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Censorship Google Piracy Your Rights Online

Google Censors "Piracy Terms" From Instant Search 246

Posted by samzenpus
from the problem-solved dept.
Chaonici writes "A few weeks ago, Google promised that, on behalf of the entertainment industries, they would begin filtering 'piracy related' terms from their search system. Now, TorrentFreak reports that Google has lived up to their promise, and certain keywords (such as 'bittorrent' and 'rapidshare') will no longer produce results with the Autocomplete or Instant Search features. The standard search feature, however, continues to display results as normal. Simon Morris of BitTorrent Inc., RapidShare, and Jamie King (the founder of Vodo) are critical of the change, pointing out the many legitimate uses of popular file-sharing technology."
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Google Censors "Piracy Terms" From Instant Search

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  • Bloody Hell (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Great, now I need to find a new search engine... I thought Google was anti censor... and had a don't be evil policy...

    • Re:Bloody Hell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobbieThe1st (1977364) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:19AM (#35018874)
      Do notice that they -didn't censor anything! All they did is hide certain terms from the auto-complete. Big deal. There's plenty of other words in that "censored" list. Now, they can claim to be "helping prevent piracy" or whatever without actually doing anything. I see it as a win-win situation.
      • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:36AM (#35019006) Homepage

        Oddly enough, other piracy related search terms like "pegleg", "eyepatch" and "jolly roger" are still auto-completed.

        • I think a good "Summer of Code" task would be to put RIAA on the "Censor List", and do it in such a way that Google can't verify its existence. arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
        • other piracy related search terms like "pegleg", "eyepatch" and "jolly roger" are still auto-completed.

          Substantial non-infringing use here. Pegleg and eyepatch are medical terms.

      • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @10:13AM (#35019340)

        "can i get pregnant from a dog" however is still autocompleted.
        Seriously, I keep meaning to write some kind of program to itterate through all the possible autocomplete options to see all the wierd stuff which turns up.

        there's already lots of things which aren't autocompleted.
        it's no big deal.
        as long as their search still works they can autocomplete what they like.

        • by Idbar (1034346)
          Just try to add some "sleep" to your iterations. Last time I tried a script to gather information from Google, I was banned from searching for a couple of hours.
      • Do notice that they -didn't censor anything! All they did is hide certain terms from the auto-complete.

        "But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."
        "Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything."
        "But the plans were on display ..."
        "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
        "That's the display department."
        "With a torch."
        "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."
        "So had the stairs."
        "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"
        "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."

      • by anyGould (1295481)

        They are, but not in both cases.

        Choosing not to auto-complete with "torrent" isn't censoring anything - rather, it's choosing not to encourage it (because people will see the suggestion of adding "torrent" to be support for piracy). A little out of sync with Google's usual MO, but whatever - if you want a torrent, you should know to ask for one.

        Removing them from the instant search results is censoring - in my mind, it makes the "instant search" a different engine from the "press enter" search. Of course,

        • The results with instant search are different, but I still get tons of torrent results near the top, and Google even helpfully suggests 'download' after I type a movie title and 'torrent'.

          So, it's not really clear what or how much they're actually censoring. I still wish they weren't doing whatever it is they're doing, but I don't know how much I care when I can't really even tell what it is they're doing.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        They are legitimizig the media industries' attempt to suppress a protocol's use by marginalizing it. In a small way first, but the camel's nose in under the tent flap.

        Bittorrent is entirely useful for downloading ISOs of Linux distributions, encrypted data shared lawfully betweeen any number of parties, and other uses.

        If this reasoning were expanded to a simple, logical conclusion, encryption would be illegal for regular people like me to use - since criminals use it to disguise their activities, it can't

      • Do notice that they -didn't censor anything! All they did is hide certain terms from the auto-complete

        Wouldn't that be /partial/ censoring?

      • by node 3 (115640)

        Do notice that they -didn't censor anything! All they did is hide certain terms from the auto-complete.

        That's exactly what "censor" means. Certain words are censored from their search results.

        Big deal. There's plenty of other words in that "censored" list.

        Such as? I know they filtered their search results to help weed out malware. Also, there may be some words (like "the") which are ignored, but I'm unaware of any legitimate words like "bittorrent" that are outright censored like this.

        Now, they can claim to be "helping prevent piracy" or whatever without actually doing anything. I see it as a win-win situation.

        Win (Google) - Win (MPAA/RIAA) - Lose (Google's actual users).

        There's absolutely no way whatsoever that this helps anyone searching for bittorrent and the like. Search for "ubuntu torrent"

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:21AM (#35018892) Homepage

      Yeah, my searches on "nine-pounder", "pieces of eight", "scurvy dogs", and "Arrrrrrr" all totally failed.

      • by TheoGB (786170)
        Somehow I doubt any search on 'nine-pounder' would fail to bring up something...
    • by DAldredge (2353)
      Some might say that downloading a torrent instead of buying the product in question is evil.
      • by Tim C (15259)

        Others might say that doing this opens the door to doing more in the future. So it's auto-completing of "piracy-related" search terms today; perhaps next year it'll be removing search results for wikileaks-style information.

        (Yeah, I know, slippery-slope fallacy, etc)

        Just because the thing being searched for is arguably wrong, doesn't mean that this isn't also a worrying development.

        • Except that every story on google results censoring so far has been about auto-complete and instant serach only. Pressing search on google is not censored in any way I am aware of.

      • Re:Bloody Hell (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nanospook (521118) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:38AM (#35019030)
        So I have a 75% hearing loss. I go to the movies anyways and enjoy the show but can't understand most of the script. So now if I want to do so I should go buy the movie or pay more to rent it? Noooo.. I download it and get the subtitles. I already paid for it. Does this make me evil?
        • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @10:02AM (#35019216)

          Well, you robbed them of profit that they never even had, so yes. You are a very, very evil individual.

        • When you go to the movies, you have not paid for the privilege of owning the movie. You are paying for the big screen, the speakers, the chairs, and the building's rent. Just because you can justify it to yourself does not make it legally justified; whether or not you give a whit about what the law says is up to you.

          Good try though.

          • You are paying for the big screen, the speakers, the chairs, and the building's rent.

            Under national disability discrimination acts applying to public accommodations, one ideally should be paying for the rear window captions.

            Just because you can justify it to yourself does not make it legally justified; whether or not you give a whit about what the law says is up to you.

            Likewise, just because movie theater operators can justify failure to install captions to themselves does not make it legally justified; whether or not they give a whit about what the ADA and foreign counterparts say is up to them.

        • So I have a 75% hearing loss.

          Patronize cinemas with rear window captions [wikipedia.org]. If there are none in your area, find other hard of hearing people and petition each cinema to install rear window captions. If the petitions fail, hire a lawyer.

      • And some might disagree with that notion. That said, bittorrent's only use isn't copyright infringement. It can be used legitimately as well, and in quite a few cases, it is.

    • by Dreth (1885712)

      Do you remember those days when Google didn't have the fancy-schmancy auto-complete or instant-search? I do, because I never used them, so this doesn't affect me in the slightest.

      If you're gonna search for The Red Dragon torrent, you KNOW you're gonna have to type it out, instead of waiting for Google to finish the phrase for you. So basically you are whining that you're gonna have to type search inquiries, are we really this lazy?

      • Interestingly, when I type exactly those keywords, the very first hit is on kickasstorrents.com, and it even helpfully suggests "download" as a term. I have noticed certain sites end up at different places before and after I hit enter...

        It looks as though the only thing they've done is remove it from possible autocompletions.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      And because of that policy, they got many trials in many countries because some silly judges consider that what the autocomplete algorithm spouts is what google thinks. As soon as they began to manually remove some terms, they opened the pandora box and became effectively responsible for what they left. Expect autocomplete to soon be very, very heavily censored.
    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Great! Now I have to actually type the full word and hit enter or even worse, click on the freaking search button! Just they way I used to do before I had this annoying instant search. /s
  • by PARENA (413947) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:16AM (#35018840) Homepage

    The summary is misleading. This only refers to incomplete words. If you type "bitt" or "rapidsh" you won't get the (desired?) results, but if you type "bittorrent" or "rapidshare" you will get the results you expect.

    Apart from that, it's quite childish. Also "pirate" gives me results leading to The Pirate Bay, for example.

    • by bughunter (10093) <bughunter AT earthlink DOT net> on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:47AM (#35019086) Journal

      Yes, it only applies to autocomplete. But since this story hit the media a month ago, I've been watching how I use autocomplete, and learned something:

      I use autocomplete to help me phrase my search terms, almost subconsciously. Any geek knows that phrasing a search is the key to getting proper results. I will frequently use the autocomplete to validate or invalidate several attempts at phrasing the search before I hit enter. Same goes for spelling. Autocomplete results in me creating more successful searches with more pertinent results.

      Now, I seldom use this for porn because, 1) i use filestube as my porn search engine, and 2) I usually don't need help phrasing a search for "big butts." (And, I've noticed that Google autocomplete stopped working for pornstar names a long time ago, far earlier than their announcement in late 2010.)

      But, for torrents, autocomplete is sometimes a valuable tool. No, I don't need it, but the responsiveness of autocomplete is an aid to the thought process of editing the search phrase. If they start extending their autocomplete bannination to other topics, I'd start getting concerned. Right now it's only the top of a slope which may or may not be slippery.

      But "its just autocomplete" isn't a valid excuse, for several reasons. Google is making editorial decisions when they're relied upon to be a neutral, content-independent indexing service. It scares some people because, there's no easier and more effective way to censor something than to cripple its index entries. What's next?

      • I have yet to see a story about "google censors search terms when you click search".

        • by binkzz (779594)

          I have yet to see a story about "google censors search terms when you click search".

          That's because Google censors searches for those stories.

          • by jc42 (318812)

            I have yet to see a story about "google censors search terms when you click search".

            That's because Google censors searches for those stories.

            Well, I decided to test this out a bit. I asked google, yahoo and bing to search for "google censors search terms when you click search". They all found exactly the same list of matches: one. They both linked to your message.

            OMG; they're all censoring stories about google censoring things!

        • You have yet to see this story [slashdot.org]. (Google keywords used: site:slashdot.org google scientology)
    • by Bloopie (991306)

      The summary is misleading. This only refers to incomplete words.

      Hence the wording in the summary: "certain keywords . . . will no longer produce results with the Autocomplete or Instant Search features. The standard search feature, however, continues to display results as normal." [Emphasis mine]

      Jeez, doesn't anyone even read the summaries anymore before complaining?

    • the headline is wrong too.
      it says "pirate terms" when it actually means "pirate" terms. quote mark is in thew wrong spot, changing the meaning.

  • This just means Google will not autofill "torrent" just as they don't autofill "breast".
          - But that certainly hasn't stopped people from searching for porn, and won't stop them from searching for free music/TV shows either.

  • by CynicTheHedgehog (261139) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:20AM (#35018882) Homepage

    Back in the day, searching for illegal downloads using normal search terms didn't really yield any useful results. Instead, you had to add "z" to the end of everything ... for example "warez", "mp3z", "serialz", etc. And now "torrentz" I suppose. So I doubt that censoring copyright-infringement vernacular will have any impact whatsoever on legitimate uses of P2P software, especially considering that normal search terms will result in any number of legitimate MP3/video download sites. And for crying out loud, it's on the *instant* search, which has got to be the least useful feature I have ever seen in any search engine.

    • by Zedrick (764028)
      Warez were called warez long before there were any kind of search-engine to search for warez with.
      • by pipatron (966506)
        You mean before there were computers that could search through text, or what do you actually mean by this?
  • Get a grip! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jareth-0205 (525594) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:22AM (#35018902) Homepage

    Just press like you used to! Jeez, they just don't want people in sensitive places getting potentially dodgy links coming up on their screens. I know when i'm at work I'd rather not have pirate sites coming up on my search result screen while I'm typing...

  • Awesome! (Score:4, Informative)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:23AM (#35018906) Homepage Journal

    That's great, so now I just have to start my search with "torrent" or "arrrr" and I won't have to suffer through Google's rediculous "instant" crap? Sign me up!

    In all seriousness; if you like Google just blacklist it for JavaScript, no more instant results. Or search from the address bar. Or, best option IMHO, use https://ixquick.com./ [ixquick.com.] *

    * google it for more details!

    • by DAldredge (2353)
      Why not simply buy what you are downloading?
      • Because the copyright owner won't sell me a copy at any price. Where can I buy a lawfully made copy of Disney's Song of the South? Or the English version of Nintendo's Mother (which exists as a prototype)?
    • by sorak (246725)

      Nope. TFA is complaining because Google will not suggest "torrent". If you type in the name of a movie, Google will not suggest "movie torrent", but if you type "torrent", Google will make suggestions that contain the word.

      As for autocomplete, Google has a setting that will disable it. Look under "Search Settings" in the upper right corner.

      • Good to know, I never really bothered to check for that because, as mentioned, I typically use ixquick and for the occasional time I turn to Google (image search!) I tend to have JavaScript turned off. I really only noticed on other people's computers.

        • by sorak (246725)

          I personally don't mind it, but I have seen complaints because it is opt-out, which causes problems for people who don't allow cookies.

  • That extra strain on my enter-finger builds up, you know! I could get carpal tunnel 0.00004% faster!

  • Every single time Google removes certain words from Instant , its censorship.

    No its not.

    You can still type it in, hit enter and get your results. They just don't want to 'suggest' them for you - for various reasons.

    So if you type 'tor' you won't get "Torrents! Download all your favourite stuff for free!" until you press enter. Big deal. Same happens for a bunch of adult terms.

  • by ifrag (984323) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:30AM (#35018962)

    Given that filenames have taken a relatively standard form in torrent circles, the material can be found without specifying any more than the general name form.

    Simply using: "[name of show] s##e##" will typically lead to torrent results without any other keywords. Usually occupying at least the top few listed results.

  • I'd say remove. They aren't censoring the search, they're just removing it from the autocomplete queue. Alarmist alarmism is alarming.

    I bet the Bittorent guys are F'ing pissed right now. It sucks that a great technology like Bittorrent immediately gets the spotlight on it's seedier uses as opposed to the really good ones (like legitimate releases of software that take the load off of individual servers).

    /in before the google hate?
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:38AM (#35019032) Journal

    And yes, if you want to know, I am not sure "pirates" are evil. A decade ago I was rather clearly against software, music and video "piracy". Not anymore.

  • ...is there somewhere a good stat showing the percentage of illegal uses of torrents compared to legitimate ones?
  • probably prudent (Score:4, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:41AM (#35019056)

    As others have noted, they're not filtering any results. They're just not suggesting piracy-related terms in the autocomplete, along with some other filtered terms like sex-related terms. Probably a prudent decision, because while returning search results for a query the user entered is fairly safe legally, prompting the user with something illegal that they didn't actively look for might be more questionable. Not sure if they could actually be liable, but it at least is less solid.

  • Baby/bathwater (Score:4, Informative)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:45AM (#35019080) Homepage

    Besides "bittorrent", "rapidshare" and a couple of other, the following words are now also unable to auto-complete:

    http://www.morewords.com/starts-with/bitt/ [morewords.com]
    http://www.morewords.com/starts-with/rapid/ [morewords.com]
    http://www.morewords.com/starts-with/torr/ [morewords.com]

    • by AaxelB (1034884)
      The "baby/bathwater" saying is only applicable when the proverbial baby is actually valuable in some way. Preventing only the autocompletion of a few random words seems more like throwing the soap suds out with the bathwater.
      • by blueg3 (192743)

        And only relevant if you need Google to help finish words for you.

        Interestingly, "t" through "tor" autocomplete (to words not including "torrent"). Once you've typed "torrent", you get multiple-word suggestions that include the word "torrent". If you add more letters, like "i" (the prefix to "torrential"), it returns to normal autocomplete behavior.

    • To be joined by Freedom , Privacy, Rights...
  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:46AM (#35019082) Homepage

    They should also filter searches for other things that are used to facilitate copyright infringement...

    FTP, IRC and HTTP - all have been used for downloading warez a lot longer than bittorrent or rapidshare.
    Microsoft & Windows - the most popular platform both in terms of being copied, and in terms of being used by those that do the copying (far less linux users use warez, because there is far less software for linux that its even possibly to acquire this way).
    Any form of commercially sold media - if everything were given away freely, there would be no "pirates"...
    And dont forget anything to do with ships or seafaring, pirates need ships...

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      And shoes. Nearly every pirate in the world uses them, and they can freely access them without any kind of restriction anywhere in the world, frequently for low prices and for cash in black markets. Won't somebody think of the children?
    • by iammani (1392285)

      Not to forget the word Google. I can find pirated software using google and hence should be censored.

  • by Restil (31903) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @09:50AM (#35019104) Homepage

    They're not censoring anything, they're just filtering the results of the annoying autocomplete, which I hate anyway. If someone is really looking for a linux torrent, they'll just have to click the damn button. The absolute legitimacy of torrents will not be denied in spite of this.

    -Restil

  • Considering the higher percentage of malware to result in piracy compared to most everything else, perhaps they are just trying to avoid the malware sites...

    Not saying big companies aren't performing CYA.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      In my experience, Maleware issues are nowhere near as big a problem as Femaleware issues!
  • This could be a trial balloon to see what the public response is.

    You know, get the headline without actually censoring their regular results, see what happens. I hope that any public outcry/criticism reminds them of their old corporate tagline "don't be evil," and reinforces that censorship is ridiculous and wrong, and that it could hurt their reputation, especially among the sort of people who are active on slashdot (geeks/IT workers/generally above average intelligence).

    It's not a matter of whether you s

    • by arkenian (1560563)
      So I have an interesting alternative take on this all. Mainly: I use google _AT WORK_ where porn and illegal file sharing are both a problem. I absolutely, 100% don't want autocomplete/instant search for porn, because it could get me in trouble, if I type in 'pen' and got 'penis' instead of 'pending' and someone happened to be looking at my screen who was offended.... Even illegal file sharing.... Yes there are plenty of legitimate terms, but this is an easy algorithm to prevent illegitimate uses (from
    • Instant search tends to censor searches that aren't extremely popular, so censoring it is almost a reduction of censorship. When I tried using it I usually ended up forced into irrelevant searches based on what other people wanted, so I preferred to censor 100% of suggestions by turning it off.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday January 27, 2011 @11:24AM (#35020174) Homepage Journal
    there is no more polite way to say it. the entire country has become a whore bowing to every whim of a group of corporations. even the technically incorrect, capricious ones like these - thinking that censoring certain words will accomplish what they want.

    even google now. no wonder they are producing stuff like american idol etc to keep the public sleeping.
    • If there is a law against copyright infringement, directing everyone looking for a review of a movie towards rapidshare is pretty clearly going to qualify as incitement. Even when liability is not an issue, do people really need to be shown results for "butt sex" when they are looking for a recipe for butter-cream frosting?
  • Just a few more in the list, and just as weak as their previous filtering attempts. Someone put up this site almost immediately when instant search came out http://www.2600.com/googleblacklist/ [2600.com] and it points quite a lot of funny examples or words that do or don't get filtered very inconsistently. Mind you, if you enter "bit" it shows bitcomet (a bittorrent client), doesn't filter out eMule and other non-torrent P2P programs, and for "thep" or "pir" the first result is thepiratebay. Doesn't filter out any ot

  • When doing a search on some particular device, I get tons of results that point toward dealers selling crap or worse, links to ebay listings. I remember years ago when I search for something, i..e JVC 5000U, I get various articles (useful ones, not promotional junk) or webpages by individuals describing how they use or hack such items.
    • I'd mod you up if I could! Google searching is starting to become a nuisance since just about every search dumps a bunch of vendors on your lap when you're looking for topical information. I've had slightly better luck with Bing, but I'm sure they'll go the same route if their market share starts to increase.

    • by adolf (21054)

      You're just being vague -- it's no wonder you don't like the results.

      JVC has made approximately six million things and named them all "5000", from a vintage U-matic player to an in-dash CD player to a DV camcorder. It is, apparently, their favorite number.

      It's not even clear to me, as a human, which 5000-series JVC product you're wanting to know more about. How is Google supposed to figure it out? I -think- you're asking about a gy-5000u DV camcorder, based on the context here and my implied human biases

  • I already almost subconsciously find myself looking for another search engine if I need to find something I think Eric may disapprove of. After all, if you're not sure he'd like it then maybe you should not be searching for it at all.

    This is reinforced by the already heavy filtering of instant results to exclude anything that might be X rated (though they often still leave in the politically incorrect stuff). Perhaps Eric is departing just in time for the founders to rescue Google from becoming just an
  • I just googled "shiver me timbers!" and got zero results!

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