The Streisand Effect: Internet’s Karma?

Hotel fines $500 for every bad review posted online!

 

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A hotel in tony Hudson, NY, has found a novel way to keep negative reviews off Yelpand other sites — fine any grousing guests.

The Union Street Guest House, near Catskills estates built by the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, charges couples who book weddings at the venue $500 for every bad review posted online by their guests.

“Please know that despite the fact that wedding couples love Hudson and our inn, your friends and families may not,” reads an online policy. “If you have booked the inn for a wedding or other type of event . . . and given us a deposit of any kind . . . there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review . . . placed on any internet site by anyone in your party.”

If you take down the nasty review, you’ll get your money back.

For any bad reviews that do make it online, the innkeepers aggressively post “mean spirited nonsense,” and “she made all of this up.”

In response to a review complaining of rude treatment over a bucket of ice, the proprietors shot back: “I know you guys wanted to hang out and get drunk for 2 days and that is fine. I was really really sorry that you showed up in the summer when it was 105 degrees . . . I was so so so sorry that our ice maker and fridge were not working and not accessible.”

Well, turns out that the idea backfired. Thie insane policy made it to the Internet and the hotel is getting hundreds of bad reviews, such as this one:

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So, why is this called the Streisand Effect?

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has theunintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.

It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently generated further publicity of it. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters to suppress numbers, files, and websites. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored across the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term after Streisand unsuccessfully sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for violation of privacy. The US$50 million lawsuit endeavored to remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs. Adelman photographed the beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the California Coastal Records Project, which was intended to influence government policymakers. Before Streisand filed her lawsuit, “Image 3850” had been downloaded from Adelman’s website only six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand’s attorneys.As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased substantially; more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month.

We’ll spare you the search: here is the pic Barbra tried to remove:

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Additional notable examples:

  • In April 2007, an attempt at blocking an Advanced Access Content System (AACS) key from being disseminated on Digg caused an uproar when cease-and-desist letters demanded the code be removed from several high-profile websites. This led to the key’s proliferation across other sites and chat rooms in various formats, with one commentator describing it as having become “the most famous number on the Internet”. Within a month, the key had been reprinted on over 280,000 pages, had been printed on T-shirts and tattoos, and had appeared on YouTube in a song played over 45,000 times.
  • In November 2007, Tunisia blocked access to YouTube and Dailymotion after material was posted of Tunisian political prisoners. Activists and their supporters then started to link the location of then-President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s palace on Google Earth to videos about civil liberties in general. The Economist said this “turned a low-key human-rights story into a fashionable global campaign”.
  • In January 2008, The Church of Scientology’s unsuccessful attempts to get Internet websites to delete a video of Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology resulted in the creation of Project Chanology.
  • On December 5, 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) added the English Wikipedia article about the 1976 Scorpions album Virgin Killer to a child pornography blacklist, considering the album’s cover art “a potentially illegal indecent image of a child under the age of 18”. The article quickly became one of the most popular pages on the site, and the publicity surrounding the censorship resulted in the image being spread across other sites. The IWF was later reported on the BBC News website to have said “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”. This effect was also noted by the IWF in its statement about the removal of the URL from the blacklist. Other examples of attempts to remove content from Wikipedia resulting in a wider viewership of the content include the French intelligence agencyDCRI’s deletion of the French language Wikipedia article about the Military radio station of Pierre-sur-Haute, resulting in the article becoming the most viewed page on the French Wikipedia as of April 6, 2013., and a 2013 libel suit by Theodore Katsanevas.
  • In September 2009, multi-national oil company Trafigura obtained a super-injunction to prevent The Guardian newspaper from reporting on an internal Trafigura investigation into the 2006 Côte d’Ivoire toxic waste dump scandal, and also from reporting on even the existence of the injunction. Using parliamentary privilege, Labour MP Paul Farrelly referred to the super-injunction in a parliamentary question, and on October 12, 2009, The Guardian reported that it had been gagged from reporting on the parliamentary question, in violation of the 1688 Bill of Rights. Blogger Richard Wilson correctly identified the blocked question as referring to the Trafigura waste dump scandal, after which The Spectator suggested the same. Not long after, Trafigura began trending on Twitter, helped along by Stephen Fry’s retweeting the story to his followers. Twitter users soon tracked down all details of the case, and by October 16, the super-injunction had been lifted and the report published.
  • In December 2010, the website WikiLeaks was the subject of DoS attacks and rejection from ISPs as a consequence of the United States cable leaks. People sympathetic to WikiLeaks’ cause voluntarily mirrored the website in order to make it impossible for any one person to completely remove the cables. 
  • In May 2011, Premier League footballer Ryan Giggs sued Twitter after a user revealed that he was the subject of an anonymous privacy injunction (informally referred to as a “super-injunction”) that prevented the publication of details regarding an alleged affair with model and former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas. A blogger for the Forbes website observed that the British media, which were banned from breaking the terms of the injunction, had mocked the footballer for not understanding the effect. The Guardian subsequently posted a graph detailing—without naming the player—the number of references to the player’s name against time, showing a large spike following the news that the player was seeking legal action.
  • In June 2012, Argyll and Bute council banned a nine-year-old primary school pupil from updating her blog, NeverSeconds, with photos of lunchtime meals served in the school’s canteen. The blog, which was already popular, started receiving an immense number of views due to the international media furor that followed the ban. Within days, the council reversed its decision under immense public pressure and scrutiny. After the reversal of the ban, the blog became more popular than it was before.
  • In November 2012, Casey Movers, a Boston-based moving company, threatened to sue a woman in Hingham District Court for libel in response to a negativeYelp review. The woman’s husband wrote a blog post about the situation which was then picked up by Techdirt and The Consumerist as well as theReddit community. By the end of the week, the company was being reviewed by the Better Business Bureau (which revoked its accreditation) and Yelp forastroturfing reviews.
  • In December 2013, YouTube user ghostlyrich uploaded video proof that his Samsung Galaxy S4 battery had spontaneously caught fire. Samsung had demanded proof before honoring its warranty. Once Samsung learned of the YouTube video, it added additional conditions to its warranty, demanding ghostlyrich delete his YouTube video, promise not to upload similar material, officially absolve the company of all liability, waive his right to bring a lawsuit, and never make the terms of the agreement public. Samsung also demanded that a witness cosign the settlement proposal. When ghostlyrich shared Samsung’s settlement proposal online, his original video drew 1.2 million views in one week.

 

 

 

 

 

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