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. 

Streisand EffectThe Streisand Effect is a phenomenon in which an attempt to suppress or remove information or content from the public eye, typically on the internet, backfires and results in the information or content receiving even more attention.
Origin of the TermThe term “Streisand Effect” originated in 2003 when singer and actress Barbra Streisand sued a photographer to remove an aerial photo of her residence from a public collection of coastline photos.
Public AttentionWhen individuals or organizations try to suppress information, it often draws widespread public attention, often through social media, news coverage, and discussions, thereby achieving the opposite of their intended goal.
Factors ContributingSeveral factors contribute to the Streisand Effect, including curiosity of the public, the spread of information online, and the perception of censorship or attempts to limit freedom of expression.
Online AmplificationThe internet and social media platforms can amplify the Streisand Effect significantly. Attempts to remove or censor content often lead to rapid sharing, making the information even more visible and widely known.
ExamplesNumerous examples of the Streisand Effect include cases of celebrities trying to remove embarrassing photos, companies attempting to silence criticism, and governments trying to suppress dissenting voices.
Lessons LearnedThe Streisand Effect serves as a lesson in the digital age that attempts at suppression may be counterproductive. It underscores the importance of transparency, communication, and addressing issues openly rather than attempting to hide them.

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.

Case studies

  • Political Scandals: When politicians attempt to suppress information or news stories related to scandals or controversies, it often leads to increased media coverage and public interest. Attempts to censor such information can backfire and draw more attention to the issue.
  • Corporate Controversies: Companies facing controversies or product defects may sometimes try to suppress negative reports or customer complaints. However, these efforts can result in the Streisand Effect, with consumers sharing their negative experiences widely, harming the company’s reputation.
  • Book Bans: Attempts to ban or censor books, especially in schools or libraries, can lead to increased interest in those books. Readers, scholars, and advocates often mobilize to defend the freedom to access these books, resulting in more publicity.
  • Film and TV Content: Protests or calls for the censorship of films, TV shows, or documentaries can lead to increased viewership or attendance. People may become curious about the content that is being criticized, leading to higher visibility.
  • Celebrity Controversies: When celebrities seek legal action to remove unflattering or compromising content from the internet, it can spark viral discussions and make the content even more widely shared. Fans and critics alike may share the content to express their opinions.
  • Online Reviews: Businesses that attempt to suppress or remove negative online reviews may find that their actions attract more negative attention. Customers often view such actions as attempts to hide the truth.
  • Historical Documents: Historical documents or records that governments or institutions try to keep hidden from the public can become the subject of intense public curiosity and investigative journalism, leading to their eventual exposure.
  • Whistleblower Cases: When organizations try to silence whistleblowers or prevent them from sharing sensitive information, it can lead to a Streisand Effect. Whistleblowers may gain widespread sympathy, and their revelations become widely discussed.
  • Social Media Posts: Attempts to delete or restrict social media posts can lead to screenshots and reposting of the content, causing it to go viral. People may view such actions as infringements on free speech.
  • Research Findings: Academic research or scientific findings that are suppressed or hidden due to controversial implications can generate more interest and debate when they eventually come to light.
  • Product Recalls: When a company attempts to downplay or suppress information about a product recall, consumers may become more concerned and actively seek out details about the recall. This can lead to increased media coverage and public attention.
  • Data Breaches: Organizations that suffer data breaches and try to keep the incident under wraps can face severe consequences. When the breach is eventually exposed, it often results in widespread public scrutiny, legal actions, and damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Negative Customer Reviews: Businesses that pressure review websites to remove negative customer reviews may find that their actions trigger a Streisand Effect. Customers who had not seen the original reviews may become curious and look for them after hearing about censorship attempts.
  • Competitive Actions: Companies that engage in legal battles to prevent competitors from launching similar products or services may inadvertently generate more interest in their competitor’s offerings. Such actions can draw attention to the competitor’s innovations.
  • Startup Disputes: In the tech startup world, disputes between founders or investors can lead to attempts to suppress information related to disagreements or legal battles. These efforts can attract significant attention from the tech community and investors.
  • Patent Disputes: Companies involved in patent disputes often seek injunctions to prevent the sale of certain products. These disputes can become widely covered in the tech press, and the products in question may gain increased visibility.
  • Censorship of Research: In the field of technology and science, attempts to censor or restrict the publication of research findings, especially those related to security vulnerabilities or privacy concerns, can lead to heightened interest in the research.
  • Social Media Bans: When social media platforms ban or restrict content or users, it can lead to discussions about censorship and freedom of expression. People may actively seek out the banned content or explore alternative platforms.
  • Startup Failures: Startups that go bankrupt or shut down may attempt to erase their online presence to minimize the impact on their founders’ future endeavors. However, this can result in increased curiosity about the reasons for their failure.

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.

Streisand Effect: When Suppression Amplifies Visibility

  • Definition: The Streisand Effect refers to the unintended consequence where attempting to suppress or hide information ends up making it more visible and widespread.
  • Origin: Named after Barbara Streisand, who tried to suppress images of her home, but her actions led to increased attention to those images.
  • Example: In 2003, Barbara Streisand attempted to sue a photographer who was documenting coastal erosion, including her home. Her actions drew public attention to the images, causing them to be viewed over a million times.
  • Internet Amplification: The internet plays a significant role in the Streisand Effect. Attempts to suppress information often lead to revolt, with users sharing and accessing the information more actively because of its suppression.
  • Business Implications: Unsatisfied customers sharing negative feedback on social media can trigger the Streisand Effect. Ignoring or suppressing feedback can lead to a chain reaction of negative sentiment and damage brand image.
  • Avoidance in Business: Businesses should address negative feedback promptly and transparently. Ignoring or suppressing feedback can worsen the situation. Prevention is better than cure; focus on proactive public relations and customer service protocols.
  • Crisis Management: Businesses can seek assistance from web-centric crisis management firms to navigate the dynamics of online information spread and effectively handle negative publicity.

Connected Thinking Frameworks

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.


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.

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 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.

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.

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

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.

Lindy Effect

The Lindy Effect is a theory about the ageing of non-perishable things, like technology or ideas. Popularized by author Nicholas Nassim Taleb, the Lindy Effect states that non-perishable things like technology age – linearly – in reverse. Therefore, the older an idea or a technology, the same will be its life expectancy.


Antifragility was first coined as a term by author, and options trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Antifragility is a characteristic of systems that thrive as a result of stressors, volatility, and randomness. Therefore, Antifragile is the opposite of fragile. Where a fragile thing breaks up to volatility; a robust thing resists volatility. An antifragile thing gets stronger from volatility (provided the level of stressors and randomness doesn’t pass a certain threshold).

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

Maslow’s Hammer

Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as the law of the instrument or the Einstellung effect, is a cognitive bias causing an over-reliance on a familiar tool. This can be expressed as the tendency to overuse a known tool (perhaps a hammer) to solve issues that might require a different tool. This problem is persistent in the business world where perhaps known tools or frameworks might be used in the wrong context (like business plans used as planning tools instead of only investors’ pitches).

Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first described by Canadian sociologist Lawrence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that people are continually promoted within an organization until they reach their level of incompetence.

Straw Man Fallacy

The straw man fallacy describes an argument that misrepresents an opponent’s stance to make rebuttal more convenient. The straw man fallacy is a type of informal logical fallacy, defined as a flaw in the structure of an argument that renders it invalid.

Streisand Effect

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.


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.

Recognition Heuristic

The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.

Representativeness Heuristic

The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.

Take-The-Best Heuristic

The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.

Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Goodhart’s Law

Goodhart’s Law is named after British monetary policy theorist and economist Charles Goodhart. Speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1975, Goodhart said that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” Goodhart’s Law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

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

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

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 in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Moore’s Law

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years. This observation was made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 and it become a guiding principle for the semiconductor industry and has had far-reaching implications for technology as a whole.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Value Migration

Value migration was first described by author Adrian Slywotzky in his 1996 book Value Migration – How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition. Value migration is the transferal of value-creating forces from outdated business models to something better able to satisfy consumer demands.

Bye-Now Effect

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.


Groupthink occurs when well-intentioned individuals make non-optimal or irrational decisions based on a belief that dissent is impossible or on a motivation to conform. Groupthink occurs when members of a group reach a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the alternatives and their consequences.


A stereotype is a fixed and over-generalized belief about a particular group or class of people. These beliefs are based on the false assumption that certain characteristics are common to every individual residing in that group. Many stereotypes have a long and sometimes controversial history and are a direct consequence of various political, social, or economic events. Stereotyping is the process of making assumptions about a person or group of people based on various attributes, including gender, race, religion, or physical traits.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law was named after aerospace engineer Edward A. Murphy. During his time working at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949, Murphy cursed a technician who had improperly wired an electrical component and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.”

Law of Unintended Consequences

The law of unintended consequences was first mentioned by British philosopher John Locke when writing to parliament about the unintended effects of interest rate rises. However, it was popularized in 1936 by American sociologist Robert K. Merton who looked at unexpected, unanticipated, and unintended consequences and their impact on society.

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental attribution error is a bias people display when judging the behavior of others. The tendency is to over-emphasize personal characteristics and under-emphasize environmental and situational factors.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias describes a tendency to evaluate a decision based on its outcome and not on the process by which the decision was reached. In other words, the quality of a decision is only determined once the outcome is known. Outcome bias occurs when a decision is based on the outcome of previous events without regard for how those events developed.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is the tendency for people to perceive past events as more predictable than they actually were. The result of a presidential election, for example, seems more obvious when the winner is announced. The same can also be said for the avid sports fan who predicted the correct outcome of a match regardless of whether their team won or lost. Hindsight bias, therefore, is the tendency for an individual to convince themselves that they accurately predicted an event before it happened.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

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