The Streisand Effect Wins Again: Scottish Council Reverses Ban On 9-Year Old Blogging About School Lunches

from the and-gets-her-lots-of-traffic dept

NeverSeconds is a blog by a 9-year old primary school student, Martha Payne, photographing and blogging about the school lunches she’s served daily. The blog, which only started on April 30th, apparently got a small bit of news coverage… leading the local regional council to issue a ban on the blog, because “media coverage of the blog had led catering staff to fear for their jobs.” Except… then the internet exploded in protest, and the council (after one weak attempt to defend its position) changed its mind and issued a statement which “supersedes all other council statements on this matter already issued.” In the statement, from the head of the council, it is said that the ban should be lifted (not that it has been) and that “there is no place for censorship in this Council.”

That said, the statement still seems upset about the news reporting on the school lunches:

But we all must also accept that there is absolutely no place for the type of inaccurate and abusive attack on our catering and dining hall staff, such as we saw in one newspaper yesterday which considerably inflamed the situation. That, of course, was not the fault of the blog, but of the paper.

We need to find a united way forward so I am going to bring together our catering staff, the pupils, councillors and council officials – to ensure that the council continues to provide healthy, nutrious and attractive school meals. That “School Meals Summit” will take place later this summer.

Either way, the end result is a hell of a lot more people are aware of Martha’s blog (and the kind of meals her school serves). The BBC says that in the past couple days, she’s received over 3 million visits to the site. The BBC even put up a separate article explaining how the case is a perfect example of the Streisand Effect, and how attempts to censor content backfire. And… just as in the case with The Oatmeal v. Funnyjunk, this Streisand Effect is being used to turn an attempt at censorship into a way to raise money for charity. Martha put up a crowdfunding page to try to raise £7,000 for a charity and it’s already made over £48,000.

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Comments on “The Streisand Effect Wins Again: Scottish Council Reverses Ban On 9-Year Old Blogging About School Lunches”

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Anonymous Coward says:

well done to her and to the people that have supported her donations to charity. shame on the council for basically stopping her blog and in particular for using the excuses of people bursting into tears and being scared of losing their jobs. if the food was good, was wholesome and sufficient of it, there would be no problems. if there were complaints, it wouldn’t be about the staff. they only dish the food up on to the plates. the supplying company on the other hand, need chastising if they are at fault. like hospital food, there is normally less than what is needed, which is not what can be said for management pay!

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Re: education boards

Education is run by the local authority. The board is not elected as such, though that’s not to say that there was no ‘lubrication’ of the procurement process by various means, but given that Argyll and Bute is a pretty small (population-wise) area of Scotland, I can’t see that we going to be talking about any more than a few lunches on expenses and a round or two of golf.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What's the problem?

I lived 1.2 miles from school, so I could ride the bus if I wanted (school policy was you could catch the bus if you lived more than 1 mile away). I usually walked (and it was pretty flat, not uphill either way), but if it was particularly cold and/or raining, I would take the bus.

But the food still sucked compared to her photos. 🙂

PRMan (profile) says:


It’s clear that nobody went to the blog at all to see what she was saying. They just assumed that if she was writing about it, it must be negative.

Other than mentioning an occasional hair in her food, she’s actually very positive, giving most meals 8/10 and good nutritional scores as well. She also comments that they are affordably priced and look good.

Other kids are sending in pictures of their lunches from China, Taiwan, Australia, etc. and it’s all pretty positive.

Looking at the blog, I couldn’t see a problem and everything looked far better than the school lunches that I ate as a child.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

I gotta admit that like PRMan I can’t see a single reason for censoring her and her blog or the pictures.

While things may not be ideal I can’t see that the school or the lunch program could buy better PR than they get from this blog. The global discussion about school lunches it’s attracted is even better. If it brings some variety, increases in nutrition, which seems her main concern reading through a few of her posts then all the better.

Her charity page is over ?53,000 pounds now.

A bunch of us have been bested by a 9 year old with more spunk than a lot of us have. Way to go, Martha!

streetlight (profile) says:

The lunches look good to me

The lunches look good to me. The presentation for many of the meals is quite good – for some, excellent. The Scottish lunches look somewhat smaller than some from around the world, but for nine year olds, they may be perfectly adequate. In the US there is a problem with obesity among children and smaller lunches may be just the ticket. For children who have a big breakfast, a small lunch seems appropriate.

I’d like the recipe for the Finnish sausage stew!

Ben (profile) says:

the fear

The core of the problem really appears not to be the blog, but the stupid way in which the Daily Record (a tabloid published only in Scotland, I’ve read it, it’s crap, but then I think that about most newspapers) ‘reported’ the blogging … THAT’S what made the staff fear for their jobs – sensationalist reporting.

No wonder the newspapers are struggling to get the internet generation to care about their demise.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Salad Standards.

I gather the newspaper chose to republish the one picture of about ten which showed the school in the worst light, ie, the plate with the least in the way of fruit and salad. Not strictly fair, but that’s the way reporters operate.

This is a counsel of perfection, but I think they could do with a Salad No Child Left Behind policy. Have the lunch lady at the end of the serving line automatically, without asking or being asked, dump a scoop of cole slaw on any plate which doesn’t seem to have much in the way of fruit or salad. Allow the children choice, and all, but if their choice doesn’t happen to include a salad, stick in some cole slaw. Given the particular style of dishes Argyle and Bute Council uses, it might be expedient to pre-load the cole slaw in little plastic cups and stick them in the space beside the dessert. There seems to be a big extent of place space holding no more than a brownie or cupcake, and that’s where one would want to put a last-minute addition.

Of course, the school meals, both in Scotland, and the comparative pictures from the United States, Sweden, Japan, and Taiwan are all much better than what I remember eating in a junior high school cafeteria in Texas, circa 1973 (small hamburger rather like shoe leather, fries, and Coke).

Violated (profile) says:


I just watched her blog visitor counter tick slowly past the 5 million mark. That means the total visitors have doubled since my first look at it yesterday.

Censoring this young girl just for highlighting her school meals and others from around the world was clearly wrong. It was of course the newspaper that attacked her dinnerladies and not her blog.

Not all of her photos show meals that look appetising or even healthy but her school and the local council should be happy enough that she does show a wide selection and the desire to vary her meals. So anyone reading her blog can obtain a broad picture of the general food standards.

It is just lucky for them her stray hair count has remained at zero but it has been interesting to see how her blog has resulted in canteen changes from the school and council.

Well I do see how their has been some communication break down there when it is hard for a school kid to ask for more food (in this case fruit and vegetables) from a largely unknown adult. So I can only say get stuck in there lass when it is their job to feed you.

Things have sure changed since my days at school back in the late 70s to early 80s. Back then healthy food was barely a concept when their main focus was to simply get a hot meal into you. They did have a cheese salad for the rare person but chips (french fries) and baked beans were most common.

I am glad they now see sense in letting her continue and good luck to her quest. She has been very successful so far.

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