Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Streisand effect

This is a new term to me. It was used over on simra.net in reference to the attempt by students at Wilfred Laurier University to dictate to the Laurier Freethought Alliance [Follow-up on the WLU controversy]. I had to look up the term on Wikipedia.

Just in case there are any other old people out there, here's the definition.
The "Streisand effect" is a term used to describe a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove (in particular, by the means of cease-and-desist letters) a certain piece of information (for example, a photograph, a file, or even a whole website) backfires. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks in a short period of time.[1][2] Mike Masnick said he jokingly coined the term in January 2005, “to describe [this] increasingly common phenomenon.”[3] The effect is related to John Gilmore's observation that, "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

The term Streisand effect originally referred to a 2003 incident in which Barbra Streisand sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for US$50 million in an attempt to have the aerial photo of her house removed from the publicly available collection of twelve thousand California coastline photographs, citing privacy concerns.[4][5][1] Adelman claims he was photographing beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the California Coastal Records Project.[6] Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News later noted that the picture of Streisand’s house was popular on the Internet.


  1. I love the "lines" tilting to the right in the cliff. Is that a result of earthquake activity? They extend to the sand, too. Very cool cliff.
    Sorry, OT.

  2. That house is Beautiful.I saw the location in earth explorer and theres a lot of big houses around her house.

  3. The rock layers dip (are tilted) to the right. Since most sedimentary layers are deposited horizontally, tectonic activity must be invoked here. Probably uplift and folding and faulting are all involved in the region. Note that some sedimentary beds are originally deposited as cross bedding (unlikely here).

  4. I have to insert here that it's surprising to read that definition- I have always thought of the effect as describing the effectiveness of the internet at engaging in vigilante justice- pushing the outrage meter past the baseline. The definition actually refers explicitly to internet censorship, which is only tangentially related to the WLU case. We need some other effect to describe what happens when someone does something that provokes a concerted reaction from a sizeable internet-based community. The WLU effect!