Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Mrs Focker and internet damage

“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” John Gilmore

It’s been a pretty intense week so far in what Newsnight calls “cyberspace”.

From BBC News:

When is a secret not a secret? When it's on Twitter.

An injunction served on the Guardian and at least one other national newspaper, was meant to stop the papers reporting that the MP Paul Farrelly, had tabled a Parliamentary question about the oil traders Trafigura and its solicitors Carter-Ruck. And it succeeded - up to a point.

The social networking site Twitter, was soon awash with posts deploring a threat to media freedom and the reporting of Parliament.

What Trafigura and Carter-Ruck have been a victim of this week, is the combined effect of the internet interpreting censorship as damage (and routing around it), with the Streisand effect

Barbara Streisand is one of those people who are *supermegafamous* and you know what for, but sometimes it’s hard to recall anything they’ve actually done.  Her IMDB list is impressive but I try and remember seeing her in something and I mainly 404.  I only really know her as Mrs Focker in ‘Meet the Fockers’.

250px-Barbrahouse1I digress. The Streisand effect is the act of trying to suppress information but instead generates a meme.  A giant, unstoppable, self perpetuating, amplifying wave of attention. Precisely because you tried to engineer the exact opposite.  Babs tried to stop a photograph of her house being part of a coastal erosion study and as a result, we all know her house looks almost exactly like the one in this picture on the right. [source:wikipedia].


There’s no doubting that it was Twitter and Wikileaks that facilitated this week’s events.

Some people say that Wikileaks could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.

I don’t doubt it for a moment.  I think the rules are changing.  I think they’re changing as significantly as they did when the web went mainstream in the late 90s.  I think some organisations are going to find out if sunshine is the best disinfectant.  I think it’s going to be interesting.

It’s also important to note that despite the media reporting this as a battle won, it isn’t over yet.

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