The purpose of search engines is to lead people to what they are looking for. Today’s web would be pretty much unusable without it.
Over the past two decades, Google has excelled at this up to the point where Googling became a verb.
There has also been critique. Major entertainment companies, in particular, are not happy with the fact that Google also made pirated content easy to discover. The search engine has taken steps to address these comments, which improved the relationship recently.
However, every now and then Google algorithms put this improved relation to the test. This also happened last week when we discovered that Google was prominently highlighting movie releases of pirate sites in its featured snippets.
Searching for “Movies YTS,” YIFY Movies” and “Fmovies Films” didn’t just bring up the associated pirate sites. It also displayed a carousel of movies that are available on these sites. Whoops.
There was little doubt that this pirate showcase was collateral damage to an otherwise useful feature. The question remained, how long it would stay in place? It didn’t take long before that was answered too.
Today the pirate searches no longer show the associated movie carousels. Also, a related search that featured an overview of “pirated movies” is gone too. The pirate sites themselves remain in the search results of course.
We contacted Google to find out what happened but the company has yet to respond. The fact that the snippets were removed speaks for itself, of course.
While it’s easy for rightsholders to blame Google when issues like this arise, they also have a responsibility of their own. The search engine and its associated companies are generally very quick to respond to takedown requests.
Whether these featured snippets were removed following a complaint is not known. However, in some cases, it almost seems as if copyright holders don’t really mind, as this search for “YTS” on YouTube illustrates.