New Google Algorithm Change Immediately Raises Concerns

    August 11, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

As previously reported, Google announced that it will implement a new ranking signal into its search algorithm next week. The search engine will start taking the number of “valid” copyright removal notices it receives for a site, into account when ranking content.

Are you concerned about this new addition? Let us know in the comments.

Almost as soon as the Blogosphere was able to react to the news, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put out its own post about it. Julie Samuels and Mitch Stoltz with the EFF write, “Earlier this summer, we applauded Google for releasing detailed stats about content removal requests from copyright holders. Now that we know how they are going to use that data, we are less enthusiastic.”

The two go on to express concerns with how “opaque” Google is being about the process, despite Google’s claim that it will “continue to be transparent about copyright removals.”

The EFF’s concerns are the vagueness of what Google considers to be a high number of removal notices, how Google plans to make its determinations, and how “there will be no process of recourse for sites who have been demoted.”

Google does say that it will “continue to provide ‘counter-notice‘ tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated.”

“In particular, we worry about the false positives problem,” says the EFF. “For example, we’ve seen the government wrongly target sites that actually have a right to post the allegedly infringing material in question or otherwise legally display content. In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers.”

“Takedown requests are nothing more than accusations of copyright infringement,” the EFF addds. “No court or other umpire confirms that the accusations are valid (although copyright owners can be liable for bad-faith accusations). Demoting search results – effectively telling the searcher that these are not the websites you’re looking for – based on accusations alone gives copyright owners one more bit of control over what we see, hear, and read.”

The EFF concludes by saying that Google’s “opaque policies” threaten lawful sites and undermine confidence in search results.

The EFF is not the only group to quickly speak out about the announcement. Public Knowledge, a consumer rights group, also put out a much longer response.

We also received the following statement from Public Knowledge Senior Staff Attorney, John Bergmayer:

“It may make good business sense for Google to take extraordinary steps, far beyond what the law requires, to help the media companies it partners with. That said, its plan to penalize sites that receive DMCA notices raises many questions.

“Sites may not know about, or have the ability to easily challenge, notices sent to Google. And Google has set up a system that may be abused by bad faith actors who want to suppress their rivals and competitors. Sites that host a lot of content, or are very popular, may receive a disproportionate number of notices (which are mere accusations of infringement) without being disproportionately infringing. And user-generated content sites could be harmed by this change, even though the DMCA was structured to protect them.

“Google needs to make sure this change does not harm Internet users or the Internet ecosystem.”

It’s going to be quite interesting to see how Google’s new policy/signal holds up to abuse, and whether or not we see fair use significantly jeopardized.

Tell us what you think about the change in the comments.

  • http://ofinteresttome.com Ofinterest2Me

    The problem of false positives should’ve been enough for Google to not even consider this in the first place. Also, won’t YouTube be on of the most hurt by this?

    • Vincent Giannell

      He’ll probably get sued by the industries if he decides not to do this out of concern.

  • http://www.swiftsnipe.com ryan

    I think there could be some concern for this, like mentioned it will be interesting to see what happens with Youtube.

  • http://www.the-seo-proz.com Check out this THE SEO PROZ.

    Although I have never really been a believer in the Google “conspiracy theory” the fact that they are now delaying the release of changes in their algorithms is leading me to question the validity. Google never ceases to amaze me, they preach the importance of conducting search engine optimization in accordance with their polices, even though they do not disclose them frequently enough.

  • Vincent Giannell

    I’m sure Google will respond to these concerns and decide not to change it’s algorithm because of them.

  • http://www.seocompany-bristol.com Natasha

    All I can see by reading this is that Google are making a law above any legal one, surely copyright infringement should be proven prior to them banishing a website! Some big sites are going to really suffer – or will Google make exceptions I wonder!

  • http://www.macgames.info Penguinized

    The fun thing is that google itself copies the content of sites ( google shopping texts are provided by sites , google only uses duplicated content! ) so is google going to blacklist himself ?

  • http://www.landcruise.com Graham Schreiber

    If Google are getting notices, in volume, I think they’re very wise to do so; as such notices would constitute “Red Flags” under the United States DMCA.

    Since they have the ability to process all the data, they’re doing the right thing, this might in some small number of cases be an over reaction, but it’s cheaper than the process of replying to request(s) of Court.

    I’d not consider Google reprinting portions of websites as such, it’s a service they offer and with the meta tags, edited correctly, you can decline indexing.

    Cheers, Graham.

  • https://canadaseopro.ca Todd

    I think its about time they did something about the huge copyright infringement problem the Google has. Our websites content was used by a overseas company on their website. We asked them to take it down but no answer, we could do nothing because they were in a another country. If your not a content crook then I guess you have nothing to worry bout! I guess you-tube has a HUGE problem now, or wait this wont hurt Googles websites cause their special! Give me a break!

  • http://www.tradebit.com/ Ralf Schwoebel

    We (small company, lots of downloads) get constant false positives in Webmaster Tools. We are resellers of A LOT of publishers, but even they file complaints which we have to respond to. That is a pain in the butt and if you want to keep your competition on their toes you just file DMCAs all the time. Google removes the URL first and asks then. That is the case for months now… nothing new so far and annoying nonetheless!

  • http://www.alda-architects.co.uk Alan

    Guilty by acquisition and without trial or even opportunity to defend?

  • http://webdesignjustforyou.com Eileen Forte

    Google is giving the ability for someone to maliciously harm another’s business without proof that an infringement actually occurred. It’s saying, “Accuse someone and whether they’re guilty or not, they’ll be punished.” This country is supposed to be based upon innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

    • http://www.yourlightsite.com Ginger Rushing

      I would love to see a record of who is penalized. Is Google penalizing their paying customers the same as those who do not pay for their PPC and AdWords? I recently saw a site – a brand new one-move up in the rankings over mine (online for 4 years on page 1) with much less content and when I checked I saw they were paying the minimum PPC per month. I understand why they were in the sponsored spot, but why had they moved up in the generic listings. Also they now fill the first page with every comparison site and many dumps sites while pushing older more relevant sites off the page. I hate the new personalized searches and this new policy over copyright is just too open to abuse by competitors. Bad policy. If you feel your site is actually being infringed on, take them to court.

  • http://whatever it-depends

    In my opinion it is time to get an alternative to Google!!!
    Google has: search, analytics, adsense, adwords, and now it starts to punish websties, that have got permit to reuse other peoples work – be it articles or other stuff.
    It is not possible to collect article of special interest in one site, and be visible on Google. It is not a matter of infringement, when proper permission is in place, even the article is duplicate content from another site.
    What Google was good at in the beginning: providing quality search for quality content, it now reverts and starts to punish those that collect such quality content.
    Too powerfull and too monopolistic.
    It also goes into the directory business and closes down businesses worldwide doing so.
    Now it starts to provide content after search, and that way plays content provider. Websites that lived of that before, now receive less traffic than before. That is the power abuse of Google. When the opportunity is there it abuses it – from my perspective.

  • Austin

    Just like the silly laws the US government has tried to pass recently, they don’t pay any attention to international issues just domestic. If Google and/or the US government continues on this route the main servers and big internet companies will NOT be located in the United States annymore.

    We operate some eCommerce businesses and we get idiots filing DCMA complaints for things like US Government Department Logos, they think because the Govt department purchased off them once that no one else can ever produce that logo for that department, now Google wants to give idiots who want to be territorial on customers the power to damage my business while I run around proving myself innocent. Google, have you lost the plot?

  • http://www.seovisions.com Todd

    Most moves Google makes at this point is a ploy that dangles at the edge of legality and ethics all in the name of the almighty dollar.

    I used to applaud Google, and still do for the innovations they used to make. But not, SERPs are all about siphoning traffic away from variety sites, and to Google’s own partners and properties.

    It’s a real shame.

  • http://www.dirtworks.net John Meshna

    Google is messing around in things it has no business messing around with. They don’t have jurisdiction in copyright law. Only the federal government and the courts do. They’ve already destroyed tens of thousands of small businesses this year, mine included, and now they’re going after more of them. They’ve just become another defender of the 1% as an unregulated monopoly always becomes. The only people who can keep up with this endless stream of minutia and judgement are the bigger corporations who can afford to hire a war room full of people to sit around all day and monitor all the new releases and come into compliance with them and have their direct lines to the upper floors of Google. soon the companies will be writing the rules and Google will be enforcing them for them much like lobbyists now write many of the laws if this country and the government sets about enforcing them. This is nothing more than yet another layer of control over our lives in what we read, see and have access to. Google can now take it’s place along side Monsanto as one of the most hated corporations in the world. They have become the evil they said they would never be.

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    As a matter course all of a site’s content should be sourced.
    I applaud Google for instituting “self-policing” of the internet.

  • http://Www.birtualpearl.net Ray Hershberger

    Like all intellectual property rights, if they are owned by corporations they should be protected at any expense. If those rights belong to individuals, then legally find some way to transfer them to corporations.

  • Adrian

    Call me stupid and ignorant, but it seems to me that Google could be loosing its grip. From my own experience, the recent algorithm changes have been producing very bad search results indeed. In my own search experiments, many sites at the top of the search results list have nowhere near the relevance that they once had about a year ago. I have been shown sites with nowhere near the scholarly and authoritative status I used to be getting.

  • http://www.makeupstoreonline.com.au Gabrielle

    For me these changes can’t come fast enough. I fully agree with Ray Hershberger. I am the owner of 2 Trade Marks and run a registered company.I can’t believe how far some people go for ranking. Hidden Trade Mark Infringement via “keyword” and especially right in the banner of the offending company is something that really goes up my nose.Yes,I want to see the offenders being pulled down.

  • http://www.dating-sites-australia.com.au Mark – Dating Sites Reviews

    I run a site which could potentially run into this issue as I review and link to websites, sometimes quoting them in the process.
    I have no issue though, with Google taking into account copyright removal requests because usually where there is smoke there is fire. I’m sure Google aren’t going to penalise for one or two incidences, but where there are several valid copyright issues I think it is fair enough for Google to start penalising websites.

  • Voltara

    More negative ranking signals. More reason for companies to play games dragging down their competitors and spend less time improving their own content. This is not a rational approach when the algorithm is a best fit approximation. It can do huge damage to innocent parties and as far as I can see do very little to improve declining serp quality.

    One thing’s for sure… it will be revenue positive for Google. That’s the only common theme in everything they do these days.

  • http://www.OnlineSportsRus.com Larry

    I see google users are still ignorant as ever. When will you people learn that google is garbage. How long are you going to support google and let them get away with all the bullshit they keep pulling? When are you finally going to wake up by the masses and tell google to kiss our ass and not use them anymore? You want the internet to be taken over and rights restricted? By supporting google which is an arm of the government to crack down on our rights you enable them to keep taking things away or making things much more difficult including ruining good peoples business’s. Wake the hell up morons. It is time to tell google to stick it, never use them again and take the power we all have and support someone else whether it be Microsofts Bing or someone else but it is time to tell google to stick it but I can see most people are suckers and slaves to google. Once google has taken everything or made it so bad for business to where everyone gets hurt then maybe you will wake up. Stop using google and anyone that supports google. Where is the 99%? Don’t you realize what google is doing you fools?

  • http://csomag-kuldes.com Csomag kuldes

    I don’t think Google should be able to penalize websites, just like bookstores or libraries don’t have the authority to fine people who copy all or just a portion of a book or quote from a book they borrow or buy from them.

    Google is a simple searching program and nothing else. Their job is nothing else but to serve the people that search the net. If the material on a website is relevant to the search query whether that is copyrighted or not it’s still relevant and that is there only job to do. Find and serve relevant information

    They have no right to destroy someones livelihood or business based upon a false malicious report by a rival or by a vicious person without properly investigating should bring huge lawsuits to Google s way.

    The scam is on Google here because they are in partnership with the big entertainment industry and bending the public service they provide to suit them and not the people. But those companies would still advertise with google anyway, because just too much traffic flowing through it.

    So, in effect who is the scammer here? Yeah. It’s Google.

  • http://www.onlinetv.us Randy Penn

    I have seen a couple of these for sites I run that have embeded youtube videos. The thing is I get the takedown notice from Google for embeded video they themselves host on Youtube which are from people and entities entirely unknown to us. We merely use search terms on Youtube to get the videos of interest and display the results. So why does Google, who owns youtube, giving us a DMCA notice when they should be giving it to themselves. THEN if they penalize us for using public Youtube videos available on the youtube and google search – just what does that show us?

  • Adrien

    So how will we know if our website gets penalized?
    And what actually should we do to prevent this from happening?
    Where would we put copyright for a picture; in its meta tags?

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  • http://Www.homespuntagorda.com Bill

    Not well thought out! I’ve lost respect for what now has become morons’
    It is and will be their downfall, you’ll see!
    Good-by Google.

  • http://www.dirtworks.net John Meshna

    Google wants to be it’s own kingdom with it’s own government. They have no business meddling around in copyright law. I think it’s time for the US government to start regulating what they do. I don’t care that they’ve now become the NSA with their purchase of Motorola. They’re still a private corporation subject to the laws of the country they operate in. They’re arrogant and getting into things that are none of their business. They should know better since they’re already the biggest violator of copyright law with their copying of books and posting them on the web.

  • http://www.positivemessages.co/ positive messages

    I believe that is not google that wants to do this, might be the corporations like the music ones that are pushing their luck.

  • http://how2earnonline.org/ Mark

    Sounds like another negative SEO opportunity

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      How is it a negative SEO opportunity? Claiming copyright is not a simple task although verifying it is.

  • Susan

    Ok so maybe there won’t be some misuse … ? But in reality ! There are plenty of unhappy people out there just waiting to spread misery around by falsely accusing someone of this.
    Who decides if it is a valid report ? does it go to court … the court of Google?

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      There are a number of signals that anyone can use to determine copyright, first publishing being only just one.

      Besides, Google has had to handle many copyright take down notices already and there hasn’t been a great outcry until now.

      If you didn’t get a copyright take-down notice before, you likely won’t now either.

  • http://www.infowars.com Banatu

    So the master of copyright and privacy violations is now going to start punishing others for the same? Punishments that are often made in error, by pure automation, and which frequently take weeks or months to ‘correct’? And who is Google to say weeding out these results is more or less helpful to you? Submit to Google’s moral authority! What a sick joke.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      How is the plagiarizing of content just an ‘error’ or ‘pure automation’?

      If one has a scraper site, I can see that but otherwise, wouldn’t someone have to actively copy content from elsewhere?

      I suppose those with scraped content would have a problem but shouldn’t they anyway?

      Even if one does copy snippets for various articles, all that is needed is what is needed on the web anyway, credits and references.

  • http://www.smartphonetaxis.com Martyn

    Another poke in the eye for small business owners from Google! This system will be mercilessly abused. This is nearly as bad as the unjustified bans that they impose on small business owning adwords customers.

    • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

      What’s the problem? Are small business owners plagiarizing content that much, at all?

      How can it be abused? A claim has to be valid for it to have an affect and to make a valid claim is much more than “They stole my content!”.

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    I’m not understanding people’s worries.

    Google has had to deal with and process copyright violation notices for quite some time already and no one’s been screaming bloody murder until now.

    For one to make a valid copyright violation notice is not a simple task and is much more than just a simple “They copied my content.”. On the other hand, determining the validity of a claim is not all that hard.

    The sky is not falling.

  • RDM

    Judging from the information presented in your article, it is a well-intended effort that results in a “guilty before being proved innocent” stance. It would be interesting to hear from someone in the legal profession as to if this is actually a legal/constitutional policy.

  • WPN

    Will Google blogspot penalize themselves? doubtful but should.

  • http://mountain-op.com Dave

    That explains a lot… I run an affiliate site for outdoor gear and saw my search impressions go from ~30,000 a day down to 5,000 over night. NONE of my content/media is infringing – as an affiliate partner I have the rights to use the data from the retailer. :(

  • http://www.vesta-tech.net Philippine Website Designer

    Hope i will not get problem with these new changes

  • http://www.agrfoto.com/ Alex

    I am happy if this means that sites which display my photography or videos without permission or, the relevant license to do so, will be penalized in search results. If I report that a site is infringing on my copyrights by using my images and not even bothering to provide credits then I can also provide proof and verify that I do indeed own the images. It takes a long time to get site owners to remove images from their content merely by asking them to do so. One company even used an image in a way that suggested they provided the service that it represented. In this case they not only broke copyright by using the image but they also took credit for a projection festival which I also organized. The more tools that artists, illustrators and photographers have at fighting this abuse the better.

  • http://4sarkarinaukri.blogspot.in/ Ranjit

    thanks………for sharing this……