After facing criticism that its new policy of penalizing pirate sites might unfairly favor Google-owned YouTube, Google has come out to say that most popular sites are unlikely to be penalized. It hasn't clarified exactly why or how, though.
To try and clear things up about the whole link demotion thing, Google told Search Engine Land that takedown requests filed agianst YouTube videos through YouTube's own system will be piled on top of DMCA requests to add up to one, big number of infringement notices. All of these requests have to be deemed valid by Google before they count, by the way.
That makes it seem like YouTube would actually be in some hot water, considering how much content it has, and how often that content is getting pulled. It's not though, because there are other factors in the mix but what those factors are, Google isn't about to say. These factors will, apparently, make it unlikely that sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and IMDB will be penalized, to name but a few. It's worth noting that according to Google, this isn't due some kind of special treatment for certain sites, but rather it's the intended result of the algorithm that's applied to all sites.
Any details as to what's going on behind the scenes are purely speculative, but Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan has a pretty logical theory.
"My guess is that Google will be looking at factors to somehow determine if a site seems legitimate, somehow. ...By 'legitimate,' I'm making a further assumption that Google's trying not to harm sites that seem to be making a good-faith effort through internal systems to remove infringing content. Just as YouTube has its own takedown system, other sites that are actively working to remove content after copyright holder complaints might be effectively given a pass in how the new penalty works."
All in all, this sounds like a good development even if Google doesn't want to share specifics. Their reluctance to do so is hardly uncharacteristic. Still, there's a big variable in this equation that amounts to "trust." [Search Engine Land]