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January 28, 2011

Google Filters Suggestions Associated with Copyright Infringement

Google started to filter search suggestions that include terms associated with copyright infringement like "torrent", "bittorrent", "rapidshare", "megaupload". It's a slippery slope and Google's suggestions will be less useful since they'll no longer include many popular searches.

Last month, Google explained that this is one of the changes intended to address copyright infringement. "We will prevent terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete. While it's hard to know for sure when search terms are being used to find infringing content, we'll do our best to prevent Autocomplete from displaying the terms most frequently used for that purpose."

Blacklisting keywords like "torrent" is a terrible way to prevent copyright infringement since users can always type queries without Google's help. The main consequence is that Google will appear to be broken and users will no longer trust the suggestions because they're censored. Last year, Google started to become politically correct by removing the suggestions for queries like [why are muslim]. There will always be complaints about the suggestions, but starting to arbitrarily blacklist keywords opens a can of worms and makes it easy to remove other controversial suggestions. As Mashable says, "this is a subtle form of censorship, and at first glance it seems trivial. However, even though the censorship is slight, it still indicates Google's willingness to change its search protocols to satisfy the needs of a certain business group, in this case members of the entertainment industry."

Google doesn't blacklist "pirate bay", "isohunt", "mediafire", "cracks", "serial numbers", "keygen" and there's a simple trick to bypass the existing filters: start your queries using the blacklisted keywords (for example: [torrent ubuntu 10.10]).


26 comments:

  1. Well this caused me to add Yahoo as a second search type in google's toolbar. I will try my best to use it.

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  2. How can we complain about this?

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  3. The problem I see with this is that torrent ubuntu 10.10 isn't pirated software. It's a free download so yes it does open a big can of worms. Slippery slope Google.

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  4. Uh...why not just type the entire word? Is that really so bad? It is not like they removed the sites of the search engine.

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  5. Yeah, I noticed recently that google is getting a bit cheecky...

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  6. One more reason to use Bing.

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  7. @Anonymous (the one under Patrick):

    Well, of course it's not that bad, but it's a bad start anyway. If one day they really removed the sites from their SERP, I would stop using Google.

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  8. @Cookie Lee

    Why can't it start and end here?

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  9. IANAL, but could it be that they're concerned that suggesting to append e.g. "torrent" to a search for a popular movie name may be seen as encouraging illegal behavior? That would explain why they don't attempt to filter "torrent" etc from searches (which I'm sure would be easy to do).

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  10. Google begins to show its censor face... What about "Don't be evil?" Really BAD news for those who trust (trusted) Google...

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  11. Google is backbone of internet and people mainly trust on the Google results. If this kind thing like filter suggestion or search query should be remove or will be a copy right protected. We can not able to get information about any thing which we want to know.

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  12. it makes sense since suggestions are information that is pushed to you.
    Google does not want to suggest you should search this terms (or show you such results before you end your request) . But it does not prevent you to explicitly search for it.
    Completely fine for me.

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  13. Makes sense to me too. We didn't have suggested search terms before but now that we do people are bent out of shape that Google isn't suggesting what they want.

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  14. I think this has less to do with political correctness and more to do with avoiding copyright infringement suits. If the big guns can show Google suggested certain illegal sites, I can see how it would be a lot harder to defend a copyright infringement suit. (I suppose I'll learn more about this in the copyright class I'm taking, this semester.)

    What I get really concerned about is the type of censorship involved in the Muslim example. If Google starts to drift into the activist land of blocking off certain sites/suggestions because a handful of activists shout that they promote hate speech . . .

    For example, I would be deeply troubled if Google mirrored Apple's censorship of the Manhattan Declaration because some people find it "offensive." Here's what I said about that censorship.

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  15. I agree with some of the commenters above that this is reasonable. Since 'true grit torrent' might be a more common search than other 'true grit t*' searches, Google's autocomplete would basically be encouraging searches of copyright-infringing materials. Moreover they would be passively educating their userbase about the existing of torrents, et al.

    As long as they aren't censoring the actual search results if you can be bothered to type out 'torrent', I'm fine with this.

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  16. @ Eric Jain @ Cedric: That doesn't explain why Google Reader's recommended items keeps providing ©-violating torrents in my feed. Recommending these to me here is much more of an implied endorsement than in my search query field.

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  17. I fully agree with @Cougar Abogado
    I find it very troubling that "why are Muslims" is censored but "why are Christians or Jews" is not censored, this is real censorship!!

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  18. So Google Instant doesn´t show it, but Google shows it if you hit "Search"? In other words the the feature that sets apart Google from the other search engines now doesn´t do what every other search engine doesn´t do? Baaad.

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  19. You know what? You can send copyright infringed content using GMail!

    I think a word "GMail" should be definitively blacklisted as it is somehow related to Internet piracy.



    Hey, you at Google, who is in charge to add some more words to censorship mechanism? I have much more suggestions for you.

    Why only you "G" has a right to choose those words. We, your users, want to have influence on what is displayed or not.



    I'm also among those that definitively started using alternative search engines.

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  20. Farwell freedom, hello totality ...

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  21. you guys complaining about this only shows that don't surpass the level of noobie on this subject. what google did here was simply the auto suggestion not show more "pirate" hints, the one who know how to do a search on web will easily find whatever he wants (evens if is illegal)..

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  22. Google only does this to get in good harmony with the content companies, it is a shame that they censor this, what will be the next stap ? Censoring Egypt stuff lke Vodafone does ?

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  23. Ops! what nice!!!

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  24. This can also makes sense to me, and gives a reason to use bing.

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  25. Google must have to find out the solutions for getting out of all this...

    ____________

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  26. duckduckgo is looking more and more like the new search engine to use

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