The Google search engine has a unique auto complete feature so that users can see the top searched topics as they are typing in their own search query. Unfortunately Google has been slowly censoring this auto complete feature for piracy-related terms since January of this year.
In January only a few terms were censored but here recently they overhauled their blacklist and it now includes almost all of the file sharing websites. Now, when searching for terms such as ‘torrent’, ‘RapidShare’ and even ‘BitTorrent’, you will notice that absolutely no auto complete results pop up to save your fingers from typing in the rest of your query.
This blacklist is targeted towards the top pirating sites on the web such as: The Pirate Bay, Torrent Reactor, BTJunkie, Kickass Torrents, Sumo Torrent, Btmon, and ExtraTorrent. Even sites that were initially unscathed by Google’s list, mainly 4shared, FileSonic, and FileServe, are now in the inclusive group as the other file sharing sites.
This increase in blacklisted terms has subsequently led to a sharp decrease in their search which will translate soon (if it already hasn’t) into a sharp decrease of new users for these torrent sites. Needless to say there are a significant amount of people fairly upset about Google’s new take on censorship.
“While there is no silver bullet for infringement online, this measure is one of several that we have implemented to curb copyright infringement online,” Mistique Cano, a Google spokesman, said in a statement to TorrentFreak. When talking about the blacklisted words on autocomplete Cano added “This is something we looked at and thought we could make some narrow and relatively easy changes to our Autocomplete algorithm that could make a positive difference.”
Google is tiptoeing on a very thin line and their measures to ‘curb copyright infringement online’ are hitting legitimate sites such as RapidShare and BitTorrent hard. Censorship never starts out small, and always begins as a justifiable measure taken against something perceived immoral or wrong.
Gary Fung, owner of IsoHunt, stated his opinion regarding Google’s blacklisting: “It’s a lot more subtle than the censorship attempts made possible by the pending PROTECT IP and SOPA bills, but it’s still censorship and it starts small. Google is increasingly becoming a self-righteous Big Brother of the Web. So much for ‘Do no evil’,” Fung told us.
Google’s increase in online censorship has outraged many people, not including the owners and users of the file sharing websites. Despite all of the criticism Google has received regarding their recent actions on censorship, they state that they will continue to fight online piracy by increasing its filtering methods. It is unsure of what exactly they plan to filter, as of now they have not actually filtered the content of these file sharing sites, just blacklisted the auto complete terms, however in the future we could see more and more content filtered due to their anti-piracy campaign.
One thing to chew on however, is that Google’s push for anti-piracy has coincided with the release of their new music hub – the music that they offer there is undoubtedly available free on some of these file sharing sites….