Relax, Google isn’t banning your favourite torrent sites

There is no announcement of any sort that Google is even thinking about banning torrent sites. Any mention of such a possibility is pure speculation at this point.

Don’t let the stream of media reports online fool you, torrent sites aren't necessarily being banned.

Google and other search engines – we assume that this includes Yahoo and Bing – are currently in discussions with industry bodies and EU regulators on implementing a voluntary code of conduct for dealing with copyright infringing content. That's all.

The details of this code have not been revealed, however. It’s just as possible that Google will decide to ban torrent sites as it is for Google to ban PewDiePie from YouTube for not keeping his word.

If you’ll go through the original report on the situation on TorrentFreak, you’ll note that there is no mention of the word “ban” or even “torrent” in the entire report.

In fact, let’s just quote Baroness Buscombe here, “The search engines involved in this work have been very co-operative, making changes to their algorithms and processes, but also working bilaterally with creative industry representatives to explore the options for new interventions, and how existing processes might be streamlined.” Buscombe is an English barrister, regulator and politician and a member of the House of Lords.

Does she say that Google is banning torrent sites? No, she doesn’t.

Again, allow us to reiterate. There is no announcement of any sort that Google is even thinking about banning torrent sites. Any mention of such a possibility is pure speculation at this point.

(Also read: The dummy's guide to reading news on the internet)

That’s not to say that Google has not done its part in fighting copyright infringement in the past. In its “How Google Fights Piracy” report (PDF) for 2016, Google highlights that fact that it received over 1 billion DMCA takedown requests last year alone. Google acquiesced to 90 percent of the requests.

In the report, Google explains that “there are more than 60 trillion addresses on the Web, but only an infinitesimal portion of these have any connection to piracy.” Google also points out that despite this, they’ve made a significant effort to prevent “infringing web pages from appearing [on search results].”

Google has taken a number of steps to ensure this happens. For a start, Google has a system in place for swiftly dealing with take-down requests. In its current form, the system can handle tens of thousands of requests a day. Each request is processed within an average of six hours, claims Google.

These tweaks to algorithms and prompt response to DMCA notices has apparently cut down SEO traffic to torrent sites – including The Pirate Bay and Kickass – by as much as 90 percent. Google also does its part in promoting legitimate alternatives to torrent-related queries.

For example, a search for “Breaking Bad download” will not take you to The Pirate Bay. The system isn’t yet perfect of course, as the top results will lead you to lesser known torrent sites and illegal streaming services. The point is that the main offenders have disappeared from top search results.

The problem is that there are so many such services that it’s impossible to ban them all pre-emptively.

The keywords here are “cut down SEO traffic”. Torrent sites still get a lot of traffic directly, i.e., someone typed out the address and went to the site directly. They didn't search for the site.

Google is also very much against censorship of any kind and has explained that it does not see the banning of a site as a viable option.

Think about it, if someone wants to pirate and is looking for a particular torrent, they're not going to Google for that torrent. One will simply enter the address of one's favourite torrent site, look for that torrent and then download it. Google doesn’t even come into the picture.

This proposed voluntary code of conduct can only achieve a further down-ranking of torrent sites and copyright infringing content, nothing more.

The torrent sites will remain on the internet and there's nothing anyone can do about word of mouth.

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