Google’s latest search algorithm update is a big concession to Hollywood

google search and hollywoodLast week, Google quietly snuck an algorithm announcement into its Inside Search blog. “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.” Now, DMCA takedown requests will impact a page’s search rank.

Google has long felt the pressure from rights holders to do something about its position as a gateway to obtaining illegal content. This past spring, the Recording Industry Association of America told the search engine it wasn’t doing enough to thwart illegal P2P file sharing, and last year Google Music didn’t receive a warm welcome from the music industry, to say the least. This gives you an idea of how tied to Hollywood this latest alternation is, SearchEngineLand has appropriately dubbed it the Emanual Update in reference to talent agent Ari Emanuel.

At the D Conference earlier this year, Emanuel made his distaste for Google’s ways evident, pointing out that if Google can filter out child pornography it should be able to do the same with stolen content.

Despite mounting pressure from the enterprise, Google has generally defended its position as a road to all things – consumers can use it to find content, and what they choose to do with it is their decision. If we search for Google to find a torrenting site and choose to download content illegally from there and get caught, it’s all on us. But now it appears Google is weakening a bit, compromising to alter its search results – something that inarguably affects users for the worse – in order to appease the powers that be. “We’re now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in all of 2009 – more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone,” Google says. “We will not be using this data as a signal in our search rankings.”

So why is Google suddenly caving? Well, for starters, Google is hardly a search company anymore, and its interests lie elsewhere. It desperately wants to be part of the content distribution scene, what with its piling investments in YouTube and its Music service. And while it’s certainly part of new media, it still needs the old industry to help it get its legs – and they’re going to have no part of it until they get their way when it comes to punishing illegal downloading sites.

There are a number of things to be concerned about in regards to the Emanuel Update, the most pressing of which only concern the top violators. You can get a sense of who’s going to get hit just by taking a look at these takedown requests – where you can also see who’s making those requests. All of these sites, which includes The Pirate Bay, are going to see their search rank sink immediately, and it’s probably only going to get worse.

The other concern is false reports of copyrighted material. Google doesn’t have the authority to determine if something is illegal content or not, it will simply be counting how many times others are reporting that it is. So a new, relatively simple way to bury a site will be to issue a bunch of DMCA takedown requests from different domains. It seems silly, but somebody out there will do it at some point. If your site is falsely accused, you’ll bounce back up once this becomes clear, but climbing out of a Google Page rank punishment is easier said than done (trust us – Panda was a virtual life-ruiner over here at Digital Trends for reasons unbeknownst to us).

And the last, but possibly most worrisome, thing about all this is that Google’s priorities seem to be shifting. Punishing pages based on DMCA takedown requests does nothing for users; it’s always been Google’s objective to give out information and what we do with it is our responsibility. But this change takes choice out of the equation to a degree. Any of the benefits of the update (which exist; pirated content often leads to spam and malware and nobody wants that) are marred by the fact that it all stinks of Google playing nice with an industry that is inherently hell-bent on stopping content distribution disruption. 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Opinion

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Mobile

Learn how to play YouTube in the background on iOS and Android

We show you how to play YouTube in the background with apps such as Opera, Chrome, and Firefox -- along with the premium offerings like YouTube Premium -- whether you have an Android or iOS device.
Movies & TV

New trailer for 'The Punisher' season 2 teases a bloody showdown

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Gaming

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.
Gaming

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Gaming

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…
Computing

Can two operating systems coexist? The Pixel Slate thinks so

The Pixel Slate is a 2-in-1 device like no other. It’s not the most polished product we’ve ever used, but Google has laid the foundation for letting mobile and desktop software live side-by-side in peace.
Android

Why commercials in Android Auto could turn your dashboard into a dumpster fire

Google announced some tweaks to the Android Auto experience, focused on making messaging and media easier, but I worry about the future of the platform. For better or worse, there’s a real chance our dashboards could turn into dumpster…
Home Theater

Will Marvel’s shows lose their punch if they move from Netflix to Disney Plus?

Disney could pick up the Marvel shows being canceled by Netflix, but the idea raises all sorts of questions. Is continuing Daredevil, Punisher, or Jessica Jones on Disney's own streaming service a good move?
Gaming

‘Far Cry: New Dawn’ is a fresh, post-apocalyptic spin on a stale formula

Digital Trends visited Ubisoft's Montreal studio for an in-depth demo of 'Far Cry: New Dawn', the 'Far Cry 5' follow-up that's aiming to serve as both a sequel and standalone adventure in the sandbox series.