Google’s new search algorithms crack down on piracy, but YouTube is unscathed

13 Aug 2012

On Friday, Google announced an update to its search algorithms that will roll out this week. This update now takes copyright infringement into account, and sites found in frequent violation will no longer rank highly in search results.

This demotion on the search page will be based on the number of valid copyright removal notices Google receives for a given site. Google senior vice-president of engineering Amit Singhal says this update will “help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily”, and cites services such as NPR, Hulu and Spotify as purveyors of such content.

What it really means is that users that are trying to find pirated content via Google will no longer find it easy to do so. Repeat offenders such as The Pirate Bay, FilesTube and IsoHunt could be in trouble and can expect to see their search results disappear from the front page of results.

Copyright removal

Google processed more copyright removal notices each day this year than in all of 2009. Though the search giant can’t rule on copyright infringement – that’s for the courts to decide – it can still decide to hide away possible violators deep in its search results and, in some cases, may even remove a page from its results listings.

If a site owner feels his or her content has been wrongly removed, Google has created counter-notice tools so he or she can try to have the content reinstated.

YouTube and others off the hook

Google’s spokespeople have assured that massive user-generated content sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and its own YouTube will not be affected by this update. This is because these sites are rated so highly on Google’s various other algorithms (of which it has about 200), the number of copyright notices aren’t nearly significant enough to affect their ranking.

In response to claims that Google is giving preferential treatment to its video-sharing site, The Verge reports that YouTube is in fact subject to stricter controls as takedown requests reported both through Google’s web search and YouTube’s own tools will be taken into account.

Google search image via Annette Shaff on Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic