Google is making it a little harder to find torrent tracking site The Pirate Bay by reducing its appearance in the company's Autocomplete and Google Instant search features. If you search for the torrent-focused site on Google in many cases you will now have to type out almost the entire name of the site before seeing any Autocomplete suggestions. It's not clear when Google made the change, but Torrent Freak reports that it was a recent development.
Searching for pirates
There are two features Google employs to make it easier to search: Autocomplete and Google Instant. Autocomplete tries to predict what you're typing and complete the word or search term for you, while Instant shows you full search results while you type. So if you're searching for Hewlett-Packard, after typing the first few letters of the company name you can either highlight the search term in the Autocomplete drop down list or keep typing until Google shows you Instant search results.
While those are handy features, they do bring up a problem when it comes to swear words or casual terms for human anatomy. After all, you wouldn't want Google to mix in f-bombs with your fuchsia searches. To get around this problem, whenever Google detects that you are searching for a controversial word it stops providing Autocomplete suggestions and/or Instant results.
As recently as January 2011 if you typed “the p” into Google, the top result would be The Pirate Bay in Autocomplete. That does not appear to be the case anymore, with Google not showing any Pirate Bay-related Autocomplete suggestions until you type in “the pirate b.” And even then, you only end up with a Pirate Bay Autocomplete suggestion for the torrent tracker's Android APK section and not the site's homepage.
Google is also not returning any search results with Instant for the infamous torrent-related site. So to get Google to display Pirate Bay search results you have to type in at least “the p” and press return before seeing results for The Pirate Bay.
The changes to Google's search services are unlikely to stop anyone from finding The Pirate Bay, especially since the site is still in Google's index. But the move could be part of Google's plan announced in late 2010 to remove search terms from Autocomplete that are “closely associated with piracy.”
The first wave of changes to Autocomplete appeared in early 2011 when suggestions for terms such as BitTorrent, RapidShare, and MegaUpload were removed. More recently, Google in mid-August announced piracy-related changes to the way it ranks websites. The company said any site that receives a high number of removal notices for copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results. The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America applauded Google's policy change, but advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge criticized the decision.
This is not the first time The Pirate Bay has been the target of modifications to Google's service. In 2009, Google removed The Pirate Bay's homepage from its search results. Google said it removed The Pirate Bay in response to a complaint under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The search giant restored The Pirate Bay to its search index several days later.