Kuwait struck by the 'Streisand effect'

When it comes to publicity, sometimes doing nothing is often the best course of action, says Shane McGinley
Shane McGinley
By Shane McGinley
Sun 15 Jun 2014 03:16 PM

Barbra Streisand and Kuwait are not words you generally see together in the same sentence so let me explain.

The Streisand effect has become known as the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information even more widely.

It’s mainly a result of the advent of social media like Twitter and 24/7 news rolling news and the effect is named after an incident in 2003 when the American singer and actress Barbra Streisand complained about someone posting a picture of her California mansion on an internet site about coastal erosion and set about trying to have the image removed.

If she’d let it go then the image that offended her would probably have gone largely unnoticed. As it happened, her attempt to ban the image resulted in masses of publicity and millions more people logging on to see her house.

So back to Kuwait... The Gulf state has banned several television news channels from airing programmes about an investigation into a recording that discusses an alleged plot against the ruling system

Already, the Information Ministry also said it had referred several newspapers to the public prosecutor for violating a news blackout imposed over the affair that has prompted rare online gossip about possible frictions inside the ruling family.

Al-Watan reported last week that Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, a ruling family member, had given Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah, another family member, 10 days to disclose details about companies that had been hired to transcribe the recording and its content, before starting possible legal action.

I have no idea what the subject of this ‘plot’ is or what is in the alleged recordings, the background to it or why it is proving so controversial that TV and newspapers have found themselves in hot water over it, but all this publicity about it has just highlighted it even more and made the online community even more intrigued to find out the juicy details about it.

Just look at the original case in point: only six people downloaded images of Streisand’s house before she took action. After the ensuing publicity and $50m threatened lawsuit, more than 420,000 reportedly people clicked in, downloaded it and shared it worldwide.

This is something Kuwait should take into account when it seeks to suppress information. Sometimes highlighting something simply has the complete opposite effect. Here’s another example: A few weeks ago not many people had heard of the taxi ordering smartphone app Uber. Last week European taxi drivers protested against it and called for its use to be regulated, claiming it was having a detrimental impact on their business and livelihood.

The images of the drivers protesting all over Europe has simply increased Uber’s profile as it was mentioned in virtually every news story. Now thousands more people have heard of Uber and its service, including you, showing, once again, the full impact of the Streisand effect in all its glory. Sometimes doing nothing really, really is the best course of action.

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