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The Streisand Effect

May 20, 2023

In 2002 retired tech entrepreneur Kenneth Adelman and his wife, helicopter pilot Gabrielle Adelman, began an ambitious environmental project. The couple flew the entire 840 mile/1,350 km length of the California coast as Kenneth took high-resolution digital aerial photographs. He posted more than 12,000 photos, each one covering 500 feet (150 meters) of the Pacific coastline, on their California Coastal Records Project website in order to document soil erosion. [1]

Image 3850 on the CCRP website captured a cliff-top Malibu mansion estate owned by singer and actress Barbra Streisand. On May 20, 2003 - twenty years ago today - Streisand filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Adelmans claiming that the photo was an invasion of her privacy. Ironically Streisand herself is an environmental activist whom one might have expected to support Adelman's environmental awareness project. [2]

At the time of the lawsuit, Image 3850 had been downloaded just six times - two of those by Streisand’s lawyers. The lawsuit received international attention, as the Associated Press reprinted the photo in newspapers around the world. In the following month the image on the CCRP website was viewed more than 420,000 times. Eventually a court threw out the lawsuit [3] and ordered Streisand to pay $177,000 for the Adelmans' legal expenses. [4]

In 2005 Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term “The Streisand Effect" to refer to an attempt to censor information that has the unintended and ironic consequence of significantly increasing awareness of the information. [5] In the past two decades the Streisand effect has been observed in countless ill-fated censorship attempts by celebrities, politicians, and corporations.

What does this have to do with circumcision? We at Circumcision Choice have no interest in silencing our opponents. In fact many of our posts include links directly to intactivist websites. Our adversaries, on the other hand, are desperate to prevent the public from accessing the information we provide. When they aren't pretending to ignore us, intactivists have tried to silence Circumcision Choice or lure traffic away from our website and Facebook page. We haven’t yet benefitted from a Streisand Effect; but we remain hopeful.

[1] Jim Wasserman; "California Coast Gets Intrepid Internet Watchdog"; Washington Post; November 4, 2002

[2] Stephen M. Silverman; "Streisand Sues Over Photos of Home"; People; June 2, 2003 [3] Kenneth R. Weiss; "Judge Rejects Streisand Privacy Suit"; Los Angeles Times; December 4, 2003

[4] Kenneth R. Weiss; "Judge Orders Streisand to Pay $177,000 for Photographer's Legal Fees"; Los Angeles Times; May 28, 2004 [5] Mike Masnick; "Since When Is It Illegal To Just Mention A Trademark Online?"; TechDirt; January 5, 2005. "How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see ... is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect."


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