The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.
It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently generated further publicity. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters, to suppress numbers, files and websites. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.
Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term after Streisand unsuccessfully sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy. The US$50 million lawsuit endeavored to remove an aerial photograph of Streisand's mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs. Adelman photographed the beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the government-sanctioned and government-commissioned California Coastal Records Project. Before Streisand filed her lawsuit, "Image 3850" had been downloaded from Adelman's website only six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand's attorneys. As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased substantially; more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month.
- Billy Joel's pop song "Only the Good Die Young" sparked little comment when it first appeared on the 1977 album The Stranger; but when it was released as a single in early 1978, religious groups voiced objections to such lyrics as "They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait/Some say it’s better but I say it ain't/I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/The sinners are much more fun". The Catholic archdiocese in Boston, St. Louis, and Newark, New Jersey banned the song, and began pressuring radio stations to remove it from their play lists. "This record would have died out," said Joel. "Nobody would've heard it if they hadn't tried to cut people off from it. As soon as the kids found out there was some authority that didn't want them to hear it, they bought it in droves and it became this big hit."
- In April 2007, an attempt at blocking an Advanced Access Content System (AACS) key from being disseminated on Digg caused an uproar when cease-and-desist letters demanded the code be removed from several high-profile websites. This led to the key's proliferation across other sites and chat rooms in various formats, with one commentator describing it as having become "the most famous number on the internet". Within a month, the key had been reprinted on over 280,000 pages, printed on T-shirts and tattoos, and had appeared on YouTube in a song played over 45,000 times.
- In November 2007, Tunisia blocked access to YouTube and DailyMotion after material was posted of Tunisian political prisoners. Activists and their supporters then started to link the location of then-President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's palace on Google Earth to videos about civil liberties in general. The Economist said this "turned a low-key human-rights story into a fashionable global campaign".
- In January 2008, The Church of Scientology's unsuccessful attempts to get Internet websites to delete a video of Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology resulted in the creation of Project Chanology.
- On December 5, 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) added the English Wikipedia article about the 1976 Scorpions album Virgin Killer to a child pornography blacklist, considering the album's cover art "a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18". The article quickly became one of the most popular pages on the site, and the publicity surrounding the censorship resulted in the image's being spread across other sites. The IWF were later reported on the BBC News website to have said "IWF's overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect". This effect was also noted by the IWF in their statement about the removal of the URL from the blacklist.
- In September 2009, multi-national oil company Trafigura obtained a super-injunction to prevent The Guardian newspaper from reporting on an internal Trafigura investigation into the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump scandal, and also from reporting on even the existence of the injunction. Using parliamentary privilege, Labour MP Paul Farrelly referred to the super-injunction in a parliamentary question, and on October 12, 2009, The Guardian reported that they had been gagged from reporting on the parliamentary question, in violation of the 1688 Bill of Rights. Blogger Richard Wilson correctly identified the blocked question as referring to the Trafigura waste dump scandal, after which The Spectator suggested the same. Not long after, Trafigura began trending on Twitter, helped along by Stephen Fry's retweeting the story to his followers. Twitter users soon tracked down all details of the case, and by October 16, the super-injunction had been lifted and the report published.
- In December 2010, the website WikiLeaks was the subject of DoS attacks and rejection from ISPs as a consequence of the United States cable leaks. People sympathetic to WikiLeaks' cause voluntarily mirrored the website in order to make it impossible for any one person to completely remove the cables.
- In May 2011, Premier League footballer Ryan Giggs sued Twitter after a user revealed that he was the subject of an anonymous privacy injunction (informally referred to as a "super-injunction") that prevented the publication of details regarding an alleged affair with model and former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas. A blogger for the Forbes website observed that the British media, who were banned from breaking the terms of the injunction, had mocked the footballer for not understanding the effect. The Guardian subsequently posted a graph detailing—without naming the player—the number of references to the player's name against time, showing a large spike following the news that the player was seeking legal action.
- In June 2012, Argyll and Bute council banned a nine-year-old primary school pupil from updating her blog, NeverSeconds, with photos of lunchtime meals served in the school's canteen. The blog, which was already popular, started receiving an immense number of views due to the international media furor that followed the ban. Within days, the council reversed its decision under immense public pressure and scrutiny. After the reversal of the ban, the blog became more popular than it was before.
- In April 2013, representative(s) of Suburban Express, a bus company that provides transportation for students of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to Chicago suburbs, allegedly posted favorable comments about their company on a forum on Reddit dedicated to UIUC by using several sockpuppet accounts, and insulted members of the forum who criticized them. This led the forum moderator to delete the offensive comments and post a note on the forum frontpage warning readers about Suburban Express, including their litigious behavior which involved suing 125 customers this year for alleged violations of their terms of service. Suburban Express's legal representation then threatened to sue the forum moderator, demanding in a letter that "libelous postings" be removed. Suburban Express retracted its threat to sue the moderator and also withdrew the 125 lawsuits it had filed against its customers after receiving widespread negative reactions in the media and on the internet. This incident has been called an example of the Streisand Effect by some, including Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing, Sean Gallagher of Ars Technica, and Ken White of Popehat.
- In April 2013, the French intelligence agency DCRI temporarily forced the deletion of the French language Wikipedia article about the Military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute. The DCRI contacted the Wikimedia Foundation, which pointed out that the article contained only publicly available information, in accordance with Wikipedia's verifiability policy. The article was the most viewed page on the French Wikipedia as of April 6, 2013.
- In May 2013, Defense Distributed, a website that gained notoriety in the wake of the United States gun control push following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, took down the designs for a 3D printed firearm and firearm components at the request of the United States Department of State under the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations. After the take down, the website used a banner graphic that stated, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.” In response, users took the files that had already been downloaded in excess of 100,000 times, and mirrored them using file sharing services such as The Pirate Bay and MEGA. The Pirate Bay has now seen a large influx of new entries to its physibles section and Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson has been quoted to say that downloads have exploded.
|Look up Streisand effect in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Banned in Boston
- Blowback (intelligence)
- CTB v News Group Newspapers
- Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority v. Anderson
- Canton, David (November 5, 2005), "Today's Business Law: Attempt to suppress can backfire", London Free Press, archived from the original on 2006-02-17, retrieved July 21, 2007, "The 'Streisand effect' is what happens when someone tries to suppress something and the opposite occurs. The act of suppressing it raises the profile, making it much more well known than it ever would have been."
- Mugrabi, Sunshine (January 22, 2007). "YouTube—Censored? Offending Paula Abdul clips are abruptly taken down.". Red Herring. Archived from the original on February 18, 2007. Retrieved July 21, 2007. "Another unintended consequence of this move could be that it extends the kerfuffle over Ms. Abdul's behavior rather than quelling it. Mr. Nguyen called this the 'Barbra Streisand effect', referring to that actress's insistence that paparazzi photos of her mansion not be used"
- Josh Bernoff; Charlene Li (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press. p. 7. ISBN 1-4221-2500-9.
- Since When Is It Illegal to Just Mention a Trademark Online?, techdirt.com
- "Barbra Sues Over Aerial Photos". The Smoking Gun. 2003-05-30. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- http://www.californiacoastline.org/streisand/lawsuit.html Link includes lawsuit filings. Streisand was ordered to pay $177,107.54 in court and legal fees. The site has an image of the $155,567.04 check Streisand paid for Adelman's legal fees.
- Tentative ruling, page 6, stating, "Image 3850 was download six times, twice to the Internet address of counsel for plaintiff." In addition, two prints of the picture were ordered — one by Streisand's counsel and one by Streisand's neighbor. http://www.californiacoastline.org/streisand/slapp-ruling-tentative.pdf
- Rogers, Paul (2003-06-24). "Photo of Streisand home becomes an Internet hit". San Jose Mercury News, mirrored at californiacoastline.org. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
- The Story Behind Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”. PerformerSongwriter.com archive. Retrieved April 24, 2013
- Brad Stone (2007-05-03). "In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly". New York Times. "The ironic thing is, because they tried to quiet it down it's the most famous number on the Internet."
- Andy Greenberg (May 11, 2007). "The Streisand Effect". Forbes. Retrieved 2008-02-29. "The phenomenon takes its name from Barbra Streisand, who made her own ill-fated attempt at reining in the Web in 2003. That's when environmental activist Kenneth Adelman posted aerial photos of Streisand's Malibu beach house on his Web site as part of an environmental survey, and she responded by suing him for $50 million. Until the lawsuit, few people had spotted Streisand's house, Adelman says—but the lawsuit brought more than a million visitors to Adelman's Web site, he estimates. Streisand's case was dismissed, and Adelman's photo was picked up by the Associated Press and reprinted in newspapers around the world."
- "Blog standard: Authoritarian governments can lock up bloggers. It is harder to outwit them". The Economist. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-06. "WHAT do Barbra Streisand and the Tunisian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, have in common? They both tried to block material they dislike from appearing on the internet."
- Arthur, Charles (2009-03-20). "The Streisand effect: Secrecy in the digital age". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-03-31.
- "The Streisand Effect: When Internet Censorship Backfires". Complex. 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "What is 'The Streisand Effect'?". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2009-01-31. Retrieved 2010-03-31.
- Cade Metz (December 7, 2008). "Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over 'child porn' album cover". The Register. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- Moses, Asher (December 8, 2008). "Wikipedia added to child pornography blacklist". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- "IWF backs down on Wiki censorship". BBC News Online. December 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- "Living with the Streisand Effect". International Herald Tribune. 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "IWF statement regarding Wikipedia webpage". Internet Watch Foundation. December 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- David Leigh (2009-10-12). "Guardian gagged from reporting parliament". Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- David Leigh (2009-10-13). "Guardian seeks urgent court hearing over parliament reporting gag". Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- Jacobson, Seth. "Twitter claims new scalp as Trafigura backs down". Thefirstpost.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- Martin Beckford and Holly Watt (October 16, 2009). "Secret Trafigura report said ‘likely cause’ of illness was release of toxic gas from dumped waste". The Telegraph.
- Agence France-Presse (December 5, 2010). "How the Barbra Streisand Effect keeps WikiLeaks online". INQUIRER.net.
- Townend, Judith (20 May 2011). "Lord Neuberger's report cuts through the superinjunction hysteria". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- Hill, Kashmir (2009-09-30). "He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named (In The UK) Sues Twitter Over A User Naming Him". Blogs.forbes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-21. "Apparently, though, CTB's lawyers have not heard of the "Streisand effect"."
- Sabbagh, Dan (2011-05-20). "Twitter and the mystery footballer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
- Mario Cacciottolo (June 15, 2012). "The Streisand Effect: When censorship backfires". BBC News.
- Doctorow, Cory (2013-04-27). "Suburban Express bus-line sends bullying, cowardly legal threat to Reddit, discovers Streisand Effect". BoingBoing.
- Gallagher, Sean (2013-04-26). "Express to Internet Hate: Bus company threatens redditor with lawsuit". Ars Technica.
- White, Ken (2013-04-28). "Suburban Express Took The First Bus To The Streisand Effect. Have They Disembarked In Time?". Popehat.com.
- "Communiqué from the Wikimedia Foundation" (in French). April 6, 2013.
- Geuss, Megan. "Wikipedia editor allegedly forced by French intelligence to delete "classified" entry". Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Legge, James (2013-05-10). "US government orders Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed to remove blueprint for 3D-printed handgun from the web". The Independent.
- Greenberg, Andy (2013-05-08). "3D-Printed Gun's Blueprints Downloaded 100,000 Times In Two Days (With Some Help From Kim Dotcom)". Forbes.
- Morelle, Rebecca (2013-05-10). "US government orders removal of Defcad 3D-gun designs". BBC News.