Google Blocking Torrent Searches
Google is blocking searches originating from torrent sites using Google Custom Search to find .torrent files, according to TorrentFreak.com, a move the founder of the site calls “censorship.”
uTorrent.com and ThePirateGoogle.com both use Google Custom Search and Google’s own filetype: operator to locate torrents indexed by the search giant. As of yesterday, though, the owners of the sites say Google is blocking searches originating from their URLs.
uTorrent Google Search – torrentfreak.com
uTorrent, which is owned by BitTorrent, Inc., added Google Custom Search to its site for use by its 28 million monthly visitors and so the site could generate revenue through an ad revenue sharing program.
ThePirateGoogle was set up just in the past week in response to the highly publicized trial of The Pirate Bay in Sweden. The proprietors of the Pirate Bay received jail time and multi-million dollar fines from a copyright industry-connected judge after arguments their search, indexing, and linking service was the same as Google’s failed to convince. The judge convicted them for assisting copyright infringement.
ThePirateGoogle.com was launched to illustrate how the same files could easily be found in Google’s own index simply by using the search query operator filetype: .torrent. Using Google’s Custom Search, results were limited to torrent files only. Since Google’s block on the URL, ThePirateGoogle has redirected searches to an unblocked URL.
An Italian Google executive reportedly tried to distance Google’s search service from the Pirate Bay’s, noting that Google indexes everything on the Web, not one specific type of file, and indicating that intent in this situation matters more than technical details. But that argument doesn’t hold much weight because, just like Google, the Pirate Bay brought did not differentiate between legal and illegal torrent files. By the same logic, if the Pirate Bay had a different, more neutral name, their service would be legal.
Web operators in Sweden apparently don’t enjoy the same Communications Decency Act and fair use protections as those (like Google) do in the States. But Google already finds itself awash in copyright litigation from Viacom and threats from other major media players. Blocking specific URLs seems then like an act of legal self defense, an act allowing Google to further distance itself from open digital pirates.
“Ernesto Van Der Sar,” the Dutch founder of TorrentFreak.com, operating under a pseudonym, calls Google’s actions censorship.
“Google is selectively banning websites from using their search functionality,” said Van Der Sar. “If this it is indeed their policy to block all BitTorrent related sites from using their services independent of what they are used for, Google is going down the wrong road. It’s censorship.”
Recently, cable giant Comcast was sanctioned by the FCC for interfering with BitTorrent traffic, and Google has been a key champion of the idea that large companies with conflicts of interest should not interfere with how people use the web—at least, until now.
Google, uTorrent, and ThePirateGoogle had not returned request for comment at the time of publication.
Update: ThePirateGoogle.com confirmed to WebProNews that Google was blocking searches conducted from that domain. "Inbound searches from other domains to the same custom search engine still function, thus I assume it is an issue limited to our domain alone," said an anonymous representative.