The Streisand Effect: When Internet Censorship Backfires

Lebron and Erin Andrews learned this week that attempts to stop a leak can have the opposite effect.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

The highly anticipated video of LeBron James getting dunked on leaked Wednesday, despite Nike and LeBron's attempts to keep it under wraps. In other weekly pop culture news, the Erin Andrews "peeping tom" video also leaked, gaining major exposure thanks to ESPN's legal team. In both cases, the corporate push for surpression had the opposite effect, giving the videos the extra publicity they needed to go fully viral. This unintended effect happens so often on the Internet that it has an official name:

The Streisand Effect refers to "an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires... [and] instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks (Wikipedia)."

See you learn a new term everyday. Hit the jump for the Complex's history of the Streisand Effect, when censorship failed, and everyone got a look, listen, and feel of the supposedly "banned" content...

2003: The Start. Barbara Streisand sues the California Coastal Records Project
• Silly Babs. The Streisand Effect gets its name for Barbara Streisand's suit over an image the California Coastal Records Project held on its site. The Coastal Records Project is/was a photographic database of over 12,000 frames of the California coast and the suit asserts that the image that included her Malibu home violated the "anti-paparazzi" statute. Thanks to the publicity around the suit, everyone had a look at her house, and a phenomenon was born.

2004: EMI tries to squash the Grey Album
• Danger Mouse was a relatively unknown producer until one day he decided to mix up samples from the Beatles White Album under lyrics from Jay-Z's Black Album. College students went nuts with it on Napster and the New Yorker reviewed it glowingly. But it wasn't until EMI, who owned the rights to the White Album, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Danger Mouse and to stores that were selling the mixtape that the album reached critical mass. This lead to a protest known as Grey Tuesday, where close to 200 websites posted the album for 24 hours as an act of protest. More than 100,000 copies of the album were downloaded, totaling over a million individual tracks. Thanks to EMI, Danger Mouse's projected career got a jumpstart, allowing him to go crazy.

2006: Daniela Cicarelli tries to stop her sex tape from leaking
• Ohhh sex tapes. If you want something to disappear, you shouldn't start making a giant iFuss over it. Especially if we've never heard of you. Oh wait, you're a super hot Brazillian? Wait, what's the link? Daniela Cicarelli lost a GM endorsement contract because of the video, and following the suit, Brazil's Supreme Court ordered YouTube to find a way to permanently block the intimate video from being uploaded on its servers. Hahahahahaha yeah.fucking.right. Silly girl, next time, make the video yourself.

2007: Beyonce falls down the stairs
• This isn't the most solid example of the Streisand effect, but the video is too awesome not to re-link. Sony BMG tried to get this video of Beyonce falling down the stairs during a July 2007 concert in Orlando removed, and got the video taken down from a few of the bigger sites, but the Internet doesn't let things go away. One could make the case that Sony's attempt to get personal videos banned increased the press surrounding it, but Beyonce is such a huge star that this thing was going to be giant in the viral video world anyway.

2008: The Church of Scientology tries to make Tom Cruise seem sane
• On January 14, 2008, a Tom Cruise Scientology video leaked of the actor just kind of talking about Scientology. Whatever, right? Tom Cruise is just a crazy asshole. But then the Church got all freaked out and started taking it down. Of course everyone went, "Wait, what?" and then we all watched it again and actually listened, and now we really know that that whole thing is nuts.
2006-2009: Everyone tries to stop Pirate Bay
• In 2006, Entertainment executives were super psyched that they got Pirate Bay shut down, stopping illegal downloads and pirating of content. Great job guys. For three days. The news surrounding the shutdown worked as free advertising for the site. Several countries acted similarly, generating news stories and driving traffic to the Swedish website, until the founders were finally arrested this year. Unfortunately for the idiots at giant companies, the site is still up, and these dudes will be selling it for a gabillion dollars this August. Thanks lawyers!

2009: LeBron James tries to keep you from seeing him get dunked on
• The thing is, this would have been just a whatever moment if they had just let it go. Now everyone in the world has watched the LeBron dunk video, and just in case you haven't and want to get in on this Streisand Effect shit, click play and enjoy above.

Latest in Pop Culture