Google to drop search rankings of sites with many takedown notices

Google said it will change its search algorithm this week to take into account “the number of valid copyright removal notices” it receives for any site. High rates of removal notices are likely to drop a site down in the search results, which Google says “should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.”

The new move appears to be a nod in the direction of rightsholders, most notably the MPAA and RIAA. The latter trade group, meanwhile, has argued previously that Google isn’t doing enough to remove possibly infringing links.

Digital rights advocates worried about lack of recourse

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that Google’s demotion of some websites may be abused, simply because they may be accused of copyright violations, rather than evaluated or even convicted. And the EFF isn’t just being paranoid. We’ve seen many examples of rightholders issuing bad takedowns for files that were not infringing, or worse, that they didn’t own or even see.

“What we don’t know: what is a ‘high number’?” wrote Julie Samuels and Mitch Stoltz, two EFF staff attorneys, on the organization’s blog on Friday.

“How does Googleplan to make these determinations? Oh, and one other thing we do know, one that is particularly troubling: there will be no process or recourse for sites who have been demoted? In particular, we worry about the false positives problem. For example, we’ve seen the government wrongly target sites that actually have a right to post the allegedly infringing material in question or otherwise legally display content. In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers.”

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