace of Westphalia in some way: commemorations, distant echoes, or just modern parallels. I knew nothing about search engine optimization at the time, nor did I particularly care, so I was placed about 50th in Google’s search results for “peace of westphalia” in spite of having that term in my domain name. No problem; it was a new site, and I expected it to take a while to pick up traction. On the other hand, this relatively new search engine, Duck Duck Go, had me in the top 10 almost from the beginning.

Not many people used Duck Duck Go back then, so it didn’t matter much. In the ensuing years, I have grown the site and learned some search engine tricks, and now it appears around the top 10 or 20 results for Google when you search for “peace of westphalia.” (This still equates to a tiny number of hits compared to most sites, because not a lot of people search for these words.) But suddenly, in the last week, peaceofwestphalia.org doesn’t appear at all in Duck Duck Go searches. Even if you search for “everything peace of westphalia,” which is my site’s tag line, the closest you get is a reddit post that references this site. “Peaceofwestphalia.org” itself is nowhere to be seen.

What happened? The short answer is, I don’t know; I can only speculate. My best guess is that it is related to a post I made last week about Vladimir Putin’s article from July of 2021, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” I think this because (a) the timing is right, and (b) it seems probably that Putin wouldn’t like my comments (not that I was particularly critical; I was more concerned with the nature of historical unity to modern justice than with what he said in particular). On the contrary side, there are many other responses to Putin’s article that do appear on Duck Duck Go, and I imagine some of them are very critical. (I haven’t bothered to read them, since this is peripheral to my main concern.)

So what is it? Did some individual report my site as malware or hate speech? If so, why? And why now? Is it plausible that some larger entity would have taken action against me? Again, why, when there are so many more prominent sites? Just because it’s easy? It seems like there must be something behind this, not just because it is inexplicable why this site would drop so precipitously, but why it would disappear completely from DDG’s search results. Maybe someone who hates me just found out about my site; but it still puzzles me why DDG would agree to remove me from their search results. Maybe someone inside the company doesn’t like me and has inserted some covert code to block the search. I am open to almost any explanation, but I do wish I could find some reason, and preferably counteract it. (I did contact DDG to inquire, but I haven’t heard back, and don’t really expect to. I’m now curious if this sort of thing ever happens with Google searches and whether there is any sort of way to find out if one’s site is on a blocked list and potentially to appeal it.)

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