Pop Culture dictionary

Streisand effect

the Barbra Streisand effect [ ˈstraɪsænd ih-fekt ]

What is the Streisand effect?

The Streisand effect is a name for the phenomenon in which attempts to hide, censor, or prevent access to something have the opposite result—the unintended consequence of drawing far more attention to that thing.

Here is a hypothetical example of the Streisand effect: Someone posts an embarrassing photo of a celebrity online. Around 100 people see it. The celebrity takes legal action to enforce its removal. Upon learning of the legal action, the media covers the story. As a result, millions of people seek out and view the photo.

The Streisand effect (sometimes called the Barbra Streisand effect) is named for singer Barbra Streisand due to her involvement in a situation that’s considered a prime example of the phenomenon. Read more about the origin of the term in the next section.

Related words

Google effect, Dunning Kruger effect, IKEA Effect, Mandela Effect

Where does Streisand effect come from?

Barbara Streisand house

The Streisand effect is named for singer Barbra Streisand. In 2003, Streisand sued photographer Kenneth Adelman for posting a photo of her home on his website as part of a collection of coastal erosion photos for scientific and research use. Prior to Streisand’s lawsuit, fewer than 10 people (a total that included Streisand’s own lawyers) had viewed the photo. As a result of the media attention around the lawsuit, millions of people eventually visited the website to view the photo.

The term Streisand effect was coined in 2005 by writer Mike Masnick, who suggested the name in an article he wrote for the website Techdirt about a resort that attempted to remove photos of its urinals from a urinal photograph collection website. Masnick suggested the name for the phenomenon in the course of comparing the effect of the resort’s photo takedown request to Streisand’s attempt to remove the photo of her home.

The term has become increasingly popular, with awareness of the term likely increasing each time it is applied to a new example of the phenomenon.

Psychologically, the explanation for the behavior that results in what’s known as the Streisand effect is often attributed to what’s called psychological reactance. Simply put, when people are told they cannot have something, they often want that thing even more as a result of being forbidden from having it.

Examples of Streisand effect

The daft thing about all these protests about this movie no one probably knew anything about, is now how aware people are that this movie exists. It's the "Streisand effect" in all it's glory.
@BaconBantam, June 9, 2022
“The Streisand effect struck again,” he added, referring to the phenomenon — named after superstar singer Barbra Streisand — of an effort to ban something actually causing increased public awareness of that thing.
Dan Mangan, CNBC, January 2022

Who uses Streisand effect?

The term Streisand effect is typically applied as a way of pointing out that attempts at censorship or concealment can backfire in a way that has the opposite of the intended effect. The term has become increasingly well-known in pop culture discourse.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of Streisand effect like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Streisand effect that will help our users expand their word mastery.