Look Everyone! Child Abuse!

An image of Barbara Streissand's costal home which sparked controversy when she tried to censor it.

Charlotte Dawson is a TV personality with an impressive back catalogue including Getaway and Australia's Next Top Model.   Yesterday The Age reported that she has succeeded after several hours in having a Twitter account suspended after the operator of the account posted images of child rape.

The Age inadvertently pointed out the primary issue here;

At 8.05pm Ms Dawson tweeted: "Account still active & follower count going up. What F**K has this world come to? A disgrace."

The Streissand Effect is a term used to describe the natural promotion well beyond the original audience of material that the promoter is actually trying to suppress.  It's named for Barbara Streissand who in 2003 tried to stop the publication of a photo (left) of her house. The natural turn of events in such circumstances is an audience many times the size of the one which was originally interested in what Ms Streissand's home looked like  - due to the addition of a large audience who were merely curious what was being censored - viewed the photos she was trying to stop being publicised.  

Other notable examples of The Streissand Effect include the Scorpions album Virgin Killer with its CD cover image of a prepubescent child (with strategically placed fake case damage to protect some of the child's modesty) which was the cause of Wikipedia being unavailable to the entirety of the UK in a botched Internet Watch Foundation censorship attempt. The AACS key used in DVD anti-piracy measures (09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0) - became the most popular number on the Internet during the proliferation of cease and desist letters that tried to suppress its publication subsequent to its leaking, it was even printed on T-shirts.  A similar phenomenon is Banned in Boston, which while originally referring to things which were in fact banned in Boston, is shorthand for anything which is promoted by advertising it as prohibited somewhere else.  A common example of Banned in Boston is the promotions and discounts that online video game retailers based in South East Asia have on any title which is banned in Australia, the only country of its type to actually ban computer games on moral grounds.

Dawson is not culpable here, it's critical that the perpetrators of child abuse remain solely accountable for it, but we need to focus on the solely acceptable course of action when one comes across abuse of children on the Internet - reporting it to authorities.  Well-meaning celebrities who feel equipped to leverage their visibility to force network operators to act quickly in censoring actually use that visibility to draw additional attention to the offence.  The initial curiousity that people have over a recognisable personality being outraged by something leads to additional exposure, then the subsequent attraction of child protection advocates like so many moths to a flame makes it worse.  Shortly afterward, secondary media coverage of the event is run, celebrity child psychologists are interviewed on breakfast TV, a short campaign is run by popular press calling on social network operators to do more.  Police call for additional powers to censor online content, the Australian Communications and Media Authority issues some press releases reminding people how relevant it is. Politicians tell the audience of forum TV shows that they will make regulation of the Internet a priority when child abuse on the Internet (or off it) is prohibited in every global jurisdiction already as abhorrent.  More noise, no additional action. Children of course continue to be abused.

The sole acceptable course of action is to call the police, insist you wish to make a report, advise them of everything you know and then remain silent on the issue unless the police request more information. 

If you have evidence of child abuse report it to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. 


Image:  Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project, www.californiacoastline.org.