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Google Search Takedown Requests Rush to 8 Billion at Record Pace

google darkFor many people, Google is the go-to starting point when they need to find something on the web. With just a few keystrokes, the search engine can find virtually anything.

This is generally good, but copyright holders are not happy with all content that can be discovered. Pirates sites, for example, should remain hidden when possible.

In recent years Google has tweaked its algorithms to address this issue. At the same time, it continues to process DMCA takedown notices which allow rightsholders to ‘remove’ problematic content, even when it’s yet to be indexed.

Takedown Transparency

In the spring of 2012, Google expanded its Transparency Report by publishing all DMCA requests the company receives, including the targeted links and their senders. For the first time, outsiders were able to see the URLs copyright holders targeted and in what quantity.

Here at TorrentFreak, we’ve also paid considerable attention to how the volume of these requests has evolved. In the early years, there was a rapid rise in DMCA takedowns, reaching a peak around 2017 and then dropping off afterward.

Surprisingly, this trend reversal was only temporary. Last year it became clear that Google search DMCA notices had picked up again. And this second surge continues to this day.

8 Billion Reported URLs

A few days ago, Google processed its eight billionth takedown request, measured by individual reported URLs. This follows a little over six months after the seven billionth request, establishing a record-breaking pace.

For comparison, between 2019 and 2021, it took almost two full years to add a billion new takedowns.

8 billion

As highlighted previously, the recent surge is partly caused by an increase in activity from the takedown outfits Link-Busters.com and Comeso. Together, they now submit the vast majority of all takedown requests.

These companies work with a variety of rightsholders. Link-Busters, for example, mostly works with major publishers, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Hachette.

Active Senders

To give an indication of the volume, Link-Busters.com flagged an average of more than two million URLs per day recently. If that pace continues, it will report more than 700 million URLs a year.

Comeso currently averages around 1.2 million reported URLs per week, which translates to well over 400 million yearly takedowns.

A large number of Comeso takedowns were sent on behalf of Kakao Entertainment, a major webtoon publisher. Earlier this week the Korean media giant released a whitepaper celebrating a record number of 208 million “takedown operations” between June to December 2023. The majority of these relate to Google takedown requests, the company confirmed to us, but other search engines and services were targeted as well.

While hundreds of millions of removals sure sound impressive, some nuance is warranted, as not all URLs are deindexed by Google. For example, only 36% of Comeso’s requests resulted in content being removed. Most URLs, about 58%, were not indexed by Google and put on a blacklist instead. The remaining URLs were not removed for other reasons.

Whether these efforts will put a significant dent in publishing piracy has yet to be seen, but the two takedown companies are certainly doing their best.

10 Billion?

If this trend continues, we could be at 10 billion takedowns by this time this year. That sounds like a lot and it certainly is. However, pirate sites are not oblivious to this tactic and actively switch to new domains, so there can always be more.

To offer some context, there are thousands of “Z-Library” related domains online, each with millions of URLs. That adds up quickly.

In the grander scheme of things, the eight billion figure might represent just a tiny speck. It’s less than 0.007% of the 130 trillion webpages Google search reportedly had indexed years ago.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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