The Streisand effect is a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples are attempts to censor a photograph, a number, a file, or even a whole website, especially by means of cease-and-desist letters or other chilling effects. Instead of being suppressed, the information sometimes quickly receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks. Mike Masnick said he jokingly coined the term in January 2005, “to describe [this] increasingly common phenomenon.” The effect is related to John Gilmore's observation that "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."
The term Streisand effect originally referred to a 2003 incident in which Barbra Streisand sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia.com for US$50 million in an attempt to have the aerial photo of her house removed from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs, citing privacy concerns. Adelman claims he was photographing beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the California Coastal Records Project. Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News later noted that the picture of Streisand’s house was popular on the Internet.