What Is The Streisand Effect? (History, Causes, Example)

Streisand Effect In Details

Hello, digital detectives and curious cats! Have you ever stumbled upon a juicy piece of information that someone tried really hard to keep under wraps, only to find it everywhere you look? Welcome to the intriguing world of the Streisand Effect!

The Streisand effect is a social phenomenon that Barbra Streisand and American entertainers proposed. When attempting to hide or remove or in some way censor information, it has the unintended consequence of publicizing it instead and bringing it to everyone’s attention.

The Streisand effect is when trying to suppress something causes even more attention to that particular thing. It’s like a domino effect where information spreads like a chain of reactions. Then, anybody can easily go viral on the fastest internet and social media.

In today’s post, we’re about to peel back the layers of this internet phenomenon where attempts to hide, remove, or censor information only amplify it. So, buckle up and grab your digital magnifying glass; we’re diving into a story that sometimes, trying to push something out of sight can bring it right into the spotlight.

History of the Streisand Effect

Let’s look at the namesake of the effect itself, Barbra Streisand. In 2003, photographer Kenneth Edelman took 12,000 photos of the California coastline to help document coastal erosion. One of those photos was of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu mansion. Streisand sued unsuccessfully to have the photo removed from the public collection.

The effect was simple. Before the lawsuit, the photo had been downloaded six times publicly, two by Streisand’s attorney. The photo was downloaded by people nearly half a million times! Endless mischief makers would dedicate themselves to propagating information that someone wanted to be hidden. It does seem logical that as the internet grows, as long as it remains primarily unregulated,

What is the Streisand effect?

The Streisand effect observes that some efforts to suppress information can sometimes have the opposite effect. In other words, attempting to suppress information or commentary, especially on the internet, can sometimes draw more attention to that information than it would have received otherwise. It has been noted as creating a potential dilemma for possible litigants in certain cases, including defamation cases.

When an attempt to hide, suppress, or censor certain information leads to unintended, extensive publicity, the phenomenon occurs when an attempt to hide, suppress, or censor certain information. It is claimed that Barbara’s attempt at suppressing her Malibu residents’ photographs resulted in the photographs going viral on the Internet. Her fans got upset when she tried taking legal action against the unlawful breach of privacy.

Within a month, almost half a million people had access to the pictures. Before Barbra filed a lawsuit, not many people had seen the photograph. But once the news of the legal action broke, millions of people started online. The picture proliferated in online channels and forums. Streisand and her lawyers inadvertently brought attention to what they wanted to suppress.

Attempts to censor information are often made through seizing and assisting letters. But instead of being suppressed, the information receives exorbitant publicity and media coverage in the form of videos and spoof songs, which can be mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing platforms. Their application becomes impossible to regulate as a Web server gets a new file and is constantly queried by the search engines.

The web cache is updated with the location of the new file. That is impossible to erase. The Streisand effect is a vivid example of psychological resistance, wherein people are aware that some information is being kept from them. They’re significantly more determined to access and share that information. It implies that trying so hard to hide something makes it more visible, especially if you’re a superstar.

Efforts to suppress a juicy piece of online information can backfire and end up making things worse for the would-be Senso – The Economist.

Social media has become the way of life, a bomb of information that can explode in time. When someone tries hard to hide something, it explodes all the more. How news circulates on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has become a commanding factor in protest movements, national elections, and commercial brands’ rise and fall. There is no denying that people are hooked on their social media handles, waiting to obsess over the latest gossip. No matter how irrelevant it is today.

Social media is the world’s biggest and most efficient copying machine. Put a document onto a connected network, and it will increase. The Internet’s irony is that when you want to be famous, you can’t. But you cannot if you find yourself in the spotlight and want to erase yourself.

The evidence lingers on the latest circulating information trend, and trending news on social media includes making and sharing means. It has become not only popular among youngsters but also among the working class. It becomes a global obsession no matter what celebrities, influencers, or politicians do or say. A new meme is born. A Web user and his information are like a grizzly and game between them. And you’re likely to get mauled.

The web is like the mythical Hydra cut off one of its many heads, and two will grow back in its place, said Adoni Kevin Bankston. While reviewing the series of Bhumibol Zion clips portraying the king as a clown, various types of animals, and pedophiles.

Causes of the Streisand Effect

There are 4 main reasons for the Streisand effect. They are:

  1. One is the social and human aspects of sharing information from one to the other.
  2. The second one is the speed of social velocity. It’s how fast the information travels from one person to the next.
  3. The third is the reach of the information or the spread of information. How far it goes, the distance it travels, and how many people see it.
  4. The fourth one is bridging other networks. For it to be successful, the content has not only to spread but spread to other networks.

Filing a lawsuit seeking to remove speech is often a dilemma. Also, it is particularly common with defamation suits. That’s certainly not the only context that it can come up with. It can also arise in a breach of the non-disclosure agreement when considering filing a lawsuit that seeks to remove speech or communications from public view. It risks drawing more attention to it than it would be.

This risk can sometimes be worth it, especially if the speech is already notorious and widely known. However, it creates a dilemma, especially if the speech would otherwise be relatively unknown.

Streisand Effect on Politics

The Streisand Effect in politics refers to a phenomenon where an attempt to suppress, hide, or censor information leads to the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. Named after American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, who 2003 attempted to suppress photographs of her residence, thereby inadvertently drawing more attention to it, the Streisand Effect highlights how efforts to restrict or conceal information backfire, resulting in increased public interest and dissemination.

In political contexts, the Streisand Effect can manifest in various scenarios, such as:

Government Censorship: When a government or political entity tries to ban or censor specific news stories, documents, or information from being publicized, the act of censorship itself generates more interest, leading to wider dissemination of the suppressed material across alternative media platforms and social networks.

Legal Actions: Politicians or political organizations may attempt to use legal actions to suppress unflattering news reports, documentaries, or leaks about their activities. Such legal attempts not only often fail to suppress the information but also highlight the issue, drawing public attention and scrutiny.

Social Media and Digital Campaigns: Efforts by political figures or institutions to remove or deplatform content from social media result in increased visibility and sharing of that content as users rally against what they perceive as censorship or infringement on free speech.

Streisand Effect Example

One of the most notable examples of the Streisand Effect occurred in 2004, involving the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the search engine Google. The DOJ requested Google to hand over anonymized search records to help it defend the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). Google resisted the request, leading to a legal battle that was initially not widely reported.

However, when the legal dispute became public, there was a significant surge in media coverage and public interest, not just about the case itself but also concerning issues of privacy, government surveillance, and the extent of access the government should have to individuals’ online activities. The attempt to quietly obtain the data thus led to widespread public debate and concern over privacy rights and government overreach, drawing far more attention to the issue than if the request had not been challenged or had been complied with quietly.

This incident exemplifies the Streisand Effect by demonstrating how attempts to conduct matters out of public view can lead to unexpected and increased public scrutiny and backlash, especially when it involves sensitive issues like privacy and government surveillance.

We hope this journey has left you with a deeper understanding of digital dynamics and perhaps a chuckle or two at the irony of it all. The next time you see something going viral for trying not to be seen, you’ll know exactly what’s happening.

Thanks for joining us on this enlightening adventure through the digital landscape. Keep your eyes peeled and your minds open; who knows what you’ll uncover next? Until our next exploration, keep sharing, questioning, and, most importantly, enjoying the wonders of the web!

Learn more:

Facts Of Mandela Effect

Facts Of Boomerang Effect

What Is Bystander Effect?

Study Of Barnum Effect


Canton, David. “Today’s Business Law: Attempt to suppress can backfire.” London Free Press.
Burnett, Dean. “Why government censorship [in no way at all carries greater risks than benefits.” The Guardian. London.

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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