Google “Censors” Piracy Queries

“Censors” may be a bit strong. In response to queries like “bittorrent,” “rapidshare,” and others that could relate to piracy, Google is turning off its auto-complete feature. Instead of filling in the rest of your potential query and generating results, users will see a blank screen. They can still search for the terms they want, but they have to press “enter.” Not a major inconvenience, to be sure, but many in the tech world are still bothered by this “censorship.”

The move should come as no surprise because it was plainly laid out by Google in their Public Policy blog in December of 2010. “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.” Still, many in the community are speaking out.

BitTorrent’s VP of product management, Simon Morris, said, “We respect Google’s right to determine algorithms to deliver appropriate search results to user requests. That being said, our company’s trademarked name is fairly unique, and we’re pretty confident that anyone typing the first six or seven letters deserves the same easy access to results as with any other company search.”

Morris points out, “What Google may not realise is that our technology is used for many purposes that provide significant value to the technology industry, companies, artists, and consumers at large.”

According to PC World’s Jared Newman, “Hiding piracy-related search terms from Google Instant won’t have a measureable impact on copyright infringement. The move seems more like an olive branch for the entertainment industry which Google is now trying to court on a few fronts. In addition to Google TV, the company is reportedly creating music service and has flired with paid movie rentals on YouTube.”

The general consensus is that Google’s move will do little, if anything at all, to stem the tide of piracy.

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