The Streisand Effect

The Streisand effect is a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicising that information.

It is named after Barbra Streisand who attempted in 2003 to suppress photographs taken of her house in Malibu.

She sued an aerial photographer who took the photo (for the California Coastal Records Project – a landmark photographic database of over 12,000 frames of the California coast shot since 2002) but her legal action for an invasion of privacy was later dismissed under California law.

Before this, her house’s image had only been downloaded 6 times but after the case was headline news the site where the photo had been published was visited 420,000 in a month and then millions of times thereafter.

Streisand’s privacy was, as a result of her legal action, far more compromised than it would have been had she not brought the suit in the first place.

The act of trying to suppress information can simply make it more widespread as a result. Ask any ‘celeb’ or politician that has fallen from grace as a result of some gaffe on their ‘socials’ and it will backfire.

There are times when unintended consequences happen when you take steps to be covert. Attempts at censorship end up being counterproductive.

Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing at all and let the moment pass and hope that it will fizzle out.

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