streisand-effect

Streisand Effect In A Nutshell

The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect. 

Understanding the Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect was named for American actress and singer Barbara Streisand.

In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. 

As part of the study, an image of Streisand’s private residence had been uploaded to a database where it had been viewed just six times. After a barrage of cease-and-desist letters, the case received public attention, and the image was subsequently viewed over a million times. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect. 

The Streisand Effect highlights the inability of suppression to prevent information spread. This inability is at least partly explained by the internet because most users tend to revolt against censored information. As a result, they are more likely to access and then share information if they know it is actively being suppressed.

The Streisand Effect in business

An unsatisfied customer sharing their opinion on social media is a classic example of the Streisand Effect. 

Many businesses shy away from addressing concerns in a public forum by ignoring the feedback or pretending that it doesn’t exist. 

However, one comment from an unsatisfied customer that remains unresolved is likely to attract attention from others. They may query why the business seems so uninterested in customer care and then consider leaving a negative comment of their own.

This draws further attention to the problem, creating a chain reaction of negative sentiment that damages or even erases brand image and equity.

Avoiding the Streisand effect in business

Businesses without public relations or customer service protocols can be vulnerable to the Streisand Effect.

In countering the effect, organizations must work with the phenomenon and not against it. 

They must also adopt the “prevention is better than the cure” philosophy.

In the previous example, the business must respond to the first negative comment as a matter of priority. Any attempt to suppress the feedback has the potential to be much more damaging to the company long-term.

Businesses that require assistance in avoiding the Streisand Effect can employ the services of firms that specialize in web-centric crisis management. These firms understand the dynamics of information spread online and can suggest appropriate ways of confronting negative publicity.

Key takeaways

  • The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical action where trying to censor, suppress, or hide information leads to it becoming more visible.
  • The Streisand Effect was named for Barbara Streisand, whose attempts to suppress images of her private residence resulted in the images being viewed over a million times.
  • The Streisand Effect can be avoided in business by establishing protocols relating to customer service and public relations. Organizations must not attempt to hide or suppress information they see as damaging to their brand. Often, the effects of suppression are far worse than tackling the problem head-on.

Connected Business Concepts

Heuristics

heuristic
As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

bounded-rationality
Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Second-Order Thinking

second-order-thinking
Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

lateral-thinking
Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Biases

biases
The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

dunning-kruger-effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

occams-razor
Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

mandela-effect
The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

crowding-out-effect
The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

bandwagon-effect
The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What is marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger

Read Next: Heuristics, Biases.

Main Guides:

Main Case Studies:

Scroll to Top
FourWeekMBA