A new study in Italy appears to show that piracy site censorship and blocking is not only ineffective, it may actually help to make piracy sites more popular in the medium and long term due to the so called Streisand effect.
The research, conducted by University of Padua professor Giorgio Clemente, looked at Italy's own anti-piracy censorship regime and the effect it has on blocked sites. But the study doesn't stop at just looking at the effect the blockade has on blocked domains, it also looked at the new domains that these blocked sites moved to, and it is here that the surprising findings were produced.
The Italian anti-piracy censorship regime, managed by telecom regulator AGCOM, blocked piracy site Cineblog01.net. The site soon moved to an Israeli .il domain, and according to Professor Clemente's research, this helped the site enjoy a 1000% increase in search engine traffic.
The reason is that the blockade gave Cineblog01.net publicity that it otherwise wouldn't have received, and this actually helped the piracy website in the medium term.
"AGCOM’s blocking measures have actually increased the site’s popularity, which went from 106,000 Italian search engine visitors in March 2014 to 2,294,000 users a year later," the report states.
The same findings were found for 26 other sites that were blocked by AGCOM.
"The most important conclusion is that blocking access to websites increases their popularity," Professor Clemente told torrent news website TorrentFreak. "In particular, AGCOM helps to advertise pirated works, creating the classic and well-known Streisand effect."
The Streisand effect is named after entertainer Barbra Streisand's efforts to suppress public photographs of her residence, which actually drew further public and media attention to said photographs. Professor Clemente says that piracy site blocking appears to be following the same effect.
Worst yet, the blocking of relatively unknown piracy sites also helped them to gain fame and attention. For example, website TorrentDownloads had no Italian visitors prior to the block, but is now regularly getting visitors from Italy.
The results from Professor Clemente's research match that of a recent study conducted by the EU, which also found piracy site blocking to be completely ineffective.