Google: Sites With Too Many Takedown Notices Will Rank Lower

Aug 10, 2012 4:00 PM PST

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google announced today that sites generating too many copyright takedown notices will be moved lower in search rankings.

Google's new initiative, which starts next week, poses a new weapon against rampant infringement on the web. In the past month alone, more than 4.3 million domains were flagged for possible piracy violations.

"We aim to provide a great experience for our users and have developed over 200 signals to ensure our search algorithms deliver the best possible results," said Amit Singhal, Google's senior vice president of engineering. "Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.

"This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily ...," he said on Google's blog.

Sighal noted that only copyright holders know if something is authorized and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed.

"Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law," he said. "So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner. And we’ll continue to provide 'counter-notice' tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation today said it was skeptical with Google's plan to help battle rampant online piracy.

"We wish we had some more details to illustrate just what that means, but unfortunately the process is pretty opaque," the EFF said in a release."What we know: sites that have a 'high number of removal notices' of takedown notices that result in actual takedowns will show up lower in some search results, though they will not be removed. What we don’t know: what is a 'high number'? How does Google plan to make these determinations? Oh, and one other thing we do know, one that is particularly troubling: there will be no process or recourse for sites who have been demoted.

"In particular, we worry about the false positives problem. In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers." 

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