Google casually suggests ‘best torrent sites’, what it means for online piracy & illegal downloads


Google is now showing a few articles with curated torrent websites when you search for the term ‘best torrent sites’ or even ‘torrent sites’. (Image: Reuters)
Google had recently decided a massive crack down on online piracy sites, but now the technology giant is displaying suggestions for popular torrent websites on the search page. The anomaly was spotted by a website called TorrentFreak, as Google is now showing a few articles with curated torrent websites when you search for the term ‘best torrent sites’ or even ‘torrent sites’. The list of names in the section includes various infamous peer-to-peer websites like The Pirate Bay, IsoHunt and RARBG. These websites have been flagged for piracy many times before. There is no information available on why and when Google executed the change. But according to the speculations, the change may be because users have consistently been searching for the best torrent websites on Google.
In February this year, Google and Microsoft had signed a voluntary code of practice with the British Phonographic Industry and Motion Picture Association. This contract was meant to de-list piracy websites from the first page of Google search and Bing search results, as a measure to curb online piracy. This decision was reported to take effect by June 1, 2017. This move by both the tech giants to decrease the visibility of infringing content was a landmark achievement. The move by Google and Microsoft meant that popular torrent search engines and repeat offenders were supposed to see a drop from their presence on the first page of Google and Bing search results. But now, the revelation by recent reports suggest that the new feature will likely come in handy to casual torrent users.
Interestingly, the problem is not only for search results in Google. It was found that when one searches for the term ‘streaming sites’, Google wrongly put legal streaming alternatives like Hulu and Crackle right next to infamous illegal software like Putlocker and Alluc. However, the new setup is probably a result of algorithms automatically displaying what users are most actively searching. It may not necessarily be a decision made by Google. We can expect the Mountain View company to notice this inconsistency soon and make amends to it.
Google in its ‘How to fight piracy’ report in 2016, had said that it has been taking almost all the takedown requests from Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a United States copyright law. According to Google, it has been taking fast actions to take down infringing web pages from its search results, by handling thousands of requests every day. A similar problem happened in May 2016, when Google was accused of promoting Pirate Movie Ratings in search snippets, but the company had corrected the mistake soon.
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