Google discloses how many search results it removes in its daily Transparency Report
. It logs how many requests it has received too, letting users check how much content has been withdrawn. As TorrentFreak
noticed, the website counter reached one million for the first time this week. In total, over 2.1 billion
pages have been deleted.
Google will takedown websites that offer illegal content contravening copyright rules. The majority of its action is concentrated on piracy sites and torrent providers who allow Internet users to consume content without paying for it.
When a report is submitted to Google, the company first verifies that the person behind the request is the copyright owner. The takedown notice is scrutinised for accuracy and completeness before being passed on for authentication.
If Google finds the site in question has contravened copyright rules, it will remove the URL from search results and notify the administrator. The administrator is able to appeal the decision, starting a lawsuit with the claimant if required.
Although the process
generally works well, it's clear not every report is genuine. Looking closer at Google's Transparency Report throws up several interesting takedown notices that don't target your typical piracy provider.
Media organisations such as The BBC and The New York Times, established content providers like Netflix and government bodies including NASA and The White House have been reported to Google. Needless to say, the company didn't take action.
The reasoning behind the notices isn't disclosed. Although many of the requests can be attributed to software false-positives and even disgruntled users, it's possible the sites are being targeted by more malicious activity.
Google is constantly on the watch for governments that try to censor content, providing Transparency Report alerts when this occurs. It routinely receives requests from
states that want political articles and videos to be removed from the Internet. This could account for the relatively high number of takedown requests made against major news publications.
While the activity of governments certainly has certainly contributed to the rise in requests, the overwhelming majority are still made against run-of-the-mill piracy sites. The number of takedown notices issued has reduced slightly from a high in September 2016 but is still on a generally increasing trend. With sites frequently reappearing days or even hours after they're shut down, Google's yet to gain full control of the situation. Piracy sites remain huge online traffic magnets showing no sign of decline, leaving Google to sift through thousands of copyright owner complaints each day.