Stephen Conroy and the Streisand effect

In recent days, Old Taskmaster has been intently following the saga of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and the issue of federal funding for National ICT Australia.


Aside from its potential impact on tech start-ups, the whole saga appears to be a clear example of the Streisand effect.


As Wikipedia explains: “The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.


“It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.”


The Communications Minister is best known for a string policy decisions, including the failed media reforms and the mandatory internet filter debacle, that are otherwise described as “a catastrophe”. Fresh from his latest fiasco – failing to raise as much as anticipated from the Digital Dividend auction – his department’s budget papers referred to the “phasing out” of NICTA.


StartupSmart served its readers by actually looking through the budget papers to examine which programs impacting start-ups were being cut, rather than just uncritically reporting Senator Conroy’s spin.


Old Taskmaster’s sources in the Beacher Building reveal that within about 30 minutes of that original story being published, one of Conroy’s spokespeople had contacted StartupSmart to deny the unfavourable story. This, despite the cuts appearing in black and white in the budget papers.


In the process, the Streisand effect meant far more attention to a story that otherwise would have been lost amongst the mountains of reports of cuts and spending promises from this years’ budget.


In the end, Conroy opted for an embarrassing policy U-turn on the funding cut.


Well, Old Taskmaster says this: Has something unfavourable about your business appeared on the internet? Think twice before you start calling websites to censor it – otherwise, you risk giving the issue more publicity than it would have otherwise had.


Get it done – today!


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