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.

Product Review

Google’s third HD Chromecast is still a good streamer, but its value is slipping

At Google’s October event, we saw a slew of new products, but the new third-generation Chromecast didn’t even make it onstage. We spent some time with the incrementally upgraded, third-generation HD Chromecast to see if it’s worth…
Home Theater

What is Terrarium TV? Here’s everything you need to know

Terrarium TV offered a way to watch movies & TV for free, but now after a troubled existence, the app's developer has shut it down, and offered an ominous message to users on his way out.
Social Media

Save me: How to download Instagram photos from any device

Browsing photos in Instagram is one thing, but saving them is another. Until recently, it wasn't easy to get your photos off the 'gram and saved elsewhere. But Instagram has recently launched a tool that lets you download all of your…
Music

Bolster your HD music catalog with the best high-res audio sites

Music connoisseurs relish HD audio, but scouring the web for all the best streaming and downloading sites can be a pain. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Check out our list, and let the high-resolution good times roll.
Computing

Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one

Nvidia's GeForce 2080 is a powerful graphics card that supports ray tracing to deliver real-time cinematic renderings of shadows, light, and reflection in games, but unless you were already planning on upgrading, you'll probably want to…
Wearables

New Wear OS smartwatches have arrived! Here’s why you shouldn’t buy them

The likes of Skagen and Diesel have unveiled new Wear OS smartwatches at IFA 2018. You shouldn't buy them, because they're utilizing an old processor. Qualcomm is expected to announce a new wearable processor next month.
Movies & TV

Bored with Netflix? As it goes global, the selection is about to explode

Netflix is going global. And even if you never leave step foot outside America, you should be excited. More subscribers abroad means more original, diverse content, and plenty to watch when House of Cards gets stale.
Home Theater

8K is the next big thing in TVs. Get over it

8K is the next big thing in TV. At least, that’s how LG, Samsung, Sony, and Sharp would have it. At IFA 2018, Samsung announced it would begin shipping its gorgeous Q900R series series 8K TVs this year. LG arrived with a glorious 88-inch…
Features

Opinion: Apple needs to modernize its antiquated annual app update routine

While Google updates its core Android apps frequently through the Play Store, Apple saves up core app updates for its annual iOS unveiling. Perhaps it’s time that Apple took a new approach.
Photography

Canon and Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras impress. Should Sony start worrying?

Canon’s EOS R and Nikon’s Z mirrorless systems are coming out of the gate strong, incorporating features that took Sony years to implement and refine. But Sony still has a lead, and may have it for some time.
Mobile

XS Max? XR? Apple’s new iPhone names are a confusing mess

Apple's new iPhone range has the most baffling set of names we've seen in a while, and it's not good news. The phones may be great, but the confusing names shift away from the one brand name everyone knows.
Apple

OPINION: Apple’s new iPhones show off its best tech, and also its greed

We’re just as enamored by the new iPhones as the next person, but with fast charging an extra cost and the removal of the headphone dongle it feels like Apple is gouging us on accessories.
Smart Home

The Google Home Hub doesn’t have a camera. Here’s why that’s a good thing

Bucking the smart display trend, Google's new $149 Home Hub smart display surprisingly doesn't have a camera. We think a camera-less Google smart speaker with a screen is a good thing, and here's why.
Mobile

It’s the phone equivalent of a Bentley. So why does the Pixel 3 look like a VW?

Google has got 100-percent of the Pixel 3's specification and technology right, so we're annoyed that it only got 50-percent of the design right. In a year of fabulous-looking phones, this is a problem.