Users of Valve’s Steam video game platform are finding some of the links they mention in chat automatically censored by filtering software, reports TorrentFreak. Specifically, affected websites include several — though not all — popular destinations for pirated torrent content.
Sites whose URLs show up on the receiving end as “[LINK REMOVED]” include The Pirate Bay and Torrentz, according to TorrentFreak testing, but not KickassTorrents. Also affected are links from the file-sharing service 4shared, whose content — like that of any other file transfer service — is known to sometimes consist of pirated material.
The full list of affected sites is not clear, nor is the rationale behind what, on the surface, seems to be a rather arbitrary process in defining criteria for inclusion on the blacklist. TorrentFreak reports that Valve had not returned a request for clarification at the time of publication.
On the one hand, it makes some degree of sense for a gaming platform to attempt to protect the intellectual property of the industry to which it owes its existence. But on the other hand, Valve is not responsible for protecting anyone’s copyrights, whether held by video game publishers, musicians, movie studios, or the countless other creators whose rights are infringed upon by way of piracy.
Moreover, the censorship of URLs from just a handful of sites isn’t going to do much to dissuade would-be pirates, who can simply obfuscate the URLs through the use of special characters, altered formatting, or link-shortening services. At the end of the day, such a weak technological hurdle seems designed more for the benefit of appearances than to substantively prevent the Steam chat client’s piracy-enabling capabilities.