“Streisand effect”

Great article in The Economist about the globalvoicesonline Summit.

WHAT do Barbra Streisand and the Tunisian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, have in common? They both tried to block material they dislike from appearing on the internet. And they were both spectacularly unsuccessful. In 2003 Ms Streisand objected to aerial photographs of her home in Malibu appearing in a collection of publicly available coastline pictures. She sued (unsuccessfully) for $50m—and in doing so ensured that the pictures gained far wider publicity.

That self-defeating behaviour coined the phrase “Streisand effect”, illustrated by an axiom from John Gilmore, one of the pioneers of the internet, that: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” But the big test of the rule is not whether it frustrates publicity-shy celebrities. It is whether it can overcome governments’ desire for secrecy.

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Such issues were expected to be in sharp focus at Global Voices’ annual summit in Budapest this week, where hundreds of bloggers, academics, do-gooders and journalists from places like China, Belarus, Venezuela and Kenya were due to swap tips on how to outwit officialdom. The aim, says Ethan Zuckerman, a Harvard academic who cofounded Global Voices, is to build networks of trust and co-operation between people who would not instinctively look to the other side of the world for solutions to their problems.

That is a worthy if ambitious goal. Doubtless, authoritarian governments are in close touch too, sharing the best ways of dealing with the pestilential gadflies and troublemakers of the internet. But they will not be posting their conclusions online, for all to see. Which way works better? History will decide.

Read the full article here!

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