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The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence 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 & spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.
Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term after Streisand, citing privacy violations, unsuccessfully sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for US$50 million in an attempt to have an aerial photograph of her mansion removed from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs. Adelman said that he was photographing beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the government sanctioned and commissioned California Coastal Records Project. Before Streisand filed her lawsuit, "Image 3850" had been downloaded from Adelman's website only 6 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.
- In April 2007, an attempt at blocking an 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.
- In 2008, the Pirate Bay was asked to censor a link to autopsy photos of two murdered children from a famous Swedish murder case. Peter Sunde, the Pirate Bay's spokesman said that removal would only increase public interest, according to the Streisand effect, and thus keeping the links served everybody's interest.
- On 5 December 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) added the 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 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 against The Guardian newspaper, preventing them 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. Utilising 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 parliament, 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 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 anonymised 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.
- Banned in Boston
- Blowback (intelligence)
- CTB v News Group Newspapers
- Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority v. Anderson
- Slashdot effect
- Canton, David. "Today's Business Law: Attempt to suppress can backfire", London Free Press, November 5, 2005. 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 (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press. p. 7. ISBN 1-4221-2500-9. Unknown parameter
- Since When Is It Illegal to Just Mention a Trademark Online?, techdirt.com
- "Barbra Sues Over Aerial Photos | [[The Smoking Gun]]". The Smoking Gun. 2003-05-30. Retrieved 2010-11-22. URL–wikilink conflict (help)
- 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.
- 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.
- Andersson, Jonas (2009). "FOR THE GOOD OF THE NET: THE PIRATE BAY AS A STRATEGIC SOVEREIGN". Culture Machine VOL 10.
If a link is removed, the most likely effect is that the removal will generate a backlash, where numerous other Internet actors will take over the file's circulation (this is commonly referred to as the 'Streisand effect').
- Schofield, Jack (8 December 2008). "Wikipedia page censored in the UK for 'child pornography'". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- 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. "Guardian gagged from reporting parliament". Guardian. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- David Leigh. "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. Check date values in:
- Agence France-Presse (December 5 2010). "How the Barbra Streisand Effect keeps WikiLeaks online". INQUIRER.net. Check date values in:
- 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.
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