What is the Streisand Effect, and how does it work?

by | Jun 20, 2022 | New Identity, Rebuild Your Brand, Reputation Crisis

The “Streisand Effect,” what happens, and how to limit its effect.


The Streisand Effect in Context


On May 30th, 2003, it was announced that Barbra Streisand had filed a lawsuit against a guy for invading her privacy by sharing aerial photos of her Malibu house.

By attempting to obscure the photographs, Streisand inadvertently drew greater attention to her home. The Streisand Effect occurs when hiding something to minimize or remove visibility has the opposite effect.

Here are some of the case’s highlights: The photo was obtained as part of the California Coastal Records Project, which uses aerial photographs taken from a helicopter to chronicle erosion along the California coastline.

However, Streisand filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that the photographer did not get her permission before sharing a photo of her home, violating California’s “anti-paparazzi” law.

More than 420,000 users viewed the site within a month of filing the complaint. Attempts to suppress information online, such as the Streisand Effect, frequently make the material more popular. Blowback and astroturfing are two similar terms.

What is Blowback, and how does it work?

Streisand attempted to have the photographs taken down through the American legal system. This includes letters of cease-and-desist and other public acts. Unintended effects can sometimes occur as a result of covert actions. Any negative and frequently invisible impact is referred to as blowback. The CIA coined the term Blowback, akin to the Streisand Effect.

What exactly is Astroturfing?

Astroturfing is when a group tries to build grassroots support where it doesn’t already exist. The name is a pun on the AstroTurf brand, which is synthetic carpeting that looks like genuine grass.

Astroturfing is a technique for gaining credibility without solid backing (political, financial, or otherwise). Blowback is one of the unforeseen results of astroturfing.

Astroturfing is when politicians employ people to act as protests to generate a sense of unease. Astroturfing is known online as Fake testimonials by Bloggers who are paid to write Planned news stories aimed at changing the public’s perception of a person, company, or brand.

What Causes the Barbra Streisand Effect?

In a nutshell, whatever is made a big deal about has the potential to grow much greater. The Streisand Effect can be triggered by legal activity involving information suppression or obfuscation. In the initial case, Barbra Streisand had her attorney send cease-and-desist letters, which sparked a media frenzy.

At that moment, the image had only been viewed six times. Because many perceived her activities as destructive to freedom of speech, her lawsuit against the California Coastal Records Project sparked a media avalanche that went viral.

Even though the case was ultimately dismissed, Streisand’s privacy was significantly more jeopardized than it would have been if she had not filed the lawsuit in the first place. The Streisand Effect can even be applied to Google.

For example, they deleted the Google Glass Facebook page and other web references. The internet took note immediately, and fingers flew across keyboards as articles poured in at a breakneck pace.

The Streisand Effect in Action

Video of Glenn BeckDue to the launch of a website called GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com, Glenn Beck’s search results returned “Glenn Beck Murder” in 2009 (no longer active).

Glenn Beck filed a lawsuit, and the internet replied, creating a frightening film about him. Because parody is not a commercial context, it is permissible, and the video remains online.

Unflattering Photos of Beyonce. Beyonce experienced the Streisand Effect. Her PR team demanded that Buzzfeed remove several unflattering photos of her posted on the site and use better ones instead.

Buzzfeed, instead of cooperating, made the request public. Remember that Buzzfeed’s primary goal is to attract people; the letter was their ticket to viral fame. Of course, the internet reacted unpleasantly.

Batteries for Samsung Galaxy

Ghostlyrich, a YouTube user, released video evidence of his Samsung Galaxy S4 battery spontaneously catching fire in December 2013. Before honouring its warranty, Samsung had demanded proof.

Following the discovery of the YouTube video, Samsung added additional restrictions to its promise, requiring ghostlyrich to erase his video, vow not to upload similar material, publicly relieve Samsung of all obligations, forgo his right to sue, and never make the terms of the agreement public. Samsung’s attempt to hide the video did not reduce viewership but increased it.

How to Avoid the Barbra Streisand Effect

Suppressing internet content can be difficult, and you always risk bringing additional attention to the content you’re attempting to hide. There are, however, a few ways to manipulate search results in your favour without travelling to the source of any undesirable content.

Here are some internet content suppression dos and don’ts:

  • DO look for uplifting content that already exists. Concentrate your promotion efforts on existing positive material. This can help to vary search results and divert attention away from the undesirable stuff.
  • DO offer more positive content to your website and relevant third-party sites.
  • DO NOT FILE A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE PERSON. Avoid legal action if at all possible. This frequently incites further rage in the original poster, prompting them to reveal details of any accusations filed, thus strengthening and popularising their initial content.
  • Check for Google’s Terms of Service breaches. Under specific circumstances, Google will remove content from its search results.

The Minefield of Online Reputation

Whether it’s pleasant letters or defamation threats, the internet goes insane at the mere suggestion of control. People appear to believe that all information should be freely available. And, in this post-privacy era, when online reputation is more crucial than ever, we’re all on the verge of losing control of our lives online.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Streisand Effect

What is the Streisand Effect, and how does it work?

The Streisand Effect occurs when hiding something to decrease or eliminate visibility has the opposite effect. Blowback and astroturfing are similar terms.

What is the definition of blowback?

Blowback is the unexpected repercussions of attempting to conceal or erase an event’s visibility.

What is astroturfing, and how does it work?

Astroturfing is when a group tries to build grassroots support where it doesn’t already exist. It is also when politicians employ people to act as protests to generate a sense of unease. Fake reviews, the opinions of paid bloggers, and planted news items are all examples of astroturfing used online to influence how the public perceives a person, company, or brand.

Amicus International Consulting can evaluate, respond, contain, and mitigate a “Streisand effect” event. Contact us, we can help you.