The rumblings of recent weeks have come true; Google is now actively censoring search terms such as “torrent,” “BitTorrent,” and “RapidShare” from both its instant search and auto-complete suggestions. While standard search results are not yet affected, Google is sending out a questionable message; censorship can be bought.

This decision to censor “piracy-related search terms” comes amidst mounting pressure from entertainment industry groups such as the MPAA and RIAA. Currently a full list of banned terms is not available, but nearly any combination of “torrent” as well as commonly-associated companies such as RapidShare and MegaUpload, have been banned.

Feelings on the morality/immorality of pirating aside, torrents sites are frequently used for legitimate purposes such as the distribution of open-source software and the circulation of independent films by directors. TorrentFreak contacted BitTorrent Inc. for their reaction, and Simon Morris said that he believes the scope of this filter is too broad. He states, “We respect Google’s right to determine algorithms to deliver appropriate search results to user requests. That being said, our company’s trademarked name is fairly unique, and we’re pretty confident that anyone typing the first six or seven letters deserves the same easy access to results as with any other company search.”

Internet commentators in general are frustrated with what appears to be a biased decision as Google caved to high-profile pressure. This decision appears to deviate from Google’s aim to be a universal search engine. Ultimately, a search engine’s goal should be to deliver relevant results to the consumer, not to police those activities.

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