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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Google downgraded more than 65,000 "pirate" sites from search results

The entertainment industries have repeatedly accused Google of not doing enough to limit piracy while demanding harsher measures. Ideally, the groups, including the MPAA and the RIAA, want the search engines to completely remove the offending websites from their results, especially if the courts have previously found them to be illegal.
But Google did not hear it that way. In order to protect the interests of copyright owners, Google has opted to make "hacker" sites more difficult for its users to find.
For example, in 2014, Google updated its main algorithms to reduce the visibility of so-called "hacker sites". Using the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requests as an indicator, these sites were downgraded in search results when the user entered certain key phrases.
"Sites with a large number of delete notices may appear lower in the search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate and quality content sources more easily, "Google explained.
Suppression, a measure whose effectiveness is questioned
The company was opposed to completely removing the sites targeted by a request to remove content from its search results, explaining in an open letter that "Unfortunately, this removal is inefficient and can easily lead to censorship of material lawful ".

And continue by explaining that "The DMCA provides copyright holders with an efficient and effective framework for removing any page that infringes on a site," adding that hundreds of millions of URLs had already been removed this year.
Removing or blocking entire websites may not only be a drag on free speech, but may be counterproductive, according to Google.
"The removal of the entire site would simply lead to hacking into new domains, legitimate sites and social networks," the company said, adding that rights holders should instead turn to the site's revenue sources.

What results did Google get with its method?
In a comment to the Australian media, Google claims to have downgraded 65,000 sites in the search results, a list that continues to grow each week. In total, the company has received DMCA withdrawal requests for more than 1.8 million domain names, so just under 4% of them are downgraded.
The result of the measurements is that people are less likely to see a hacker site when they type "watch movie X" or "download song Y". This will inevitably affect the traffic of these sites from Google.
"The demotion translates to sites that can lose up to 90% of their visitors who have done a search on Google," said a spokesman for Google's The Age. Measures that have been profitable in some cases to more modest sites.

It must be said that a recent study by Screen Audience Research International for Creative Content Australia shows that when someone wants to download pirated content for the first time, in 70% of cases he uses a search engine to find free and illegal downloads.
Nearly half of Australians who tried to access pirated content came up against a blocked site. At this level, only 9% were discouraged to continue and one out of two Australian surfers returned to search for another site on the search engine for an alternative.
"In this world of video-on-demand platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, the industry is disrupted and it is important for the government to consider how best to protect it. Piracy is one of the biggest concerns, "said Emile Sherman, an Australian producer known for films like Lion and The King's Speech
"Web sites must be responsible citizens of the world and facilitating crime is not good for anyone except criminals," he said.

The reaction of pirate sites
To cope with Google's downranking, several hacker sites have decided to jump from domain names to domain names. Overall, however, it is probably reasonable to think that Google's demotion efforts have lowered search engine referrals to pirate sites.

Several actors are not satisfied with Google's reaction

In Australia, Graham Burke, co-chief of Village Roadshow, has accused Google of taking advantage of hacker-related traffic and wants the search engine to permanently remove the offending sites from search results.
After blaming hacking for lowering industry revenue, Burke noted this week that there are "empty offices everywhere ... we can not compete with stolen property sold for free", implying that the impact of piracy also extends to the employees of this industry. And he is far from being the only one to think that way.
Nevertheless, Google does not see things this way. The company has repeatedly emphasized that it has taken a number of steps to address piracy concerns, while noting that the entertainment industries also have a responsibility to them.

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