A couple months ago, in discussing The Streisand Effect
with a reporter, the reporter asked if I thought lawyers would one day be accused of malpractice for not informing their clients of the potential implications of demanding some content be pulled off the internet. While I doubt it will reach the point of malpractice, it certainly does make you wonder what some lawyers are thinking when there are such clear examples of what happens when you try to suppress material online. Earlier this year, the lawsuit that brought plenty of new attention to the concept of The Streisand Effect was when a Swiss bank, Julius Baer, convinced a judge to shut down
the site Wikileaks for hosting some documents related to a lawsuit Julius Baer was involved in. Of course, not surprisingly, the attempt to shut down Wikileaks got those documents much more
attention (and did the same for Wikileaks as well). Eventually, the judge reversed
the order and Julius Baer dropped
the lawsuit. But the end result showed how badly the strategy backfired on Julius Baer. Before it demanded the documents be taken down, almost no one saw the documents or even knew that the bank was involved in a case that accused of it laundering money. Afterwards, a lot more people knew about the lawsuit and had seen the documents -- and they were still online.
That situation got so much publicity, you would think that anyone would think twice about going down the same path. No such luck. Last month, Scientology threatened Wikileaks
for hosting Scientology documents, and this morning (as a whole bunch of folks have sent in) news is coming out that the Mormon Church is threatening Wikileaks as well
, for hosting church documents
. In this case, the Mormon Church isn't just going after Wikileaks, but also threatened the WikiMedia foundation and document hosting site Scribd
. It went after WikiMedia because WikiNews ran an article about the document and linked
to them (which is hardly copyright infringement). Scribd was apparently hosting a copy of the documents as well (since taken down). Wikileaks, however, true to its charter, is refusing to take down the documents.
While you can understand why the Church might not like it's documents being made public, it does seem ridiculous that whoever decided to start threatening everyone didn't do the most basic research to recognize what would happen as soon as they threatened sites. Given what happened with Julius Baer, it should have been abundantly clear that threatening Wikileaks would almost guarantee that the documents were both more widely seen than before and
copied widely across the internet.