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Google designed its new ‘pirate penalty’ search algorithm to spare YouTube

Updated 4 years ago

When Google (GOOG) announced late last week that it would start demoting websites that were repeatedly flagged for copyright violations, it raised a very pertinent question: Does this mean Google will start demoting YouTube results as well? The folks over at Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan did some terrific work over the weekend trying to figure this out, and discovered that Google has written a sort of “get out of jail free” card for YouTube and other popular content-sharing sites whose users frequently run afoul of copyright laws.

A Google spokesman told Search Engine Land that although Google’s new algorithms are “treating YouTube like any other site in search rankings,” the company did not “expect this change to demote results for popular user-generated content sites” such as YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. How is this possible? Google wouldn’t go into specifics, but Sullivan says that the new algo “automatically assesses various factors or signals to decide if a site with a high number of copyright infringement notices against it should also face a penalty.”

It’s impossible to say how fair or unfair this system is without specifics on what factors it uses, but Sullivan says that he’s seen enough to conclude that the new algorithm’s “penalty has been designed with a recipe that still gives YouTube, along with other popular sites, a likely escape.”


Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.