Google Downranks 65,000 Torrent Sites At The Urging Of The Entertainment Industry

Google reps say that getting downranked halts 90 percent of each site’s traffic. Will this be enough to bring torrenting to an end?

Person holding phone, touching torrent app
Tarık Kızılkaya / iStock

Google reps say that getting downranked halts 90 percent of each site’s traffic. Will this be enough to bring torrenting to an end?

Google’s recent commitment to downranking known torrenting sites has been one of the biggest steps forward for the entertainment industry’s long-standing fight against piracy. According to Fossbytes, the financial impact of illegal torrenting on a single movie can be huge. It’s estimated that Lion, a 2017 movie starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, has been downloaded and streamed at least 931,000 times from pirating sites. Despite this, Google is still hesitant to fully remove sites such as The Pirate Bay from its search engine results.

A discussion on Quora indicates that economists at the University of Pennsylvania believe paid consumption of movies is typically reduced by 5.2 percent as a result of piracy. Approximately 67 percent of consumers who download or stream a movie illegally don’t end up making any later purchases that support the film’s cast and crew. If this formula is correct, 623,770 torrent site users ultimately provided zero revenue for Lion.

Illegal torrenting also presents a completely different issue. Google’s policy of downranking popular torrent sites has opened the door for less reputable options. These websites often change their domain name on a regular basis to avoid ever getting hit by a downranking penalty. Meanwhile, at least some of the files that are hosted don’t contain what they promise. Instead, consumers who are looking to save a few dollars end up with malware attached to their computer or router.

Per Wired, a router malware outbreak that’s been dubbed VPNFilter has infected more than 500,000 routers worldwide. These attacks have likely come from a wide variety of sources, including infected torrent files. Some experts worry that Google’s downranking methods are going to make the problem much worse.

TorrentFreak reported that Google has received complaints about more than 1.8 million torrenting sites. By downranking only 65,000 of them, Google has left the door wide open for 96 percent of these websites to keep easily connecting with internet users. Not only does this keep illegal torrenting alive and well but it also puts routers worldwide at risk of being infected by VPNFilter or the next malware scam.

Even with these risks, disreputable torrenting sites continue to pop up daily in all forms of the entertainment world. Google Sites is actually currently hosting some of the torrenting sites that are run specifically to share pirated copies of eBooks. Although this violates the Google Sites Terms of Service, the sheer number of these sites makes it difficult for the search engine giant to take corrective steps in every instance.

John Mason from TheBestVPN has written extensively about the difficulty that would-be downloaders are experiencing when they try to find a reputable site. His best-of guide points out that it’s best to select torrenting sites that have remained online for five years or longer. But the issue with this is that the majority of those sites are getting downranked. When people can’t easily find the bigger torrenting sites, they’re at risk of getting tricked into downloading malware.

The entertainment industry cares about lost profits and isn’t focusing on the increased security risk that’s attached to punishing the most reputable torrenting sites. Arguments for and against this approach can be found all over the internet, but the reality is that all torrenting sites provide consumers with pirated materials. We may no longer be hearing about huge anti-piracy lawsuits in most cases, but this doesn’t mean the entertainment industry has given up the fight.

Recently, a video from the next season of Dr. Who was illegally leaked on Tapatalk. Inquisitr reports that BBC Studios has gotten a California federal court involved. The company’s goal is to find out the leaker’s identity, and it’s fair to assume they plan to take legal action against the person responsible.

The MPAA, the RIAA, and other similar groups constantly push Google to penalize piracy. But a downranking of only 4 percent may not make much of a positive difference for these groups. Meanwhile, consumers who turn to newer torrenting sites may make life more difficult for all of us by spreading malware.