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Beware The Streisand Effect: a Short Explainer for Sen. Tito Sotto

It helps to keep your lexicon up to date.
IMAGE (Barbra Streisand) Wikimedia Commons - Al Ravenna / (Tito Sotto) Wikimedia Commons - Alex Nuevaespaña
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Over the weekend, Rodel Rodis, a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, posted a photo of a two-page letter on official Senate stationery, signed by newly minted Senate President Tito Sotto.

"Senate President Tito Sotto has 'requested' the Philippine Daily Inquirer to remove from its website all the articles I wrote about him ("The Rape of Pepsi Paloma" and "Was Pepsi Paloma Murdered?")," posted Rodis. "If the Inquirer agrees to his requests, a dangerous precedent will be set."

INQUIRER.net has published a response from its editor in chief, Abelardo Ulanday: "INQUIRER.net believes it is within Sen. Sotto’s right to make this request, citing particularly his claims that the articles contain unverified facts and baseless allegations. Also, to be fair with the senator, he has relayed this request to INQUIRER.net much earlier through his staff."

The note goes on to clarify that "In relation to Sen. Sotto’s request, INQUIRER.net has not made any decision...[Mr. Rodis'] act of posting this request on social media is his own decision. INQUIRER.net has nothing to do with it."

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In the meantime, the aforementioned articles have found new life, posted with links to the INQUIRER.net articles or with photos of the print edition, and many of them bearing the hashtag #StreisandEffect.





So what is the Streisand Effect, and why is Babs' name being dragged into this?

To sum up, The Streisand Effect describes how attempts to suppress information can have the opposite effect—attracting more attention and spreading the information more widely than would've been originally possible, especially online.

The term comes from a lawsuit filed by superstar Barbra Streisand against photographer Kenneth Adelman, who had taken photos of the West Coast for the California Coastal Records Project, which was meant to be a resource for scientists. The photo of Streisand's house was one of over 12,000 photos in the collection—and there was no way to tell that it was the diva's property unless one were already familiar with it. 

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Nevertheless, Streisand sued Adelman for US$50 million, asking him to take down the photo from the archive. As reports at the time showed, Adelman's photo had only been accessed online a total of six times (twice by Streisand's legal team) by the time Streisand sued him. As news of the lawsuit spread, the pageviews zoomed up to over a million—not counting all the people who saw the photo in question through news articles and TV reports. 

The term itself was coined by Techdirt, Inc. CEO Mike Masnick in 2005 to describe the phenomenon. Since then, there has been no shortage of examples of the Streisand Effect in effect: in 2007, for example, attempts to suppress the distribution of a code used to prevent movie piracy only led to an organized attempt to spread it worldwide; Beyoncé also triggered the Streisand effect in 2013, when she asked Buzzfeed to take down a listicle showing unflattering photos of her; in the same year, the French intelligence agency forced the deletion of an entry about a military station, making it briefly the most viewed page on French Wikipedia. The list goes on.

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And what was the outcome of the original Streisand Effect event? To add insult to injury, Streisand lost the suit and was ordered to pay for the photographer's legal fees. AND the photo is now roaming free on the internet, free for anyone to view or use, particularly for articles concerning the Streisand Effect. See:


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UPDATE: Just a little over a month after newly-minted Senate President Tito Sotto sent a formal request for Inquirer.net to take down their Pepsi Paloma articles, his will has been done. "The rape of Pepsi Paloma" and "Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?" are not inaccessible; their links redirect to Inquirer's homepage.

As those two articles told, Senator Sotto is allegedly involved in a cover-up of the sexual abuse of then-underage Paloma by his brother Vic Sotto, as well as Eat Bulaga! host Joey de Leon and Richie D'Horsie. The articles also suggested that the incidents would result in Paloma's death.

The official statement from Inquirer management reads, "The articles on the Pepsi Paloma case are currently under review and are unavailable at the moment."

John Nery, who was once editor-in-chief of Inquirer.net from 2014 to 2017 and is now the associate editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, expressed disappointment at the takedown in a tweet. "Like many others, I am deeply concerned and am first working through internal channels to reverse the takedown," he said.

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The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, or NUJP, has condemned the takedown in a statement as well. They said that it marked "one of the darkest days in the annals of Philippine journalism," adding that it is "humiliating self-censorship" that betrays the spirit in which the Inquirer was founded.

In response to the takedown, some Twitter users have posted the articles' archived pages, so that they may still be viewed and read.

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