Sunday, January 30, 2011
Google starts to censor torrent-related search queries
Searching for file-sharing information via Google is going to take a little bit more effort now, thanks to new steps taken by the search engine to remove all sorts of references to torrents from its instant search and autocomplete features.
In December, Google said it was taking steps towards "making copyright work better online." Among other things, it promised that "terms that are closely associated with piracy" would no longer appear in autocompletes.
Although it may be seen as an effort to crack down on illegal file sharing, the move is a troubling one, particularly for those who provide BitTorrent services. No surprise, these companies are quick to point out that there are many legitimate uses for torrents.
Forbidden from Autocomplete Arbitrarily?
Part of the problem with this new implementation, as TorrentFreak noted when it broke the story, the list of banned terms is "seemingly arbitrary." No version of the word "torrent" will work for instant search - neither the software "uTorrent," nor "BitTorrent," the name of a protocol and a San Francisco-based company. But while the cyberlockers RapidShare and Megaupload are now forbidden, other sites like HotFile and MediaFire are not. Furthermore, you can still find the names of other popular torrent sites, including The Pirate Bay.
TorrentFreak cites a response from RapidShare, who say that "We knew about Google's plans for quite a few weeks now. We embrace that certain search suggestions will not put a wrong complexion on RapidShare anymore, but we are concerned that at the same time the legitimate interests of our users will also be affected."
The company adds that "RapidShare is one of the most popular websites worldwide. Every day hundreds of thousands of users rely on our services to pursue their perfectly legitimate interests. That is why Google has obviously gone too far with censoring the results of its suggest algorithm. A search engine's results should reflect the users' interests and not Google's or anybody else's."
For now, you can still search for torrent information. While your search queries won't autocomplete, the results aren't censored. Yet.