Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Going off on a Tangent - AKA The Streisand Effect

Here we go again.

Luke Bozier, a Labour blogger yesterday wrote a blogpost where he questioned the standard of websites provided by a company called Tangent PLC to The Labour Party. They apparently provide the "WebCreator" platform upon which lots of Labour sites are based. He singled out Gordon Brown's site particularly suggesting its design did not befit a former Prime Minister and included this information in a tweet. You can read his full comments on the blogpost linked to above.

You know what's coming next. Yes, the legal chill kicked in. In an update to the post, Luke informs us:

I just received an email from Tangent PLC’s executive director threatening potential legal action for my Tweet earlier suggesting that Gordon’s Brown website wasn’t very well designed:

I respectfully suggest you delete that tweet, issue no more similar ones and generally try to sell your products in a more professional way. I really don’t like the prospect of either a public slanting match or legal action, but if I need to protect my company’s business and reputation, I will.

As an aside, Luke himself (along with many bloggers and tweeters) runs a very small start-up business himself in this field although it is clear to me that he was just writing in a personal capacity bringing his professional experience to bear whilst doing so rather than trying to tout his own products.

Then it started. The blogging and tweeting community do not react well to these sort of threats. Almost straight away the hashtag #OffTangent started trending with many people chipping in their views about the design of Tangent's websites. There were hundreds of tweets about this yesterday from all across the twittersphere. Lots of people who would never have heard of Tangent or even considered the quality of their website design are now very aware of them and have expressed their feelings at the tactics being deployed.

Tangent are learning the hard way that responding in the way they have done can be very counter-productive. It is known as The Streisand Effect following an incident in 2003 when Barbara Streisand's attempts to censor use of a picture of the Californian coastline which included a picture of her mansion (citing security concerns and launching an unsuccessful legal action) resulted in hundreds of thousands of people viewing the image online, most of whom would never have known of its existence were it not for Streisand herself. We see a similar effect here with Tangent.

As a demonstration of this, Luke himself tweeted this morning:

My blog received over 5,000 unique visitors today. Completely mesmerised.

Also, Jack of Kent, the legal blogger (and friend to many bloggers) has been involved from very early on yesterday in this situation. Indeed it was he who started the #OffTangent hashtag. His involvement is very heartening as it shows that Luke already has heavyweight support from people who know the law very well indeed.

Tangent would be well advised to quietly walk away from this. Luke was just expressing his view about the design of websites used by his own party. He is surely within his rights to do this?

If they don't they should be prepared for #OffTangent to continue to heavily trend for quite some time to come.


David Chiverton said...

I find the reaction to Tangent's email really encouraging. Twitter is becoming a safe-haven for free-speech against bullies.

Anonymous said...

Did the Tangent alleged bully really say "a public slanting match"? What was meant by that? Surely his capabilities do not stop short of spelling and/or typing?