Anonymous search engine fraudsters are filing fraudulent takedown requests in an effort to game Googleâs search results in their favor, according to a report from TorrentFreak.
These counterfeit DMCA takedown notices are coming from imposters posing as either legitimate copyright holders or third parties authorized to file the notices on their behalf. Judging by the fake notices, TorrentFreak believes that competitors of the targeted websites are issuing these takedowns, sometimes reporting a single copyright infringement and then requesting hundreds of links on a website be taken down based on it.
DMCA takedown requests offer legitimate copyright holders an avenue to have webpages that infringe on its copyright removed from a particular web host. In the case of Google, a DMCA takedown generally means delisting an offending webpage from its search engine.
Looking through the Lumen database, which collects requests for the removal of online content, there are a number of warning signs that differentiate these bad-faith takedown requests from legitimate ones. For example, news outlets and research firms have discovered takedown requests by entities that have no connection to the infringing content. In addition, some of these fake requests inadvertently switch the copyright holderâs name with the third-party organization the holder usually hires to file these requests. Other fake takedowns use a modified version of the legal company name of the copyright holder. Just some of companies that these impostors are claiming to represent when filing these false takedown requests include Disney, Fox, Netflix, and Paramount.Â
Many of the falsified takedowns appear to be targeting Russian websites, the report says, and the majority of the fake notices also appear to originate in Russia as well. While most of the affected websites do appear to be actively involved in piracy, not all of them are. In one instance, a furniture store had its pages removed from Google because of counterfeit takedown requests, the report said.
A takedown request does not initiate an automatic removal of content. Google has caught many of these fake takedown requests and hasn’t acted upon them. However, with tens of millions of takedown requests per month, some fraudulent requests fall through the cracks.
Bad-faith DMCA takedown requests arenât new. This has been an issue that has long plagued Google as well as the internet as a whole, from legitimate copyright holders filing illegitimate takedowns â sometimes en masse â to gaming the search engine to remove negative reviews or stories about an individual or company. Bots are even filing auto-generated takedowns. The system appears to be rife with abuse.
What makes the recent spate of takedowns unique is that the people making the requests are pretending to be legitimate copyright holders in order to knock down their competitors. Just how much success these impostors find in their fake takedown requests will certainly determine just how much of a scourge this could soon become on the internet.