One of Google's biggest problems has been the relevancy of their search results. Apparently, someone at Google HQ decided that the best way to solve that problem was to start censoring the results available in Autocomplete and Instant. The first target of their wrath? The word "torrent."
Starting this week, a search for any word combination containing "torrent" will not return results for instant search and will not autocomplete in standard search. In addition, other terms have been removed, such as "RapidShare" and "Megaupload." This comes as pressure from RIAA and MPAA has apparently gotten so strong that the company that abandoned China over censorship laws caved.
BitTorrent Inc. and RapidShare are not pleased about this move. Hit the break to read their reactions.
Simon Morris of BitTorrent Inc. feels that the filtering is too broad.
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.
A quick search for 'BitTorrent' currently returns a variety of legitimate and useful links, including company information, our software, our open-source protocol, and more. What Google may not realize is that our technology is used for many purposes that provide significant value to the technology industry, companies, artists and consumers at large.
There's no reason for Google to throttle search results for our trademarks, including BitTorrent, µTorrent and torrent. Indeed, they do still enable autocomplete for many third-party clients that use the BitTorrent protocol, including BitComet, BitLord, and even sites like The Pirate Bay and Isohunt.
We'd also like to point out that while Google doesn't enable autocomplete for Xunlei (China's largest software client that uses the BitTorrent protocol) Google did invest $5 million in the company in 2006, according to reports. We sincerely hope Google will recognize the value of BitTorrent and reevaluate this decision expeditiously.
So, apparently Google understands the benefits of BitTorrent enough to invest a lot of money in a company taking advantage of it. However, they seem to have forgotten the importance when RIAA and MPAA were breathing down their necks. RapidShare, on the other hand, has no financial ties to Google. Their spokesperson was no more content with Google's decision.
We knew about Google's plans for quite a few weeks now. We embrace that certain search suggestions will not put a wrong complexion on RapidShare anymore, but we are concerned that at the same time the legitimate interests of our users will also be affected. We believe it was the wrong decision to remove the term 'RapidShare' from the search suggestions.
RapidShare is one of the most popular websites worldwide. Every day hundreds of thousands of users rely on our services to pursue their perfectly legitimate interests. That is why Google has obviously gone too far with censoring the results of its suggest algorithm. A search engine's results should reflect the users' interests and not Google's or anybody else's.
The most interesting part of all of this is how arbitrary the filtering seems to be. A company that developed a legitimate Internet transfer protocol is filtered but a site that provides illegal files through that protocol is not. RapidShare is filtered but MediaFire is not. It is almost as if Google was handed a list of words to filter by the old people at RIAA and MPAA who do not understand the Internet.
Even artists, who this decision seems to have been made to protect, are not happy about it. A lot of smaller artists distribute their work through services like BitTorrent and RapidShare. Jamie King, who owns Vodo, a site that allows artists to share their work, is partially being filtered. In the past, their content used to be suggested with the term "torrent" but it no longer is.
Google already showed it will censor for the highest bidder — China Inc. springs to mind. Now it's doing it for MPAA & Co... I guess it's simple: our favorite search monopoly cares less about helping the thousands of independent creators who use BitTorrent to distribute legal, free-to-share content than they do about protecting the interests of Big Media in its death throes.
The people who are directly affected by this decision don't like it. What about you? Do you think what Google is doing is OK or should all content be treated equally on Google. Let us know in the comments section.