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Google Starts Filtering "Piracy Related" Keywords For Auto-complete, Instant

Posted by: , 11:22 AEDT, Fri January 28, 2011

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Google has bowed to the entertainment lobby's threats and has started filtering keywords like "torrent" for its auto-complete/instant function

Google first announced they would do this back in early December, and they have finally pulled the trigger: torrents are now gone from Google's search, but only from the auto-complete and instant recommendations.

The entertainment lobby has been trying very hard to make Google the Internet piracy cop, as the entertainment industry believes everyone is responsible for the online piracy problem. Apart from themselves, that is.

And so Google's resolve wavered, and their solution to the piracy problem was to not allow certain keywords to be used as part of auto-complete and instant search. Both auto-complete and instant recommends search phrases to searchers, based on what you've already typed in, and then gives you a recommended search phrase based the popularity of phrases. But from today (well, yesterday), Google will no longer recommend keywords that they think are related to piracy. The problem is, that no all of they keywords are, and by the standard they've used, many other keywords that should be banned has not been.

Amongst the popular keywords banned are: BitTorrent, torrent, uTorrent, RapidShare, Megaupload

All of these keywords could be used, and it used daily, to refer to legal content. In fact, BitTorrent is simply a file transfer protocol, and not even the MPAA has suggested that BitTorrent, as a technology, should be banned. Similarly, uTorrent is a popular free BitTorrent client - by itself, it cannot be used to find pirated content, and again, is completely legal by any standards. And while the RIAA/MPAA has made big deals about RapidShare and Megaupload, both of these services are used legally by millions every day.

And the problem is compounded when other BitTorrent clients, such as BitComet are still allowed (at the time of writing), and other file hosts like MediaFire are also still allowed. This would give these other companies an unfair advantage, as Google chooses to block their competitors.

And even perfectly legal websites like Vodo have complained, since they provide legal content from independent artists, and some content is distributed via BitTorrent. It's now a lot harder to find a lot of their content, because Google strips the "torrent" part of the recommended search term, making it harder for people searching for legal torrents of all kinds (such as Ubuntu distributions).

Luckily, search results are not blocked (yet), and so users can still manually type in these banned keywords and find the result they're looking for. So for those serious about locating pirated content, the effect of this move is negligible. Those seeking legal content related to these keywords may be the ones that suffer most from Google's appeasement act.

Do you agree with Google's filtering of "piracy" related keywords, or do you think it's a step to far in terms of the open web, which Google supposedly supports? Post your opinion in our comments section below, or in this forum thread:


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