Yesterday I wrote a blog post expressing skepticism about the promises made in Google’s latest update to its self-serving “How Google Fights Piracy” report. The report made headlines thanks to word that Google finally appears ready to move against the plethora of pirate links found via its search engine. In its report Google made this claim:
In October 2014, we have improved and refined the DMCA demotion signal in search results, increasing the effectiveness of just one tool rights holders have at their disposal…
In addition to removing pages from search results when notified by copyright owners,Google also factors in the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site as one signal among the hundreds that we take into account when ranking search results. Consequently, sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.
Well, it’s October of 2014–October 21st to be exact–and this morning I used Google search to check out how things are going with its new “demotion” algorithm for search. I chose to look for Gone Girl, a movie that was released earlier this month and is still screening in theaters. Using the search terms: “gone girl” watch free online it literally took me a couple seconds to find a a link to an active copy of the film streaming online listed on page one of Google search’s results.
What’s the threshold for Google’s “new” algorithm to work its magic and demote results for this pirate website? It’s worth noting that Google is careful to insert the equivocation “may” into its promise that “Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results.” [emphasis added]
Given the number of complaints, one has to ask the question why is this site even allowed to remain listed Google search results at all? In its report Google provides this dubious explanation as to why only links are removed rather than ban entire site:
While we use the number of valid copyright removal notices as a signal for ranking purposes,we do not remove pages from results unless we receive a specific removal request for the page. Even for the websites that have received the highest numbers of notices, the number of noticed pages is typically only a tiny fraction of the total number of pages on the site. It would be inappropriate to remove entire sites under these circumstances. [emphasis added]
I challenge anyone to find a single page on watch32.com that offers up anything besides infringing links? This website’s ONLY function is to make money by offering up pirate links to popular movies. There’s nothing legitimate about it and there would be nothing “inappropriate” about removing the ENTIRE SITE.
Google’s report also tries to rebut charges that it’s a popular and convenient way for people to find free (pirated) content making the claim that more people search for “Katy Perry” than search for “Katy Perry free.” So what? No one is saying that the majority of searches on Google aren’t legit. What we are complaining about is the fact that sites like watch32.com are still show up in Google’s search results. It’s like a store selling merchandise and pointing out that only one aisle offers stolen goods. There’s no excuse. The fact is that by including criminal sites like these in its results Google is aiding and abetting the pirate economy.
As I noted yesterday, there is good reason to be skeptical of Google’s shiny new piracy report. The company’s record speaks for itself. Actions speak louder than words, and so far Google’s bark against pirates is much bigger than its bite.
Update 10-30-14: Traffic to some major pirate/torrent sites has reportedly been diminished post-algorithm change. I’ve written about that development here, but fact is there are still pirate sites to be found in first page of search results on Google.