UK Politicians Think They Can Write Google's Search Algorithm Better Than Google

from the because-they-don't-know-what-they're-talking-about dept

Last week, we wrote about the UK Parliament debating a new IP bill in which they seem not just woefully uninformed, but poised to do stupid things, like throw file sharers in jail and blame internet companies for not pretending it’s still 1995. It appears that process has continued, and TorrentFreak has a further report concerning debate on the new Intellectual Property Bill that suggests the MPs are not only completely uninformed about the internet, but seem to think they know how to program Google’s algorithms better than Google.

The biggest problem, it seems, is that UK politicians continue to fall for the completely false claims by some that if you search for various artists or movies, the top results are infringing sites. That’s almost never true. What is true is that if someone specifically searches for artists and things like “free download” or other such terms, that some of the results may point to unauthorized sources, and the people doing those kinds of searches aren’t the folks looking to pay in the first place. They’re clearly looking for free downloads, and Google is giving them what they asked for. But, it appears multiple politicians in the UK don’t understand that, and think that Google is presenting unauthorized sources based just on searches on artists’ names.

“When you search for the name of your favorite band..[..] will be directed to illegal sites. Something must be done about that,” said Pete Wishart MP. Untrue of course, but it gets worse.

“[Another MP] mentioned an astonishing statistic…[..] the effect — I hope I have this right; he will correct me if I am wrong — that for the top 20 singles and albums for November 2013, 77% of first page search results for singles and 64% for albums directed the consumer to an illegal site. I have to say to the Minister that that surely cannot be allowed to continue,” said MP Iain Wright.

That statistic isn’t even close to true. It’s laughably false. But, armed with such bogus information, these MPs suddenly believe they know how to better write search algorithms, and seem prepared to start editing Google’s search results for the company. A new clause is being added to the bill called “online copyright infringements: technology companies.” It basically proposes that the government will now have a mandate to edit search results:

“The Secretary of State will, within three months of this Act coming into force, report to both Houses of Parliament on proposals that will have the purpose of ensuring technology companies hinder access via the internet to copyright infringing material.”

Right, because that’s worked so well in the past. Given how uncreative politicians are, the end result of this bill will almost certainly be increased censorship and blocking in the UK, while putting a ridiculous level of liability on internet companies for merely doing what their users ask them to do. Over the past few years, the UK keeps positioning London as a new startup hub, but with laws like this, the UK is basically making sure that it’s impossible to do any real internet innovation in the UK without facing massive liability.

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Comments on “UK Politicians Think They Can Write Google's Search Algorithm Better Than Google”

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btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Well...

It’s going to get to the point where whatever minimal benefit companies like Google get from having a physical presence in the UK will be outweighed by all this ridiculous regulation based on stupdity, and they will just pull out of the UK altogether.

The Google web site would still be available to users in the UK (unless the government blocked it– and good luck to them enduring the onslaught from their citizens if they tried that) but they wouldn’t have to endure this endless parade of idiocy from the UK government.

SAW (profile) says:

This is so stupid. I just did a movie experiment with “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Using Chrome, I pulled up two tabs – the first searching in the omnibox (address bar) the wolf on wall street. The first five searches: 1. Showtimes for “Wolf…” 2. IMDB 3. Wikipedia 4. News for ‘The Wolf on Wall Street” 5. Daily Mail

The second omnibox search was the wolf on wall street free online. It brought back links to free streaming and downloads of the movie.

You have to specifically look for the freebies otherwise nothing but legit returns.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why, it’s almost as if taking 5 seconds to research a claim would be a good thing for politicians to do before trying to base law upon it. Almost as though the people making said claims have a vested interest in lying about the subject…

(Very much worth noting for the scope of this article – at the release of the most recent UK box office figures (26th January 2014), Wolf Of Wall Street had been the #1 movie in the UK for 3 weeks. High quality rips are freely available to download. If Google were just linking to those for any search term, they would be in this example).

out_of_the_blue says:

YES, because the world is not entirely for Google!

All the rebuttal needed is tagline to yet again point out that:

Libertarians never grasp that civilization isn’t based on market efficiency; it’s keeping the few from controlling all. — The most “efficient” economy is based on slavery, and that’s the way we’re headed by not limiting The Rich. (123 of 195)

Mike is an economist only for prosperous times. His notions apply only to the dotcom bubble: the net is now being consolidated by a few mega-corporations which are — as all do soon as practicable — entrenching as monopolies to control the formerly open markets. Yes, even your precious Google. (124 of 195)

Civilization isn’t just to have a few highly “efficient” corporations concentrating wealth: it’s to provide FAIRNESS FOR ALL. (137 of 195)


BY THE WAY, NOT THAT POLITICIANS ARE NECESSARILY GOOD, EITHER. The only exclusive part of evil is when YOU ain’t in on the racket. In fact, they’re rabid corporatists in cahoots, and only putting on yet another PR bit here: Google has them ALL bought.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: How to get someone to watch a movie...

Creators of content should make their own self-interested decision whether to donate something to the public domain.

Whether you make it available for free or paid, you should get it on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and whatever other 21st century distribution platforms you can — and skreeew the MPAA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its easy to design a better search engine,when the design consists of telling someone else what its specifications are, without any details of how they are to be met.
One problem they need to solve is cataloging all ‘content’, along with a copy, and a matching engine that can be used to identify infringing works. This need to be supported by a record of all licensed uses of a work. Ideally the content Industry will provide and manages the catalog and matching engine, at their own expense. Further they will supply a copy of a work to a court if demanded, so the court can determine whether claim of infringement are valid.
If the ‘content’ industry is not prepared to provide the database, with matching service and record of licenses, they cannot claim that search engines can easily determine what is infringing content, because they are not providing them the information that they need to do so.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

even IF they decided to go that route, it ultimately wouldn’t do anything other than block non-infringing content.
Legitimate people would get blocked and the pirates would just find a way to make their content just ever so slightly different so as not to get pinged by that “matching content”.
It is a never ending battle that the pirates always seem to win at the cost of normal people’s enjoyment.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

I think if Google wanted to make a statement they easily could.
Just block all UK traffic to their site and claim their government is making it too hard to do business in their country even though somehow the rest of the world doesn’t have a problem with it.
Let the UK people use Bing for a week before calling for the MP’s head to back off Google.

anon says:

Re: Re:

This is what i have been saying for a while, but i dont think it would take more than a few hours for the governemetn to shut down because of all of the phone calls from businesses that had a problem not being in search results and so many businesses losing millions in income every year.

I doubt Google would do this though as the government would then start charging them with some crime of monopoly or something like that.Saying that if Google decided to just pull out of the UK and shut down one day never to return i am sure the government would collapse from the fallout and that would be a good idea to encourage them in the future to think about allowing searches of the internet without trying to block content they think hurts those that fund them.Damn they might even decide to listen when people tell them they are going too far.

Anonymous Coward says:

China? UK? China? UK?

The great firewall of UK is already here. This is just some further insurance that they can coerce Google in the same way China has done.

Somewhat you may argue there is a line between them, but the question inevitably boils down to: Do the ends justify the means?

In most other countries this seem like shooting birds with cannons, but I guess that is the way to do maximum intentional and collateral damage.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Determining Ownership

The problem with these proposals is they assume it is easy to determine if a site is actually infringing without a real, live person visiting the site. Also, because some of the content may be infringing on a site does not mean all the content is infringing. The practicalities of such a search would actually mean the easiest method for any search engine would be black list all movies and recordings. This is shooting oneself in the head to treat a pimple.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Bread and circuses...

Then pull out of the UK, and block all
> UK users from accessing their sites
> (Google, YouTube, etc.)

They don’t even need to block access. Once their physical presence is terminated, the UK government has no authority or jurisdiction over them any more, even if their site(s) are still accessible to UK citizens.

Anonymous Coward says:


Were I looking for a “free copy” of a song or a movie, I would not use Google to find it. I’d use Google to find downloading sites (with no specifics mentioned), and then search in those sites.
As it is, I frequently search Google for movie names to see the cast list, reviews or plot summaries. It’s rare that I even get a “download” listing.

Bengie says:

They are to blame

“that for the top 20 singles and albums for November 2013, 77% of first page search results for singles and 64% for albums directed the consumer to an illegal site.”

Sounds like Google search is optimizing for these politicians, seeing that they tend to click-through to illegal sites, so it pushes them to the top.

Normal people who click through to Google Play or Apple, will probably get more legal sources in the first two pages.

Rabbit80 says:

Just tried an experiment...

Tried a search for Lady Gaga and got 0 links to illegal downloads on the first page. Did a search for Lady Gaga free mp3 download.. virtually all links were blocked due to court orders or were scamware type sites – with the exception of lastfm.

Thank fuck for VPNs – the UK censorship is out of control. We won’t have an internet soon!

Anonymous Coward says:

the main reasons for what is happening in the UK are that suddenly, because the USA has tailed off it’s ‘arrest everyone for copyright infringement that we can and screw them into the ground as far and as hard as we can’, and with Cameron in a ‘special relationship’ with Obama, he has decided to fuck up the UK’s internet as much as possible before he gets booted out of office. that gives him something to attack the next government over, whichever party that might be. the second reason is that, the UK politicians are as susceptible to bouts of gross stupidity as anywhere else. when information like that which is in the post is put in front of them, instead of checking it out, they let someone else do it, usually a someone who has convinced the politician to do something special for someone in particular because they will be ‘very grateful’. most UK politicians from what i’ve seen haven’t got the internet/digital age sense of a fucking idiot! they, like USA politicians, love it when they can make a headline, albeit out of complete ridiculousness. the best thing to happen to the UK is for Google to shut up shop completely. the UK as a country, as an economy as a force in the EU would take such a dive, it would have to reach up to touch the bottom! when any government stoops so low as to continuously condemn other countries for spreading false rumours, for being anti-democratic, yet turn to become worse than those it is condemning, it shows it doesn’t deserve to be in the ‘world league table position’ it is in. the politicians mentioned couldn’t raise a numb-nut if they did it together, but it makes them sound good! thinking of trying the actual searches themselves would screw up their whole argument, hence the distancing of themselves from any facts!! typical!! they haven’t even thought of what is happening atm with the blocking of web sites that shouldn’t be. what do they think it’s going to be like if more sites are meant to be blocked? the UK industries and economy will take a nose dive from which it may not recover (but they would be quick to blame others rather than take the blame themselves, in true politician fashion!!

Anonymous Coward says:

A suggested demand by the clueless for the clueless.

Back in the day, DC was a huge outfit. The problem was finding where stuff was. You couldn’t exactly search for it on a search engine. They just for the most part didn’t show up. The cure for that is the cure I would suspect to come out for this. DC itself offered a locator service.

Most pirates don’t need a search engine to find what they are looking for. They already have bookmarked the site to go to where they will do their search. Google, Bing, nor !Yahoo is involved in anyway.

I don’t see anyone suggesting that if the legal tunes and movies aren’t on the top that the copyright industries involve themselves in increasing the rankings. While sort of slimely, there is SEO. There is also offering these things they want the public to find in more places. This is not Google’s problem as they pretty much treat all search results the same with the exception of what has been interfered with already.

None of this will effect me on this particular item. I never, ever use Google for anything. I purposely have blocks to Google in my add ons. What does bother me is that today it is Google, tomorrow it might be another search engine offering the recipe to Mom’s Apple Pie because it lists an ingredient the blocking filters think is porn or politically inconvenient.

Just Sayin' says:

no they don't

“UK Politicians Think They Can Write Google’s Search Algorithm Better Than Google”

No, they don’t think they can write a better search algorithm. Rather, they think that Google cannot continue to profit by turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the repeated claims against piracy sites.

Quite simply, Google could use the red flag knowledge they gain through DMCA complaints (the ones they choose to comply with) to move questionable sites out of the search results altogether. The millions of valid and accepted DMCA complaints each month would be a great place to start.

Unlike Google, the UK pols are not being willfully blind to defend their bottom line.

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