Add these to the list of terms Google won’t fill in with its autocomplete and instant search: uTorrent, BitTorrent, RapidShare, and any query containing the word “torrent.” In December, Google reassured copyright holders that it would “prevent terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete,” and Google watchers say that today appears to be the day that this block is going into effect. (While torrents do not uniformly infringe copyrights, a recent BitTorrent census found that 99% of shared files did.)
As of posting, a number of torrent- and cyberlocker-related searches, including “The Pirate Bay,” “BitComet,” “Vuze,” MediaFire,” and “Demonoid,” will still autocomplete.
While some have referred to Google’s quietly tweaked search as a form of “censorship,” the search results are still there if you type out all the letters. That is, if you type in “utorrent,” utorrent.com remains the first search result. And while the word “torrent” may not show up in search, Google has left intact the far more direct way of finding torrent files by adding filetype:torrent to a search — for instance, filetype:torrent ubuntu.
Incremental though it might be, what’s bothersome about this change, as TorrentFreak points out, is that Google has changed the way its search works in response to a corporate lobby. Slippery slope arguments are always — well, slippery, but this sets a precedent that could potentially be abused, especially as Google takes an even bigger role in the less-regulated Wild West of mobile search.