How The Royal Family Got The World To Look At Naked Photos Of Kate Middleton [Updated]

from the streisand-effect dept

Update: Good points made in the comments that suggest that the graph below is actually more about the original news coming out in the evening, and the national UK press running the story in the morning — rather than in response to the threat to sue. While the legal action certainly didn’t help push the story under the rug (it’s the only way I heard about it, for instance), it looks like we (picking up on the Forbes piece) went too far in assuming that the threat to sue is what resulted in the attention. The original story remains below.

I don’t tend to follow news like this, so there could be plenty of reasons why I missed the report that the wife of Prince William, Kate Middleton, had been photographed topless while on vacation with William in France. Of course, it could also be because almost no one paid attention to the story… until the royal family decided to sue. As Kash Hill correctly notes, this seems like yet another perfect example of the Streisand Effect in action. The story got very little attention… until legal action was threatened.

It may be upsetting and embarrassing, but it’s difficult to see how suing makes things better. All it did was get a lot more people looking for the photos and put a lot more attention on the story itself. I know that, at times when someone is wronged, there’s a feeling that they must do something, but does it really make sense to “do something” if it also makes you much worse off?

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Comments on “How The Royal Family Got The World To Look At Naked Photos Of Kate Middleton [Updated]”

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Josef Anvil (profile) says:

I'm a victim too

I feel victimized by the Streisand Effect. When I first heard the story, I chuckled a bit and then went on with my life. Then as the story kept popping up on TV, in the newspapers, and in the news on the net; I felt compelled to google the images.

Now I’ve seen the Royal Boobies, and yes they are nice, but until the Streisand Effect overwhelmed me, I had no desire to even peek. Who do I sue over this invasion of my will?

Anonymous Coward says:

The graph shown in this article does not show that the Streisand Effect made this topic popular. You might as well have claimed that the Wake-Up Effect caused it.

The images were published around 10:00 – 11:00 PM according to the graph and then around 7:00 – 8:00 AM the next morning people started tweeting…

Personally I believe the royal family’s decision to sue did cause some Streisand Effect but this graph does not show it.

5upMushroom (profile) says:

The rise is due to folks waking up.

The Royal Family’s threat to sue news hit at the top of the search spike. The rise that came before the announcement was due to folks waking up and reading the news. No doubt, there was a bit of a Streisand Effect, but it was probably just a drop in the ocean compared to the news itself. It’s Kate Middleton’s nipples for crying out loud.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a Briton, I can confirm that the Streisand Effect paid little part in this story. This was a huge headline news story in the UK all day, and the royals only threatened to sue later in the day. Your graph seems to show the cycle of a typical large news story. In the morning, people saw the news and started talking about it. The point at which the royals threatened to sue is the peak of your graph. If anything, once that threat was made, mentions of the story went DOWN, not up.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm a victim too

But maybe that’s the difference.
The royals may not be pushed about the people who weren’t being “served” by the newspaper in question.
After your image is used and hundreds of thousands of people have seen what you’d rather they hadn’t does it matter to you if millions of others look at it to see if it really is something that would upset them too and largely decide that yes it is.

Most of the people in that spike of viewers have gone, wow, English woman has breasts shock news and as for the ones that would particularly want to see such an image, they may have gotten the hit all at the same time, but the nature of the internet is that it would always have been there so they would have seen it eventually.

So, on the basis that those kinds of people would see it eventually anyway, there was nothing to lose in suing, it’s not like more people would suddenly become aware that she has breasts because of the case, most people probably assumed that already and it won’t even mean that there’ll be new pictures of her breasts.
I have still managed to avoid seeing them which is better than last year when I became aware that a certain footballer had had sexual relations with another footballer’s wife despite me having no interest in football, footballers or footballer’s wives.

Niall (profile) says:


Also, unlike many Streisand Effect stories, this one is one where, attention or no, the Royals feel the need to make a point. Firstly, Prince William feels strongly about paparazzi after they were complicit (he feels) in the death of his mother, Diana. Secondly, the Prince and Princess were on private land, where a serious telephoto lens was used, which potenially under the strict French laws is a serious breach of privacy. I suspect that especially after the recent Harry incident they are aware of the risk of ‘publicising’ things, but it was hardly much of a secret in Europe, whereas there are still issues over whether the press can justify showing stuff like this.

It seems like this is one of those cases where making a ‘stand’ is considered to be worth the risk of increased publicity – and it’s not like Princess Catherine is exactly a low-profile figure to start with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Umm, wow. Talk about drawing the wrong conclusion from data.

The real action happened in the US market, in the US time frame, when sites like TMZ caught wind of the story BEFORE the royal family did anything. They stoked the fire, and only the very peak of the story comes from the lawsuit. Everything else was “hey, look, Kate’s tiny boobs!”. Even without the lawsuit action, it was a huge story, it just took a little while for the US media to get on it.

Anonymous Coward says:


agreed. This story was going to be bell curved no matter what the Royal response was. I think an argument could be made that litigation was like swimming with the current – the story got a little farther, but, right or wrong, this was going to be a big story no matter what. I think the Streisand effect would be better used to describe stories that would have otherwise passed unnoticed.

Anonymous Coward says:


Personally, I find Kate to be quite attractive. This despite her being British and making in into the Royal Family by marriage – two things that more often than not suggest an upper limit on a woman’s attractiveness somewhat below average even on a good day.

Finding Kate to be sorta babe-ish, I immediately raced to Google to find the images of her boobies. Tongue in lap I rapidly started clicking links, lest my keyboard or mouse short out from the drool before I found the nips in question. Sigh… how quickly I was disappointed in what I found. All I could think was, “dang… what nappy boobies for such a hot chick.” I’ll never look at Kate with such lust again.

That, I suspect, is the real reason the Royals are suing. Had Kate’s boobies generated as much good publicity and as many positive comments as Kate herself had to date, then there’d be no suit. As it is, Kate’s below average boobies have taken the polish off her image, tarnished her, knocked her off her pedestal of perfection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Ditto

Apparently some anonymous cowards are obsessed with above average boobies while others are obsessed with below average schlongs (schlorts?).

I suspect the latter AC is British and is more offended by the British remark than the nappy titty one. Unfortunately, however, in his haste to insult the first AC he has shown the world why there are so many homely looking brits, particularly in the royal family – British men spend more time looking at and thinking of other men’s wieners than they do looking and and thinking of their women.

Anonymous Coward says:


More like a Dirac-response or chi-curve – having a lot more tailing – but that is besides the point. The announcement of the lawsuit happened at an opportune time where the damage any lawsuit causes their reputation would be small.

Streisand or not, I think Barbra would have been happy with this limited an effect.
Stacking news is the best way to make them go away fast with low effect. If all sides of a case seems to be covered at first, nobody will waste time writing about it in the future except for retrospect articles and clever analysis that nobody outside the “social liberal-factories” (universities) reads.

Richard (profile) says:


. Firstly, Prince William feels strongly about paparazzi after they were complicit (he feels) in the death of his mother, Diana.

Which distracts attention away from the real cause of her death – namely the lack of a crash barrier to guard the pillars in the Paris tunnel. I understand that this STILL HASN’T BEEEN FIXED. This means that sooner or later other will die. Prince William would be better advised to ignore the paparazzi and make a fuss about the crash barrier. That way lives could be saved in future.

Duke (profile) says:

To be really pedantic...

Just to be really pedantic, she isn’t called Kate Middleton any more; since getting married she’s a titled member of the Royal Family (a Duchess) so doesn’t have a legal surname (although she might be able to use Mountbatten-Windsor).

As for their decision to sue (and, iirc, report the matter to the French police as a crime), I wonder if that is less about stopping the publication and dissemination of the images than it is about sending a clear message to these sorts of photographers (I’m not sure the word “journalist” is really appropriate) that they will get in trouble if they try it again. The lawsuit may be less about suppressing the images as discouraging future publications (something the lack of a reaction to the Prince Harry photographs a few weeks ago obviously didn’t do).

Plus, I don’t know about the US press, but the UK mainstream media has taken a clear stand against publishing the photographs (even The Sun… and the ‘outrage’ in the Daily Mail was wonderfully hypocritical, but that’s another story).

Freedom of expression may be a great thing, but I have no problem with discouraging people from taking photographs using a telescopic lens, of people who are relaxing, in private, on holiday.

nonanymous says:


Thanks for updating. I saw the graph timeline earlier today and wanted to comment right away that this is just pushing too far with cause/effect, considering how little time has passed.

Another point that you seem to miss out on completely, is that sometimes it does make sense to cause more immediate attention while fighting for a larger cause. In this case I would’ve expected more introspection from you, since it is a frequent topic on these pages: privacy. I don’t think I have to expand any more, should be obvious.

mrbfd (profile) says:

For appearances' sake

That was an informative comment about how there is still no median barrier in the tunnel where Diana died.? We Amerikans have been putting concrete median barriers on our Interstates since the ’60s.? Since the ’70s they have been cast by rolling extrusion machines.? So there is no excuse not to have them in place.? Where are all those fancy French lawyers & why aren’t they suing over it?

The only reason for the Kate lawsuit is that the Royals have to “cover their asses” for propriety’s sake.? Why would an international celebrity be topless, even briefly, out on a balcony?? What did they think would happen?

Kate is rightfully proud of her body but hers are standard-issue B-cup b00bs & nothing special—royal or not.

P.S. Kate:? B is my favorite size.? Please do not get a b00b job.

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