If you want to use Google (NSDQ: GOOG) to find pirated material online, don’t expect help from Google Instant. The company has altered the feature so that search results related to several popular BitTorrent and cyberlocker-based file-sharing services don’t automatically show up as a user types. The move appears to fulfill a pledge Google made last month to stop automatically suggesting search terms “closely associated with piracy.”
The change was first reported on TorrentFreak, which notes that while instant results for terms, such as ‘uTorrent,’ ‘BitTorrent,’ ‘Rapidshare,’ and ‘Megaupload’ have been blocked, others still show up, including those for ‘The Pirate Bay.’ The change appears to have gone into effect yesterday, according to TorrentFreak’s editor, who goes by the pseudonym Ernesto Van der Sar.
The new system blocks some legitimate search terms, as well. BitTorrent is often used to transfer open-source programs, such as the Linux operating system; users who type “Linux” into Google no longer see a suggestion for “Linux BitTorrent.”
Google didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about the change. The company has long censored some terms from its auto-complete feature, including curse words, as well as words like “porn” and those related to genitalia.
BitTorrent did offer a response, saying that while the company respects Google’s right to determine its algorithms as it sees fit, the move raises concerns about equal treatment. “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,” BitTorrent VP Simon Morris wrote in an e-mail. “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.”
Overall, Google’s change is unlikely to change the behavior of any determined pirate. But it may serve the goal of mollifying some entertainment industry folks who felt that Google, the world’s most popular search engine, was giving piracy a sheen of legitimacy by making suggestions of search terms related to illegal downloading.