Google may have thrown its weight against SOPA
and helped defeat two bills which were seemingly anti-piracy, but the company is not siding with those who knowingly infringe copyright.
In its latest move following the publication of its Transparency Report
where it listed sites which repeatedly infringe copyright, Google announced that it is flexing its search ranking muscles to downgrade repeat offenders’ ranking in search.
In practical terms this means that those who use Google to find pirated material hosted on suspect sites will now have to be much more patient and wade through many more pages of results before they find what they are looking for.
Two of the most high-profile websites of this type however, Pirate Bay and Isohunt, stated that Google is not the main means through which they get online traffic and the move was unlikely to have a great impact on their traffic figures
While they might be right it is also highly unlikely that the demotion will go unnoticed.
Search is the de facto way we navigate the web and while individual users may indeed go to Pirate Bay or Isohunt and use the on-board search there, Google has become so ingrained for so many of us that it is practically the first starting point we go to when we look for something online. In the past, when Google took manual action to demote a website it has always been the result of some sort of blatant infringement of the search giant’s guidelines
. When JCPenney and Overstock broke the rules and used banned SEO techniques to boost their ranking on Google’s search, the search giant took prompt action to demote them.
This time it’s a little different. Google is taking action over others’ guidelines rather than its own and, according to its statement, it’s making its own properties, like YouTube, subject to the same conditions and liable for the same punishment as everyone else.
This may signal a repositioning of Google, which has been the subject of a number of fines over privacy violations, the last few months. Or it may be a signal that the company is now ready to take sides in the debate. Then again it might just be that Google knows that the only way to battle legislation which might jeopardise the freedom of the web it relies on, is to show that there are alternative ways to fight piracy and that they work.