As it promised in early December, Google has begun to remove terms associated with piracy from producing search results in Google Instant Search, and from appearing in Google Suggest. That includes searches involving the word “torrent” as well as “BitTorrent,” which is both the name of a company in San Francisco that produces torrent software, as well as the peer-to-peer sharing protocol itself.
Google promised this was coming in a December 2, 2010 blog post that addressed several issues related to copyright protection. The company said it would remove terms like this from autocomplete:
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.
Google’s move, though, seems to be catching some unrelated terms in the process. One of the terms on Google’s list is “rapidshare,” the name of a file-hosting web site. But searchers now can’t get Instant Search results for common words and phrases that begin with “rapid” or “rapids.”
The bigger issue aside from possibly overzealous filtering is that torrents are not inherently illegal. It’s a protocol that can be used illegally, but also has very legitimate uses, too. Likewise, RapidShare and sites like it can also be used for completely legal purposes.
BitTorrent, the San Francisco company, isn’t too happy with this move. VP Simon Morris told TorrentFreak.com how the company feels:
“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 said.
We’ve reached out to Google for clarification on this and will update the post if and when we hear back.