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The “Streisand Effect” and Child Porn

The “Streisand Effect” is alive and well as evidenced by the recent actions of the Internet Watch Foundation in retracting its objection to a Wikipedia page that contained an image of a naked girl. Story here. The image at issue is on an album cover of the heavy metal band the Scorpions dating back to 1976. Predictably, the IWF’s objection, and accompanying warning that said the page could constitute "potential illegal child sexual abuse" simply inflamed the anti-censorship crowd, and sent droves searching for the image to see what all the fuss was about. In retracting its objection, the IWF made the following statement:

"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. We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users."

The term Streisand Effect was coined by TechDirt in 2005, to describe the phenomenon whereby an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information on the Internet backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. The “Butter” gal was upset about an aerial photo of her home being made available on the Internet, and reportedly sued the photographer for $10 million. As a result of the suit, the photo was viewed by a few million more people than it ever would have been had she stuck to singing. (You can see the photo here.)

The same thing can be seen in the recent case of the law firm of Jones Day seeking to prevent BlockShopper from using its name when reporting on the value of property purchased or sold by its lawyers in the Chicago area. All of the information is publicly available. Clearly, all of the publicity surrounding the case brought way more attention to these transactions. In my view, you need to proceed with caution even if the law is on your side. The law does not appear to be on the side of Jones Day in this case. In fact, this is in the running for the most ridiculous trademark case of the year.

Then, who can forget the Nixon Peabody song? We would have never known about this gem were it not for the Streisand Effect. Enough said.

The “take-away” from all of this is to proceed with extreme caution when you see something on the Internet that you don’t like, even if you have a sound basis for proceeding (which you probably don’t). Bringing the fight will bring the attention that you would prefer to avoid in the first place.

 

Posted on Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 04:08PM by Registered CommenterTim Feathers in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

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