Write about intriguing psychological phenomena.

What is the Streisand Effect? Know the Ideology Behind the Same

What is the Streisand Effect?
The Internet has always been a playground for all kinds of people, governed by rather unusual rules. Rules that don't really make any sense at first, but actually point out the deviousness of the human mind. One such 'rule' is called the Streisand effect.
Arun Prabhu
Last Updated: Jul 14, 2017
Reverse psychology can certainly be one of the most commonly occurring and entertaining mental phenomenon. If performed right, one can get almost anything done from others. The same principle applies when one tries to hide something, or tries to defend oneself from seemingly menial remarks. Why do you think WikiLeaks is hailed by the public and attacked by the Government? Because WikiLeaks forms one of the biggest examples of the act of trying to reveal something that is desperately hidden. Now that is only an indirect example of the Streisand effect. A full blown analogy would be where the entire public itself tries to uncover something that someone doesn't want you to see.
Definition of the Streisand Effect
A phenomenon in which attempting to suppress information attracts even more unwanted attention, thereby increasing its magnitude of exposure.
Although the degree of the original exposure doesn't matter, a lot of cases that fall under the Streisand effect can be considered to be small and irrelevant in the long run, if they had gone uncontested. It is only after the attempt to hide, that the matter is blown ridiculously out of proportion. In the Age of the Internet where the public wants to know (and the media gladly complies and encourages) everything from celebrity underwear to the secret NASA space programs, the Streisand effect has found a permanent place, thanks to people who underestimate it.
Streisand's Incident
We can find similar examples throughout history, to be frank. Yet why is it that this phenomenon is named after one of the contemporary celebrities? Well it has a lot to do with the celebrity's fame, and the fact that the incident happened with comedic results.

It all started in 2003. Photographer Kenneth Adelman was given the responsibility of clicking photos of the California coastline for signs of coastal erosion. Image 3850 on the California Coastal Records Project is just one of the 12,000 such photos taken by Kenneth. It just so happened that the photo included the Malibu beach house of Barbra Streisand. Her lawyers found out about the photo and immediately sent a cease-and-desist letter to the respective office and ordered them to take the photo off their site. The site refused, and Barbra sued. The court dismissed the case, but the issue became instantly popular, and now everyone wanted to see the photograph.

What makes the story even more remarkable is the fact that the image was previously downloaded from that site a mere six times, two of which were by Streisand's lawyers! And after the lawsuit the photograph was viewed by more than 420,000 visitors. And that is why Mike Masnick from Techdirt called the phenomenon, the Streisand effect.
Psychology Behind the Streisand Effect
There really isn't much to debate here. This class act of reverse psychology takes the cake simply because although it's so obvious, it flawlessly occurs every time. I mean come on(!), if I told you don't see what's in the secret shiny box wrapped in gift paper, you're going to do everything in your power to do exactly that! If a kid tells his playground bullies to stop calling him a name, they are going to yell it out at him. Just realizing that knowing something about someone is detrimental to their status and respectability, we will want to know that piece of information. This is one bit of human nature that lawyers should be well-acquainted with, but a few of them fail to grasp it.
There is no shortage of examples of the effect. You may personally try to recollect such instances in your own life, or the life of an acquaintance. Here are some examples with relatively simple beginnings and rather hellish outcomes. At least for the targets.
Nine-year-old schoolgirl Martha Payne created a simple blog called 'NeverSeconds'. She intended to make posts about the meals that her school served everyone. For her first post, she took a photo of what was barely a filling meal by anyone's standards. With the photo, she filled a comment, "The good thing about this blog is Dad understands why I am hungry when I get home." It was not her intent to 'expose' the problem, in fact I don't even think she saw it as an actual problem. But as the blog got a few hits from family and neighbors, they demanded the authority concerned, the Argyll and Bute Council, for a full briefing of the problem. The incident became local and successively international news. But it did not go too far, until the Argyll and Bute Council banned little Martha from taking pictures of the school meals and posting it on her blog. Once the media found this out (Martha had posted a supposedly final post called 'Goodbye', explaining everything), things went from bad to worse for the council. Meanwhile, the blog now has more than 9.5 million page views. Martha even got to meet the famous chef Jamie Oliver. She expanded her blog by including pictures of school meals taken by other kids from all over the world, like Germany and Japan.
The McLibel case, officially known as 'McDonald's Corporation v Steel & Morris', was the longest-running case in English history. The whole thing started in 1986 and ended in 2005.
Members of the London Greenpeace, Helen Steel and David Morris, along with a few others, began distributing pamphlets titled What's Wrong with McDonald's: Everything they don't want you to know. It revealed certain aspects of the fast-food chain that could be considered bad for their image. Indeed, two of the allegations were 'torture and murder of animals' and 'exploitation of workers and banning of unions'. McDonald's Corporation did not like it, and sued them for libel.
The original reach of the campaigners was almost nothing: they were distributing pamphlets at just one outlet in the U.K., out of thousands. It would barely have turned the heads of about a handful of people who the pamphlets were handed out to. But thanks to some witless "assistance" by McDonald's, the allegations got international coverage. Now everyone knew about what the complaints were. In fact, the ruling judge concluded that some of the points on the pamphlet were quite true. McDonald's and its army of lawyers were up against two people who could barely come up with enough money to fight their case, and the whole world knew about it.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show in February 2013 had Beyoncé performing some of her most famous tracks. Now when press photographers take pictures at live events, it's obvious that some photographs are not really meant to be shown to the public. Stars in unflattering light is never appreciated by the stars, but can be made into something weirdly popular by the media. So when a site posted all such awkward photos of Beyoncé's performance, her promoters hated them, and ordered the site to take them down. But wouldn't you know it, the public thronged the page to see all that Beyoncé was not supposed to look like.
Trafigura is a Dutch trading company, which was involved in a toxic waste dump case in Ivory Coast, West Africa. The company openly claimed that the waste was harmless and would pose no threat. Soon, thousands of people started getting sick and a reported 17 people died of poisoning. Trafigura was sued for negligence and a legal battle followed. The issue was largely unnoticed by the media except for The Guardian. Trafigura thought it would be smart to file for a "secret" super-injunction against The Guardian, banning them from ever mentioning the incident in their paper. The press agency complied, but proceeded to publish an article that revealed that they were unable to provide hidden information to the public about a "certain company" and a "certain incident". Other papers quickly deduced that the culprit was Trafigura. What followed was a large-scale information distribution of everything that Trafigura was trying to hide. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
Art, literature, and music have always given prime examples of the Streisand effect. If your parents tell you not to listen to Judas Priest, you're going to listen to them. One of the best examples include the rock band Scorpions.
In 1976, Scorpions came out with an album called "Virgin Killer". The cover album included a model under 18 years of age, posing nude. The Wikipedia article for the same album included this cover image. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) put the Wikipedia page in their child pornography blacklist. When the IWF displayed the list in 2008, the album's page became one of Wikipedia's most popular one. The IWF acknowledged this effect and immediately removed the page from their list.
Citizen Kane
The final example in the article is actually a reversal of the Streisand effect. The movie's lead character, Charles Foster Kane, was largely based on William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a very powerful and influential newspaper tycoon. When he found out about Citizen Kane, he flipped, and wanted the movie to be shut down. But of course, telling people not to watch the movie would only make them want to watch it even more, is what William Hearst thought. So instead of banning the movie, he forbade anyone to publish reviews and photographs in the newspaper, or even mention the movie's name in public. It worked quite well; Citizen Kane bombed, thanks to Hearst's considerable reach. Despite that, the movie did gain favorable reviews in papers Hearst had no control over, and as history has it, the movie became one of the most important works in all of cinema.
Man has experienced the Streisand effect ever since the birth of mass communication. Indeed, one of the oldest known ones was when the Vatican banned Copernicus' book, 'De revolutionibus orbium coelestium' in 1616, and instantly a reprinted version was issued. Some people even try to manipulate the results of the Streisand effect, trying to achieve defamation by higher peers and the consequent attention. Well, if you can't be famous, you can still be infamous!