Friday, May 31, 2013

The Streisand effect

Do you know Barbra Streisand? If you're 40 years old and above, the answer is most certainly "yes" and you've listen to some of her songs. If you're between the age of 30 and 40, then you might have just heard your parents mentioning her name during the age of the cassette tape or the vinyl disc. But to people under 30 years old, Barbra Streisand is famous for something that has nothing to do (except money and being a bad person) with her career: the Streisand effect.

Barbra Streisand made a fortune during her career. Good for her! But in 2003, as some photos of her gigantic Malibu house were circulated on the Internet, Streisand engaged in a loathsome censorship and intimidation (you can call it "threat" or "bullying") campaign. The Internet being what it is... a dwelling place for naughty technology-savvy people with a defiance of authority and a sharp tongue... Barbra Streisand received something she did not expect: a full-force backlash of several Internet communities united against censorship. And instead of succeeding in her censorship attempt, Streisand saw the exact opposite phenomenon happening. The more she was trying to make the photos disappear, the more they were reproduced and circulated. This phenomenon is since that time known as the Streisand effect.

Today LinuxFR (warning: website in French language), one of the most highly regarded French websites about Linux (you know? the operating system that can replace Windows on a PC and costs nothing) published a letter they received from a lawyer. That lawyer represents Linkeo, a company that sells websites to small and medium companies. Linkeo recently published on LinuxFR, free of charge, an ad for recruiting developers but the only comment they received was a critique of how poorly Linkeo's website is coded (which seems justified from my peeking at their code) and how that reflects poorly on a company who is supposed to be expert at coding websites. So they took it personally and instead of improving the situation through gentle talk behind the scenes, they unleashed their lawyer... who also happened to go over the top in his cease-and-desist letter, including false claims. In a mere half day, some of the most prominent bloggers and social media communities have relayed the information and Linkeo is now facing broad scale hatred from the French Internet at large. Their WOT rating was "yellow" (dubious website) moments ago and it is now "red" (suspicious, malicious, or unethical website). That's a typical school case of the Streisand effect and Linkeo is gonna learn about it the hard way.


Within a single day, the Streisand effect has taken off like crazy for Linkeo. Yesterday afternoon, Linkeo issued a message on Facebook to apologize for their aggressive way of solving things... A message which also whined about "still, what we were trying to censor felt hurtful to us". The comments on this Facebook post were of 2 nature:

  • a provocative "poop" icon
  • messages saying "You might have felt hurt, but that says nothing of how true the criticism was. So if you are doing something wrong and somebody tells you that you're doing it wrong, just suck it up and start doing it right! and don't you blame people for being mean to you or don't you use bullying methods to make the criticism go away!"

Linkeo's homepage is still poorly coded to date (fails miserably the w3c's html validation test). But it seems like they're calling off their lawyer.

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