A few months ago Google quietly expanded its search blacklist to include many of the top file-sharing sites on the Internet, including The Pirate Bay. A review of search volumes before and after this change shows that the number of people searching for “Pirate Bay” has been cut in half. However, other and uncensored variations quickly took the place of these blocked terms, suggesting that the filter is a futile attempt to discourage interest in the site.
Google users searching for terms like “torrent”, “BitTorrent” and “RapidShare” will notice that no suggestions or search results appear before they type the full word. The underlying idea is that Google will curb piracy by driving fewer visitors to these sites.
Last November several Pirate Bay related keywords were added, and to a certain degree Google’s efforts have been remarkably effective. If we inspect the search volumes for “The Pirate Bay” and “Pirate Bay” we see that the number of searches has been cut in half.
However, the real question is whether this actually does something to prohibit people from using The Pirate Bay website.
“Pirate Bay” Search Drop
It could be that fewer people accidentally stumble upon the notorious torrent site than before. Previously “The Pirate Bay” showed up as the top suggestion when people typed in “The,” which probably led to a few hundred curious visitors a day. This is no longer the case.
However, the majority of the people who search for “Pirate Bay” are existing users who use this as a shortcut instead of having to type the full URL. It is doubtful that these people suddenly stopped using the torrent site.
Indeed, as is usually the case with censorship, the net routes around it. In this case Google’s algorithm picked up a new popular search that allows Pirate Bay users to access their favorite site with just three keystrokes. Where searches for “Pirate Bay” plunged, the alternative “thepiratebay.org” skyrocketed.
“thepiratebay.org” Going Up
As a result, Google now suggests “thepiratebay.org” when users type in “pir”.
Just three keystrokes away
A Pirate Bay spokesperson told us that they are not in the least bit hurt by Google’s half-baked attempts to keep people away from their site. They haven’t noticed a decrease in referrers from Google, and even if that was the case it wouldn’t be a problem as only a tiny percentage of The Pirate Bay’s traffic comes from search engines.
The real problem, according to The Pirate Bay, is that Google is willing to censor its search functions on behalf of the copyright lobby.
Google, on the other hand, is determined to continue and expand their anti-piracy efforts. Aside from adding more “pirate” keyword to the ban list, they will also prioritize authorized media in the search results and prevent rogue sites from advertising their services through AdSense.