Angry Belgian jeweler demands tweet deletion, learns about Streisand effect

[Belgium] Attempt to censor something on the WWW, and there’s a pretty good chance your efforts will backfire and more attention will be diverted to whatever you wanted to see removed from the digital highways. It’s a phenomenon well known under the moniker Streisand effect, coined in reference to an incident in which actress/singer Barbra Streisand sued a photographer and the website where it was hosted for $50 million in an attempt to have the aerial photograph of her house removed from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs, citing privacy concerns. Of course, more people saw the photo of the house than would be the case if she hadn’t sued.

It wasn’t the first time something like that happened, but somehow it stuck and now Barbra’s name will forever remain attached to the phenomenon.

A Belgian jeweler is learning about the inevitable truth of the existence of the Streisand effect today. The retailer told a man’s wife that her watch needed to be repaired, but her husband ‘fixed’ the problem by simply replacing the battery. The man took to Twitter, venting his frustration with the jeweler by naming and shaming him and calling him a ‘schurk’, Dutch for villain. This happened over a month ago, and the tweet quickly surfaced to the top of search results when entering the name of the jeweler’s store name as a query.

The jeweler was outraged and asked the police to have the tweet taken down, which is exactly what happened when the authorities touched base with the Twitter user. But the latter happens to be a local tech entrepreneur with somewhat of a following on Twitter and his blog, so after writing a post about the tweet take-down notice titled “Yes, I deleted that tweet”, the Belgian twittosphere (I swear, there is such a thing!) picked up on the story and started retweeting and blogging about the now non-existing Twitter message.

Furthermore, the story got the attention of the national media outlets, who are now all scrambling to get a piece of the story in their online newspapers. I wouldn’t be surprised if I see a report on tonight’s TV news broadcast about it in addition.

Juwelier Timmermans from Tienen, meet the Internet, warts and all.