Streisand effect

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The original image of Barbra Streisand's residence in Malibu, which she attempted to suppress in 2003. Streisand Estate.jpg
The original image of Barbra Streisand's residence in Malibu, which she attempted to suppress in 2003.

The Streisand effect is a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently drew further attention to it in 2003. [1]

Contents

Attempts to suppress information are often made through cease-and-desist letters, but instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, as well as media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, which can be mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks. [2] [3]

The Streisand effect is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, they are significantly more motivated to access and spread that information. [4]

Origin of the term

Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined [5] the term in 2005 in relation to a holiday resort issuing a takedown notice to urinal.net (a site dedicated to photographs of urinals) over use of the resort's name. [6]

How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don't like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let's call it the Streisand Effect. [6]

The term alluded to Barbra Streisand, who in 2003 had sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy. [7] 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. [2] [8] [9] Adelman photographed the beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the California Coastal Records Project, which was intended to influence government policymakers. [10] [11] 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. [12] As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased greatly; more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month. [13] The lawsuit was dismissed and Streisand was ordered to pay Adelman's legal fees, which amounted to $155,567. [14] [15] [16]

In politics

When the French intelligence agency DCRI tried to delete Wikipedia's article about the military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute in 2013, and call it "classified", the article became the most viewed page on French Wikipedia. Base militaire de Pierre-sur-Haute.jpg
When the French intelligence agency DCRI tried to delete Wikipedia's article about the military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute in 2013, and call it "classified", the article became the most viewed page on French Wikipedia.

In November 2007, Tunisia blocked access to YouTube and Dailymotion after material was posted depicting 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". [17]

The French intelligence agency DCRI's deletion of the French-language Wikipedia article about the military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute [18] resulted in the article temporarily becoming the most-viewed page on the French Wikipedia. [19]

A 2013 libel suit by Theodore Katsanevas against a Greek Wikipedia editor resulted in members of the project bringing the story to the attention of journalists. [20]

The government of South Africa stated their intention to ban the 2017 book The President's Keepers , detailing corruption within the government of Jacob Zuma. This caused sales of the book to spike dramatically causing the book to sell out within 24 hours before the ban would supposedly be put into effect. [21] [22] This made the book a national best seller and led to multiple reprints.

A 2018 study of millions of individual responses of Chinese social media users found that sudden censorship of information by the Chinese government and its affiliates often led to mass backlashes, including newfound popularity of VPNs and the subsequent reviewing of entire topic lists on which censored subjects appear. [23] Other researchers found that the backlash tended to result in permanent changes to political attitudes and behaviors. [24]

A 2019 study of political imprisonment by the government of Saudi Arabia found that while the incarceration tended to deter individual dissidents from further dissent, it strongly emboldened their social media followers, led to a sharp increase in calls for political reform, and resulted in an increase in online dissent and physical in-person protests overall, including criticism of the ruling family and calls for regime change. [25] Such repression draws public attention to the imprisoned dissidents and their causes, and did not deter other prominent figures in Saudi Arabia from continuing to dissent online. [26]

In March 2019, California Representative Devin Nunes filed a defamation lawsuit against Twitter and three users for US$250 million in damages. One user named in the lawsuit, the parody account @DevinCow, had 1,204 followers before the lawsuit. The number of followers of @DevinCow jumped to over 282,000 by the next day, and then increased to over 454,000 the day after, significantly in excess of the 395,000 followers of Nunes. [27]

By businesses

In April 2007, a group of companies that used Advanced Access Content System (AACS) encryption issued cease-and-desist letters demanding that the system's numerical key be removed from several high-profile websites, including Digg. 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". [28] Within a month, the key had been reprinted on over 280,000 pages, had been printed on T-shirts and tattoos, and had appeared on YouTube in a song played over 45,000 times. [29]

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 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump scandal. A super-injunction prevents 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 it had been gagged from reporting on the parliamentary question, in violation of the 1689 Bill of Rights. [30] [31] 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. [32] Twitter users soon tracked down all details of the case, and by October 16, the super-injunction had been lifted and the report published. [33]

In November 2012, Casey Movers, a Boston moving company, threatened to sue a woman in Hingham District Court for libel in response to a negative Yelp review. The woman's husband wrote a blog post about the situation, which was then picked up by Techdirt [34] and Consumerist . [35] By the end of the week, the company was reviewed by the Better Business Bureau, which later revoked its accreditation. [36]

In December 2013, YouTube user ghostlyrich uploaded video proof that his Samsung Galaxy S4 battery had spontaneously caught fire. Samsung had demanded proof before honoring its warranty. Once Samsung learned of the YouTube video, it added additional conditions to its warranty, demanding ghostlyrich delete his YouTube video, promise not to upload similar material, officially absolve the company of all liability, waive his right to bring a lawsuit, and never make the terms of the agreement public. Samsung also demanded that a witness cosign the settlement proposal. When ghostlyrich shared Samsung's settlement proposal online, his original video drew 1.2 million views in one week. [37] [38]

In August 2014, it was reported that Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York, had a policy that "there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH [Union Street Guest House] placed on any Internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event." [39] The policy had been used in an attempt to suppress an unfavorable November 2013 Yelp review. [40] Thousands of negative reviews of the policy were posted to Yelp and other review sites. [41]

In September 2018, The Verge, an American technology news and media network operated by Vox Media, published an article titled "How to Build a Custom PC for Editing, Gaming or Coding" and uploaded a video to YouTube titled "How we Built a $2000 Custom Gaming PC", which was widely criticized for its numerous factual errors. [42] [43] In February 2019, Vox Media started issuing DMCA takedown notices to YouTube channels which posted content using clips from the video, most notably to technology channels Bitwit and ReviewTechUSA, [42] [44] bringing further attention to the video and the related content they attempted to suppress. [42] After an outcry following the decision, YouTube reinstated these two videos, along with retracting the copyright "strikes" applied. [45]

On 20 February 2020, Apple filed a legal complaint against the sales of the German-language book, "App Store Confidential", written by a former German App Store manager, Tom Sadowski. Apple cited confidential business information as the reason for requesting the sales ban. However, the publicity brought on by the media caused the book to reach number two on the Amazon bestseller list in Germany. The book was soon on its second print run. [46]

By other organizations

In January 2008, The Church of Scientology's attempts to get Internet websites to delete a video of Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology resulted in the creation of Project Chanology. [47] [48] [49]

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". [47] The article quickly became one of the most popular pages on the site, [50] and the publicity surrounding the IWF action resulted in the image being spread across other sites. [51] The IWF was 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". [52] This effect was also noted by the IWF in its statement about the removal of the URL from the blacklist. [53] [54]

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 a large 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. [55]

By individuals

In May 2011, Premier League footballer Ryan Giggs sued Twitter after a user revealed that Giggs was the subject of an anonymous privacy injunction (informally referred to as a "super-injunction" [56] ) 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, which were banned from breaking the terms of the injunction, had mocked the footballer for not understanding the effect. [57] 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. [58]

Similar situations involving super-injunctions in England and Wales have occurred, one involving Jeremy Clarkson. [59] Since January 2016 a celebrity (later revealed outside England and Wales to be David Furnish) used the injunction granted in PJS v News Group Newspapers to prevent media in England and Wales reporting events that have been featured in Scottish media and on the Internet. [60] [61]

A satirical play, Two Brothers and the Lions, was written by French playwright Hédi Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre, about two wealthy Britons who live in a castle on the Channel Island of Brecqhou, "who become cold, selfish monsters in the heart of our democratic societies". In reality the billionaire Barclay brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph newspaper amongst other holdings, live in a castle on the island; David Barclay sued the playwright in France for defamation and invasion of privacy, although the Barclays were not named in the play. The playwright's lawyer described the play as "a satirical fable on capitalism". Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre acknowledged that the play was partly inspired by the lives of the brothers, but defended his right to freedom of expression and said the play had been commissioned to explore the issue of the continued existence of mediaeval Norman law in the Channel Islands, while ruminating on the nature and future of capitalism. In July 2019 Barclay lost the case, though was considering an appeal. The play had been obscure and only played in small theatres, though critically acclaimed; after the lawsuit performances were scheduled in cities across France. [62]

The Guardian newspaper asserts that Bret Stephens, an American journalist, in 2019 achieved "as close to the perfect Streisand effect as one could imagine" by writing an email of complaint to David Karpf whose tweet describing Stephens as a "bedbug" had had insignificant interest; Stephens also sent the email to the provost of George Washington University where Karpf works as a professor of media and public affairs. Stephens was widely mocked on Twitter, deleted his Twitter account, and the story was picked up by the world's media. [63] [64] [65]

The Streisand effect has been observed in relation to the right to be forgotten, as a litigant attempting to remove information from search engines risks the litigation itself being reported as valid, current news. [66] [67]

See also

Related Research Articles

Injunction a legal order to stop doing something

An injunction is a legal and equitable remedy in the form of a special court order that compels a party to do or refrain from specific acts. "When a court employs the extraordinary remedy of injunction, it directs the conduct of a party, and does so with the backing of its full coercive powers." A party that fails to comply with an injunction faces criminal or civil penalties, including possible monetary sanctions and even imprisonment. They can also be charged with contempt of court. Counterinjunctions are injunctions that stop or reverse the enforcement of another injunction.

Barbra Streisand American singer, actress, writer, film producer, and director

Barbara Joan "Barbra" Streisand is an American singer, actress, and filmmaker. In a career spanning six decades, she has achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment and has been recognized with two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award, five Emmy Awards including one Daytime Emmy, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, four Peabody Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Golden Globes. She is among a small group of entertainers who have been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award – though only three were competitive awards – and is one of only three artists in that group who have also won a Peabody.

Scientology and the Internet

There are a number of disputes concerning the Church of Scientology's attempts to suppress material critical of Scientology on the Internet, utilizing various methods – primarily lawsuits and legal threats, as well as front organizations. In late 1994, the Church of Scientology began using various legal tactics to stop distribution of unpublished documents written by L. Ron Hubbard. The Church of Scientology is often accused of barratry through the filing of SLAPP suits. The official church response is that its litigious nature is solely to protect its copyrighted works and the unpublished status of certain documents.

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

EDF Energy is an integrated energy company in the United Kingdom, with operations spanning electricity generation and the sale of gas and electricity to homes and businesses throughout the United Kingdom. It employs 13,331 people, and handles 5.7 million customer accounts.

2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump

The 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump was a health crisis in Ivory Coast in which a ship registered in Panama, the Probo Koala, chartered by the Singaporean-based oil and commodity shipping company Trafigura Beheer BV, offloaded toxic waste to an Ivorian waste handling company which disposed of it at the port of Abidjan. The local contractor, a company called Tommy, dumped the waste at 12 sites in and around the city in August 2006. The dumping, which took place against a backdrop of instability in Abidjan as a result of Côte d'Ivoire's first civil war, allegedly led to the death of 7 and 20 hospitalized and the other 26000 people were being treated for symptoms of poisoning.

California Coastal Records Project

The California Coastal Records Project, founded in 2002, documents the California coastline with aerial photos taken from a helicopter flying parallel to the shore. Their webpage provides access to these images. One photo was taken every 500 feet.

Internet Watch Foundation organization

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a registered charity based in Cambridgeshire, England. It states that its remit is "to minimise the availability of online sexual abuse content, specifically child sexual abuse images and videos hosted anywhere in the world and non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK. Content inciting racial hatred was removed from the IWF's remit after a police website was set up for the purpose in April 2011. The IWF used to also take reports of criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK. This was removed from the IWF’s remit in 2017. As part of its function, the IWF says that it will "supply partners with an accurate and current URL list to enable blocking of child sexual abuse content". It has "an excellent and responsive national Hotline reporting service" for receiving reports from the public. In addition to receiving referrals from the public, its agents also proactively search the open web and deep web to identify child sexual abuse images and videos. It can then ask service providers to take down the websites containing the images or to block them if they fall outside UK jurisdiction.

Charles Carreon American trial attorney

Charles Hernan Carreon is an American trial attorney best known for his involvement in a legal dispute between The Oatmeal webcomic and content aggregator FunnyJunk. He currently represents individuals and companies in matters pertaining to Internet law.

<i>Virgin Killer</i> 1976 studio album by Scorpions

Virgin Killer is the fourth studio album by German rock band Scorpions. It was released in 1976 and was the band's first album to attract attention outside Europe. The title is described as being a reference to time as the killer of innocence. The original cover featured a nude prepubescent girl, which stirred controversy in the UK, US and elsewhere. As a result, the album was re-issued with a different cover in some countries.

Internet Watch Foundation and Wikipedia

On 5 December 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a British watchdog group, blacklisted content on the English Wikipedia related to Scorpions' 1976 studio album Virgin Killer, due to the presence of its controversial cover artwork, depicting a young girl posing nude, with a faux glass shatter obscuring her genitalia. The image was deemed to be "potentially illegal content" under English law which forbids the possession or creation of indecent photographs of children. The IWF's blacklist are used in web filtering systems such as Cleanfeed.

Techdirt is an American Internet blog that reports on technology's legal challenges and related business and economic policy issues, in context of the digital revolution. It focuses on intellectual property, patent, information privacy and copyright reform in particular.

Internet censorship in Germany

Although Internet censorship in Germany has traditionally been rated as low, it is practised directly and indirectly through various laws and court decisions. German law provides for freedom of speech and press with several exceptions, including what The Guardian has called "some of the world's toughest laws around hate speech". An example of content censored by law is the removal of web sites from Google search results that deny the holocaust, which is a felony under German law. According to the Google Transparency Report, the German government is frequently one of the most active in requesting user data after the United States.

Barbra Streisand (song) 2010 single by Duck Sauce

"Barbra Streisand" is a song by Canadian-American DJ duo Duck Sauce. It was released on 10 September 2010. The song topped the charts in Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and Switzerland and peaked within the top ten of the charts in Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On 30 November 2011, the song received a nomination at the 54th Grammy Awards for Best Dance Recording. It was also featured on Just Dance 3 for the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect.

The British privacy injunctions controversy began in early 2011, when London-based tabloid newspapers published stories about anonymous celebrities that were intended to flout what are commonly known in English law as super-injunctions, where the claimant could not be named, and carefully omitting details that could not legally be published. In April and May 2011, users of non-UK hosted websites, including the social media website Twitter, began posting material connecting various British celebrities with injunctions relating to a variety of potentially scandalous activities. Details of the alleged activities by those who had taken out the gagging orders were also published in the foreign press, as well as in Scotland, where the injunctions had no legal force.

<i>CTB v News Group Newspapers Ltd</i>

CTB v News Group Newspapers is an English legal case between Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, given the pseudonym CTB, and defendants News Group Newspapers Limited and model Imogen Thomas.

The Wikimedia Foundation has been involved in several lawsuits. Some of them have gone in favor of the Foundation, others have gone against it.

The smartphone wars or smartphone patents licensing and litigation refers to commercial struggles among smartphone manufacturers including Sony Mobile, Google, Apple Inc., Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, Huawei, LG Electronics, ZTE and HTC, by patent litigation and other means. The conflict is part of the wider "patent wars" between technology and software corporations. The patent wars occurred because a finished smartphone might involve hundreds of thousands of patents.

Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronic Co., Ltd. was the first of a series of ongoing lawsuits between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics regarding the design of smartphones and tablet computers; between them, the companies made more than half of smartphones sold worldwide as of July 2012. In the spring of 2011, Apple began litigating against Samsung in patent infringement suits, while Apple and Motorola Mobility were already engaged in a patent war on several fronts. Apple's multinational litigation over technology patents became known as part of the mobile device "smartphone patent wars": extensive litigation in fierce competition in the global market for consumer mobile communications. By August 2011, Apple and Samsung were litigating 19 ongoing cases in nine countries; by October, the legal disputes expanded to ten countries. By July 2012, the two companies were still embroiled in more than 50 lawsuits around the globe, with billions of dollars in damages claimed between them. While Apple won a ruling in its favor in the U.S., Samsung won rulings in South Korea, Japan, and the UK. On June 4, 2013, Samsung won a limited ban from the U.S. International Trade Commission on sales of certain Apple products after the commission found Apple had violated a Samsung patent, but this was vetoed by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

References

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