Google announced this week that it will begin censoring “piracy-related terms” from its Instant Search feature. Now, when you type a movie or album name into Google Search, it will not longer suggest terms like BitTorrent, Rapidshare, or Megaupload. Google’s Instant Search algorithm likely found these piracy-related searches popular enough to place their terminology higher than official information on the content. By censoring its term suggestions, Google avoided likely grandstanding from the content industry claiming Google was sanctioning copyright infringement.
As a private company, Google has every right to censor or limit itself product as it sees fit. What’s unfortunate is we are finding ourselves more accepting of censorship in the name of copyright infringement. Google, often professing a love for freedom of information, is censoring access to legal software and being arbitrary about it. uTorrent is blocks, but BitComet is fine. Rapidshare is blocked, but Mediafire is okay. Remember, BitTorrent and file-sharing lockers are not illegal, even if they can be used for piracy. Nothing stops users from typing in these words and searching for them manually (the censorship only applies to Google’s Instant Search suggestions). But it’s a slippery slope that we are sliding further down.
The government confiscates domain names without due process, courts can ban books, and now Google has no issue censoring its search suggests, all in the name of copyright infringement. Oh, so how has any of this stopped piracy?
UPDATED – Another 51 domains have been taken down, in a joint effort by the MPAA and Dutch equivalent, BRIEN. It’s uncertain if the domains were actually confiscated by the government like in previous cases or if these were just DMCA takedowns.