A few days ago, Google began censoring search results with the word “torrent” in the query. Although this is only for their auto-complete and Google Instant searches, it shows something more disturbing. Why would Google block searches on torrents? Their business model is built on selling ads on search results pages so Google has no incentive to censor any type of search. I can only postulate that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are putting increasing pressure on the the search engine to start helping them curb piracy.
I find this behavior disturbing in a number of different ways. First of all, I find it disturbing that media companies have the ability and power to influence a search engine to start helping them fight piracy. Secondly, I find it disturbing that Google caved to this pressure after they pulled out of China in March of 2010 because they felt morally compelled to provide uncensored searches.
Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, was quoted saying that “living under a totalitarian system (The Soviet Union) that censored political speech influenced his thinking — and Google’s policy.”
I applauded Google for taking a moral standpoint on censorship in China instead of being a faceless corporation that only cared about profits. By censoring search results for torrents, Google has shown that either they don’t really believe in a fully uncensored internet or that there are internal struggles within the company about censorship. Either way, they need totake a stance and stick with it. At least then we can know what to expect from Google.
Finally, I find Google’s censorship of torrent results in auto-complete and instant searches half-hearted at best. People searching for torrents are savvy enough to hit the “enter” key to get the results. Hell, they can even use another search engine that doesn’t censor.
Just because the RIAA and MPAA can’t curb piracy by themselves doesn’t mean that other companies like Google should be bullied into helping them fight a war they’re losing. There are legitimate uses of bittorent like sharing a Linux distro or artists who want to release their music for free. Bittorent is a technology. Bittorent is NOT piracy.