Google Search Data Makes The RIAA’s Censorship Efforts Look Pretty Dumb

Google Search Data Makes The RIAA’s Censorship Efforts Look Pretty Dumb

By its own account, the RIAA will submit 30 million link takedown requests to Google this week. Google will ultimately comply with most of them, but the RIAA wants more. Now Google’s fighting back against censorship with data.

Google has been at odds with the recording industry’s mouthpiece for some time over links to illegal music downloads in search results. In a new report, “How Google Fights Piracy” Google painstakingly outlines its policies as well as some hard data.

It’s hard to argue that Google’s not trying: Right now it can process about 4 million requests a week, and complies with nearly every single one in an average of six hours. Google offers many legitimate avenues for users to legally purchase music, and even developed YouTube’s Content ID specifically to leverage infringing content to the benefit of the rights holders.

The RIAA responded by basically saying that Google’s efforts are useless.

Certainly, Google has amassed an impressive array of data in its report. And there’s a lot to applaud, and we are grateful for the steps they’ve taken. But ultimately, the appropriate benchmarks are metrics that demonstrate that piracy has been reduced. As much as Google may be doing, Benjamin Franklin cautioned that we must ‘never confuse motion for action.’ At least in the case of search results, for all of the motion being generated by both Google and the RIAA — our search removal requests will hit 30 million this week — it is increasingly clear we are making insufficient progress against piracy.

That’s a baffling response, even if it’s unsurprising. Takedown requests on their own aren’t working, and yet, the RIAA continues to accelerate its efforts to send them.

What’s more, the response ignores the fact that the report basically says that piracy isn’t Google’s problem. It points to data showing that search isn’t driving piracy: All of the major search engines combined account for only 16-per cent of the Pirate Bay’s traffic. Nevermind that it’s impossible to eradicate infringing content from an Internet full of 60 trillion links altogether in the first place. Get rid of one batch of links and another will crop up.

So it’s unclear what “Action” the RIAA is asking for. The implication, and the RIAA is very careful to dance around this type of action, is some kind of preemptive censorship. Google addresses this solution head-on: Look at how few “piracy-related” queries pop up in search for these popular artists.

The problem with censorship is obvious: It’s a bad word. It’s speech silenced. Takedowns and other measures are already used this way, and Google is understandably resistant to it. It’s certainly not the solution the piracy, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be worth it. [Google an RIAA]