Have you ever heard of the Transparency Report list of sites?
No, we thought not. Well, you could be hearing a lot more about this rather abstract concept in the coming months as Google decides to play hard ball with search engine rankings.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, it appears that Google has decided that enough is enough when websites use pirated material to enhance their search engine rankings. After bowing to significant pressure from the media industry, the search giant has now confirmed that any sites carrying copyright-infringing material will demoted in its search engine rankings.
The first to feel the full force of this new policy are file-sharing websites Pirate Bay and Isohunt.
Both sites are naturally unhappy about the new enforcement rules but deny that Google’s decision will have any detrimental effect on their sites. Pirate Bay has been particularly vociferous in its criticism of the search mogul claiming that it is once again dictating the rules everyone will have to follow, whilst Isohunt suggested that Google would exempt itself from these very same rules. Google, however, claims that clips shown on its own video-sharing site YouTube will be highlighted on the Transparency Report for copyright removal requests and will also have to abide by the rules or face demotion.
A spokesman for the search company told the BBC that “this update applies to all websites including our own – YouTube, Blogger, etc.” Any material which flouted these rules would be removed from the website completely in accordance with the law. Never the less, marketers believe that despite this move, it is unlikely that it will make much change to the rankings of Google’s services or other platforms dominated by user-generated content such as Facebook and Twitter, since copyright flagging is just one of many factors that will influence their placing.
So how will the new rules be applied?
The new search results are likely to be organised according to a number of factors, including the amount of “valid copyright removal notices” Google has received about individual sites. Those sites with more notices are likely to appear lower down the search engine results. Although Pirate Bay believes its status will be largely unaffected by the move, it is still angry at what it sees as manipulation of the market by the major player. A spokesman for the company posted in a blog:
“That Google is putting our links lower is in a way a good thing for us. We’ll get more direct traffic when people don’t get the expected search result when using Google. The thing we don’t like with this is… they’re dictating terms.”
Gary Fung, owner of BitTorrent Isohunt, wrote on the company forum that he believed they would ride out the latest storm without too much of a problem as only 21% of its traffic came from Google.
“We have plenty of torrent links to non-copyright infringing content, and we’ll be adding 1.4 million more from the Internet Archive soon.”
However he also queried the validity of the removal notices which he claimed could easily be spammed.
Google has issued guidelines for users of YouTube and stated that those wishing to protect their copyright on the channel are encouraged to use a free tool called Content ID which digitally fingerprints their work and notifies them if it appears on the site. The copyright holder can then decide whether to leave it, have the content taken down or make money from it by adding adverts.