Google has started blocking certain 'piracy-related' terms from Google Instant and search suggestions. Anything including words like "bittorrent," "torrent," "rapidshare," "megaupload," or "utorrent" will lead to a blank page in Google Instant and no auto-completion suggestions. The move was actually previewed about a month ago when Google vowed to do more to fight piracy, at least as big media understands it.
The changes have now gone live, Google will not suggest any of the terms above and will not offer any search results in Instant until the user actually presses Enter or hits Search.
In practical terms, the 'censorship' does little. Google still displays the search results for any of the terms, it only removed suggestions and Instant results.
What's more, searches for things like 'dvdrip,' 'the pirate bay,' other BitTorrent clients such as 'vuze,' or other file-locker sites like 'mediafire' still work.
The inconsistency in the banned terms is easily explained, Google is simply complying with a list of terms handed to it by the content industry. Were Google to actually decide what is 'related to piracy' and what isn't, the huge data at its disposal would probably yield a much better list of terms to remove.
Removing suggestions for things like 'bittorrent' or 'rapidshare' will have absolutely no effect on piracy, just like no other move by the big media companies had, but it may have an effect on the legitimate companies affected by the changes.
Google has not provided any comment on the move, but the companies adversely affected are understandably not pleased.
BitTorrent, the company behind the popular and completely legal - at least until the media companies manage to change that - file sharing protocol is not pleased with the move, to say the least.
"There’s no reason for Google to throttle search results for our trademarks, including BitTorrent, µTorrent and torrent. Indeed, they do still enable autocomplete for many third-party clients that use the BitTorrent protocol, including BitComet, BitLord, and even sites like The Pirate Bay and Isohunt," BitTorrent’s Simon Morris told
TorrentFreak who first uncovered Google's move.
RapidShare another company directly affected by Google's 'decision' to remove terms that are "closely associated with piracy" is justifiably irked.
"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," the company said.
It's not big secret that Google censors search results as well as suggestions. It had been doing it for years in China, before it decided to pull out last year, and does it pretty much in every country it operates at the request of the local governments.
The move indicates that Google is now willing to take direct orders from the big media companies and alter its products accordingly, not in the interest of users but of other companies.
Other companies that are significantly smaller than Google. The search company makes more in a year than the four major record labels combined and as much as several big Hollywood studios put together.
But if governments can be swayed and laws written entirely by industry lawyers, perhaps the only surprise is that it took this long for Google to start doing big media's bidding.
Again, the move will have no effect on piracy whatsoever and it won't prevent anyone from finding the latest leaked movie or music album, but it clearly indicates that Google will not stand up against the media industry's increasingly aggressive and desperate moves to defend its dying business.
And if governments don't protect people's interests and neither do the big "do-no-evil" web companies then all we have left is scrappy underdogs like The Pirate Bay taking a stance and risking jail time for what they believe is right.
And what's 'right' is not people being able to freely download whatever they want, but being able to able to have the 'freedom' of uncensored and unaltered search results that are relevant to them as opposed to protecting the interests of an soon-to-be obsolete industry and business model.