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<nettime> Torrentfreak: Chilling Effects DMCA Archive Censors Itself


Chilling Effects DMCA Archive Censors Itself

     By Ernesto
     on January 10, 2015


   The much-praised Chilling Effects DMCA archive has taken an
   unprecedented step by censoring its own website. Facing criticism from
   copyright holders, the organization decided to wipe its presence from
   all popular search engines. A telling example of how pressure from
   rightsholders causes a chilling effect on free speech.

   chilling On an average day Google now processes more than a
   million takedown requests from copyright holders, and that's for its
   search engine alone.

   Thanks to Google's transparency report the public is able to see where
   these notices come from and what content they're targeting. In
   addition, Google partners with Chilling Effects to post redacted
   copies of all notices online.

   The Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house is one of the few tools that
   helps to keep copyright holders accountable. Founded by Harvard's
   Berkman Center, it offers an invaluable database for researchers and
   the public in general.

   At TF we use the website on a weekly basis to spot inaccurate
   takedown notices and other wrongdoings. Since the native search
   engine doesn't always return the best results, we mostly use Google to
   spot newsworthy notices on the site.

   This week, however, we were no longer able to do so. The Chilling
   Effects team decided to remove its entire domain from all search
   engines, including its homepage and other informational and
   educational resources.


   Ironically enough, complaints from copyright holders are at the base of
   this unprecedented display of self-censorship. Since Chilling Effects
   has partnered with Google to publish all takedown notices Google
   receives, its pages contain hundreds of millions of non-linked URLs to
   infringing material. Copyright holders are not happy with these pages.
   Previously, Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars described the
   activities of the Chilling Effects projects as "repugnant."

   As a result of the increased criticisms Chilling Effects has now
   decided to hide its content from search engines, making it harder to

   "After much internal discussion the Chilling Effects project recently
   made the decision to remove the site's notice pages from search
   engines," Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland informs TF.

   "Our recent relaunch of the site has brought it a lot more attention,
   and as a result, we're currently thinking through ways to better
   balance making this information available for valuable study, research,
   and journalism, while still addressing the concerns of people whose
   information appears in the database."

   The self censorship may sound strange coming from an organization that
   was founded to offer more transparency, but the Chilling Effects team
   believes that it strikes the right balance, for now.

   "As a project, we've always worked to strike that balance, for example
   by removing personally identifying information. Removing notice pages
   from search engine results is the latest step in that balancing
   process," Holland tells us.

   "It may or may not prove to be permanent, but for now it's the step
   that makes the most sense as we continue to think things through," he

   While we respect the decision it's a real shame for researchers that
   the notices and other informational material are now hidden from search
   engines. The notices themselves remain online, but with just the site's
   own search it's harder to find cases of abuse.

   The copyright holders on the other hand will be happy. But they
   probably don't care much about the chilling effect it has.

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