Things that caught our eye

Internet Censorship and The Streisand Effect

28 Nov, 2014   | by:

Just some days ago, I read a new and very interesting study on Internet censorship. The author argues that resistance censorship is futile and, in some cases, can even be counterproductive. The latter, or the so-called “Streisand effect”, is defined by the author as:

unintentional virality of any information, online or otherwise, as a consequence of any attempt to censor, suppress, and/or conceal it.

Using web traffic data, the author demonstrates the Streisand effect at work in Pakistan and Turkey – two countries with heavy Internet censorship. In March 2014, the Turkish government censored Youtube and Twitter because of videos implicating the Turkish government in massive corruption scandals. Despite the censorship, Youtube still ranked among the top 5 sites. It turned out that users used circumvention devices, such as proxies and Tor, to access the censored content. Even more surprisingly, one of the videos in question even spiked in popularity after the Youtube censorship. The author:

Using limited and sparse data from multiple sources we have been able to show that not only does censorship not work but it also inadvertently causes restricted content to become popular.

You can find the full study here.