Similar to other sites that deal with user-generated content, Facebook has to battle against a constant stream of copyright-infringing material.
To address this, Facebook has rolled out several anti-piracy initiatives in recent years. The company has a “Rights Manager” tool, for example, that automatically detects infringing material on the platform.
In addition, it seems the company is also taking proactive measures. This week we were contacted by the operator of LimeTorrents.info, one of the most used torrent sites, who noticed that sharing links to his site is no longer permitted on the social media network.
People who want to use Facebook to post a link to the torrent site will see the following error message instead; “You can’t share this link. Your post couldn’t be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards.”
As it turns out, LimeTorrents is not the only site that’s affected by this policy. We checked several others and found out that Facebook also blocks links that point to YTS.lt, Torrentdownloads.me and Zooqle.com. This measure applies to all URLs from these sites, including their homepages.
Facebook’s blocking notification doesn’t provide a specific reason for the blockage. We’ve reached out to the company for a comment on the blocking measures, but the company has yet to reply.
When we read through the company’s ‘community standards,’ however, we see that copyright infringement is a potential trigger.
The four sites that are blocked may just be the tip of the iceberg. At the same time, it’s also worth noting that other major pirate sites don’t get the same treatment. Whatever Facebook’s policy is, there’s no site-wide ban on all piracy sites, yet.
While Facebook regularly blocks profiles of pirate sites, the current blocking efforts are new to us, as well as the site operator we’ve spoken to, it’s not clear when they were implemented. A search for the error message that pops up suggests that it only started to appear recently.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook has never blocked pirate sites in the past. Ten years ago the company already prevented users from posting links to The Pirate Bay, after the torrent site refused to disable its ‘share’ function voluntarily.
“Given the controversy surrounding The Pirate Bay and the pending lawsuit against them, we’ve reached out to The Pirate Bay and asked them to remove the ‘Share on Facebook’ links from their site. The Pirate Bay has not responded and so we have blocked their torrents from being shared on Facebook,” the company told us at the time.
Interestingly, in the years that followed, The Pirate Bay was unbanned again and Facebook users can freely share links to the site today.
Update: The same blocklist is applied to the Facebook messenger as well.