Barbra Streisand, the Internet, and you

By trying to lock down the Internet, misguided lawmakers -- and divas -- are creating a new generation of users who evade such controls with ease

You may be aware of a phenomenon called the Streisand effect. It's named after Babs, of course, when she flipped her lid over the fact that a picture of her Malibu beach house was among over 12,000 photos taken of the California coastline back in 2003 during a government-sanctioned project to document coastal erosion. She sued everyone she could and tried to get the picture removed from the Internet -- which we all know is impossible.

As a result of her freakout, the picture of her house became an international curiosity, and people from all over the world flocked to find the image, whereas prior to her hissy fit, nobody really knew or cared about it. Her misguided attempts at concealment actually increased the visibility of the photo exponentially.

[ See Paul Venezia's classic post "Why politicians should never make laws about technology." | Read Ted Samson's analysis of the latest constraint frighteningly close to becoming law: "How CISPA could kill the cloud." | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Data Center newsletter to stay on top of the latest developments. ]

It would seem the same thing happened in the United Kingdom. The U.K. High Court ruled that five British ISPs block access to The Pirate Bay, citing copyright infringement concerns. The Pirate Bay subsequently received a tidal wave of new visitors and traffic, creating the opposite result of what the court intended. Frankly, anyone with a pulse should have seen that one coming. But it seems that it's much more than a single site or even related to file sharing -- it may be causing a fundamental change in how humanity views and uses the Internet.

Over the past few years, we've seen an unprecedented attack on the open Internet. Horrible bills like SOPA and CISPA in the United States, ACTA abroad, and the heavy-handed attempts at Internet censorship and control by nations such as Australia, Iran, and China may be actively supporting the very thing they wish to quash: a state-controlled and state-monitored Internet. Iin many countries, the attempts to push through legislation that flies in the face of simple privacy and liberty rights simply because the medium has changed has not gone over well with the younger, digitally inclined generation who've grown up with the open Internet. They may not have any power to effectively overturn these horrid bills, but they surely can circumvent them in myriad ways -- and are actively doing so.

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