According to recent reports, Google Chrome blocked its user’s access to a few major torrenting websites due to an alleged threat posed by ‘harmful programs’ supposedly hosted by said sites. The blocking began a few days ago back on the 10th of July and caused a growing concern among the browser’s users. The list of torrent sites blocked by Google Chrome seemed to be growing over the course of only a few hours. Among the websites blocked are Torrentz, Kickass Torrents, ExtraTorrent and RARBG. Both the websites’ owners and the users of Google Chrome have felt skeptical of the motivation behind the blocking, claiming that the sites are clean from harmful programs. These parties feel that we are actually dealing with classic web censorship against movie torrent websites.
Whenever users attempt to access one of these sites directly while using the Google Chrome browser, instead of the website properly loading they just receive a red banner warning from Google. This banner warns them that ‘The site ahead contains harmful programs’. But Google doesn’t directly specify what the problem with these torrent sites actually is, and the browser’s security diagnosis just claims that they are ‘suspicious’. The banner states that this site could attempt to install harmful third-party software in users’ computers. When contacted for details and opinions, the owners of the targeted torrent sites said they had no idea what is causing the problem and no idea how to stop it.
The users who really wanted to reach one of the blocked websites could still manage to do that through Chrome if they clicked through to find out more details about the alleged threat until they were able to circumvent the block and reach their intended web destination. Still, it’s pretty upsetting to have to take their detour in the first place. Especially since the blocked torrent sites publicly declared they didn’t host any malware.
The Impact of Web Censorship on the Online Community
In the end, the problem seemed to have been partially solved over the next couple days. 2 of the initially blocked torrenting sites were unblocked by Chrome (ExtraTorrent and RARBG). Even so, the sites still have no clue what was wrong in the first place. Their representatives insist that any malicious software Google may have identified was surely a false positive. Google didn’t specifically name malicious software as the cause for the block, but just the sites being ‘suspicious’ in their behavior.
But another thing considered suspicious about this whole case was the mysterious block of these popular torrent sites in the first place, especially since those websites are widely considered safe (hence their popularity). Internet users who were upset by the move claim that the blocking was a just another web censorship action against p2p file sharing sites. These users claim that it took place on a larger scale and by a party who is supposed to be neutral in the whole debate (at least as long as the websites in question don’t do anything illegal). This is a major cornerstone in the debate against such websites: the copyright industry wants to take them down as soon as possible because some users sometime share copyright infringing content via these torrenting sites, but as long as the websites correct such issues as soon as they become aware of them, there isn’t actually anything illegal to be pinned on the website management.
The recent block of these websites by Google Chrome was considered by many members of the online community to be just another move against p2p file sharing (peer to peer sharing). This was even more amplified by the fact that even if some of the websites were reinstituted into full access by Chrome, Mozilla Firefox also started blocking the users’ access to several torrent sites. All the questions which were directed to Google on the topic of this recent incident were deferred to a general Google blog post about increasing security against malware. No one inside the company has been willing to directly discuss it yet.