Google’s Pirate Update has most likely rolled out, based on reports by TorrentFreak.
Pirate Update is a search filter designed to penalise sites that violate copyright legislation, such as torrent sites. It was first rolled out in 2012, but has seemingly remained unaltered in the two years since.
However, on Friday last week Google announced it had “refined the [Pirate Update] signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites,” adding: “This update will roll out globally starting next week.”
The move follows criticism of Google’s anti-piracy measures, with perhaps the most notable attack coming from News Corp’s chief executive Robert Thomson. In an open letter to European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, published last month, Thomson referred to Google as “a platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks”.
Former News Corp chairman James Murdoch also shared a few words of criticism. According to The Guardian, Murdoch said: “The problem with search-driven discovery, if the content is there and it’s illegal and you’re just selling clicks as a big ad network, you have every incentive for that illegal programming to be there.
“That’s fundamentally not really good enough.”
It appears the very public objections have paid off. As well as promising a new Pirate Update, Google also announced it had been testing new ad formats, designed to “help people find legitimate sources of media”.
As for the efficacy of the new Pirate Update, TorrentFreak said it had spoken with several owners of torrent sites, who reported that organic traffic had been “severely impacted” by the update.
One site, Isohunt.to, reported particularly negative results, saying: “Earlier this week all search traffic dropped in half.”
TorrentFreak also reports that the new Pirate Update “appear[s] to be far more effective than previous search algorithm changes, and affect[s] all major ‘pirate’ sites.”
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