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Google Turns On the Torrent Censor

Google Turns On the Torrent Censor | 40Tech

In December of 2010, Google announced that it was planning to make “copyright work better online.” One of those steps was to remove “terms that are closely associated with piracy” from autocompletes, making it slightly more difficult for those looking for ways to find less than legit files to use their service. It seems that Google has made good on its promise, removing several search terms — and portions of search terms — from both autocomplete and Google Instant.

While some may cheer this move on Google’s part, there are several parties who are finding this censorship to be unfair. 40Tech has taken an anti-piracy stance on more than one occasion, but we are also not fans of censorship. Companies like RapidShare, Megaupload, and BitTorrent are most definitely used by those participating in shady file-sharing, but they are also used for legitimate, and often useful, purposes, yet these sites can no longer be found via Google’s autocomplete or Instant features. Is it fair that they be given selective treatment when, as a representative of RapidShare states: “A search engine’s results should reflect the users’ interests and not Google’s or anybody else’s?”

The selection of banned terms seems to be arbitrary, as not all well-known torrent sites are affected — you can still find The Pirate Bay, for instance. Anything using the search term “torr,” however, has been removed, along with several other terms and bits of terms. This is unfortunate for anyone doing some quick research on the torr symbol (a non-SI unit of pressure), or the high-IQ society Torr.org, or Torr the thin film and nanotechnology company, or anyone with the last name of Torr — which shows that Google’s approach is somewhat less than perfect.

Google Censors Torrent-Related Search Terms | 40Tech

Google Censors Torrent-Related Search Terms -- unless you press enter | 40Tech

Google Censors Torrent-Related Search Terms | TorrentFreak

Image from TorrentFreak

At this point, only autocomplete and Instant are affected. You can still find whatever you might be looking for when you press enter — but good luck if you are looking for something legitimate that incorporates one of Google’s banned terms and are hoping for some suggested results.

What do you think of Google’s approach here? Is it a good thing — or is it yet another form of relatively pointless censorship? Will making torrents a little bit harder to search for on Google actually have any impact on piracy at all? Let us know in the comments.

Google Starts To Censor Torrent-Related Search Queries [ReadWriteWeb]

Will “Diminished Reality” Be a Tool for Censorship?

Will Diminished Reality Be Used for Censorship? | 40Tech

A team of researchers in Germany (from Technische Universit├Ąt Ilmenau) have developed a new technology called “Diminished Reality” that allows real time removal of unwanted objects from a video. It’s an amazing piece of tech; almost seamless, even with complex textures. The offending objects are destroyed and blended into the background as if they never existed — for every frame — and it all happens in milliseconds.

The applications that Diminished Reality could be put toward are many, from personal, to corporate, to government and news media. Imagine being able to remove your ex from that family reunion video; or how about that embarrassing stain that you didn’t notice until you watched the recording back? Maybe this would be a good way to to quickly edit your film — or set up a replacement video for those pesky museum guards to watch… *ahem*

The application of Diminished Reality that immediately comes to mind, however, is censorship — specifically censorship in news footage that could be used for propaganda purposes and the like. Even “live” feeds are potential vehicles in US programming, if the software can be adapted to work with the imposed five-second delay on live broadcasts (thank you Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson). If that happens, the marketing term “Diminished Reality” will take on literal meaning. I am very intrigued to see where this tech will go in the near future.

Check out the video below to see Diminished Reality in action — then leave your thoughts in the comments: