Google, the Internet search leader, removed more than 50 million links from search results this year for allegedly infringing the intellectual property of copyright holders.
According to an analysis of Google's weekly "transparency reports" performed by TorrentFreak editor ErnestoVan Der Sar, 51.5 million links to web pages allegedly infringing on copyrighted material were removed from search results in 2012.
"Nearly all of these web pages are no longer showing up in Google's search results," Van Der Sar reported.
Google, like any other website on the Internet, is obliged by federal law -- namely, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- to take down content when it receives a DCMA request from a copyright holder.
Van Der Sar noted that DCMA takedown activity has been increasing throughout the year, hitting a high point last week when Google received 3.5 million requests.
Much of that takedown activity is being fueled by automated systems used by large copyright holders. Those systems can be wildly inaccurate, which can lead to lawsuits.
For example, an online storage service called Hotfile sued Warner Bros. Entertainment after that company's automated system flooded Hotfile with thousands of DCMA takedown requests for material Warner had no rights to.
Under the DMCA, any person making bad takedown requests can be penalised with monetary damages. Warner's defence in the Hotfile case is a person didn't make the bogus requests. A computer did.
Media companies, like Warner, are among the most prolific requesters of takedowns.
The biggest requester in 2012, Van Der Sar points out, was the Recording Industry Association of America, which asked Google to remove more than 7.8 million links from its search results.
The website most frequently targeted by rights holders was FilesTube, according to the TorrentFreak editor. More than 2.2 million links at that site allegedly infringed on copyrights, he noted.
"While this is certainly a significant number, it’s less than 1 percent of all FilesTube pages indexed by Google," he wrote.
Copyright holders aren't the only entities pressuring Google to remove links from search results.Governments do so, too. More than half those requests are made for concerns over defamation or privacy and security.
However, governments are interested in more than just taking down links from the Internet. They're also interested in obtaining information from Google that it has about its users. That trend, too, increased over 2012.