The ‘Streisand Effect’

There was a rather interesting blog post today from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, touting the latest additions to their Takedown Hall of Shame. This site lists those who in the opinion of the EFF have attempted to use false trademark or copyright claims to suppress online speech, criticism, or parody.

The EFF relates these attempts at shutting down freedom of expression to what has come to be known as the Streisand Effect, defined as “the phenomenon by which an attempt to suppress information results in faster, broader dissemination of that information.”

The phenomenon gets its name from attempts in 2003 by the actress and singer Barbra Streisand to have aerial photographs documenting coastal erosion that included her seaside residence removed from public access on the Web. To quote Wikipedia’s account, “as a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased substantially and it became popular on the Internet, with more than 420,000 people visiting the site over the next month”.

Not surprisingly, those enshrined in the Hall of Shame represent those with perceived political philosophies and alignments that traverse the ideological spectrum. Where else might you see a diamond cartel and an energy company listed along with NPR?

The EFF has done some genuinely great work over the last several years, preserving fair use and online speech rights in several cases around the country and the world. The campaign that they are using to identify and promote their efforts in this area is called No Downtime for Free Speech. Indeed..

For those of you interested in a current example of such a dispute in progress, a certain outerwear manufacturer has taken exception to an anti-consumerist college freshman’s take on the popularity of their brand. Click here to find out more.

Of course, there’s not much that can be done when a private organization chooses to censor itself, or put blinders on that prevent the complete observation and/or reporting of certain events, for whatever reason. More about that soon…

There is a glimpse of the sun and some (perhaps fleeting) warmth in the air.

Have a great day.

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