Google, the company that fought censorship in China and vowed not to censor even anti-Semitism, has begun a subtle censorship campaign of its own.
As of today, if a Google search user begins typing in a term such as “BitTorrent,” Google’s Auto Suggest feature stops listing possible terms as soon as he types the second “T” in the word. Likewise, it won’t auto-complete the pirate-familiar words “megaupload,” “utorrent” or “rapidshare.”
On the other hand, search terms of often-used pirate haunts such as the controversial site Pirate Bay, as well as Isohunt and torrent client app BitComet will still autocomplete normally.
According to Torrentfreak, BitTorrent, Inc. VP of Marketing Simon Morris objected to the new rules in Google’s algorithm:
“We respect Google’s right to determine algorithms to deliver appropriate search results to user requests. That being said, 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.
“A quick search for ‘BitTorrent’ currently returns a variety of legitimate and useful links, including company information, our software, our open-source protocol, and more. 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.”
This is a subtle form of censorship, and at first glance it seems trivial. However, even though the censorship is slight, it still indicates Google’s willingness to change its search protocols to satisfy the needs of a certain business group, in this case members of the entertainment industry.
To be fair, Google could be protecting itself from lawsuits or other legal action, because providing a method for pirating movies and music is currently illegal in many jurisdictions. But pirates will still be able to search whatever terms they want — they just won’t get any help from Google with its Auto Suggest feature. For example, users can still type the entire term “BitTorrent” and Google will dutifully search for it.
Let us know in the comments if you think Google will go further with its censorship, what role the entertainment industry has in this, and what the implications are for Google TV.