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The Streisand effect: Signaling and partial sophistication


  • Hagenbach, Jeanne
  • Koessler, Frédéric


This paper models the Streisand effect in a signaling game. A picture featuring a Star has been exogenously released. The Star privately knows whether the picture is embarrassing or neutral and can decide to censor it, with the aim of having it unseen. Receivers observe the Star's action and make efforts to see the picture, that depend on how embarrassing they expect it to be. Censorship reduces the Receivers’ chances to see the picture but also serves as a motivating signal to search for it. When players are fully rational, we show that censorship cannot occur if the picture has little chances to be found when believed neutral. Next, we consider that players may not fully understand the signaling effect of censorship and study how it affects the equilibrium outcome. We model such partial sophistication of players using analogical reasoning à la Jehiel (2005). We explain that partially sophisticated Receivers are less responsive to the Star's action, which makes censorship more likely. We also show that a partially sophisticated Star can censor in equilibrium while it gives the picture higher chances to be found than without censorship. The Streisand effect is at play, in the sense that censorship creates interest which is unexpected by the Star.

Suggested Citation

  • Hagenbach, Jeanne & Koessler, Frédéric, 2017. "The Streisand effect: Signaling and partial sophistication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 1-8.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:143:y:2017:i:c:p:1-8
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.09.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jehiel, Philippe & Koessler, Frédéric, 2008. "Revisiting games of incomplete information with analogy-based expectations," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 533-557, March.
    2. David Ettinger & Philippe Jehiel, 2010. "A Theory of Deception," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 1-20, February.
    3. Jehiel, Philippe, 2005. "Analogy-based expectation equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 81-104, August.
    4. Erik Eyster & Matthew Rabin, 2005. "Cursed Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1623-1672, September.
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/5434 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Sébastien Liarte, 2013. "Brand image and Internet : Understanding, avoiding and managing the “Streisand” effect
      [Image de marque et internet : comprendre, éviter et gérer l'effet « Streisand »]
      ," Post-Print hal-01369290, HAL.
    7. Ignacio Esponda & Demian Pouzo, 2014. "Berk-Nash Equilibrium: A Framework for Modeling Agents with Misspecified Models," Papers 1411.1152,, revised May 2016.
    8. Ignacio Esponda, 2008. "Behavioral Equilibrium in Economies with Adverse Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1269-1291, September.
    9. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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    1. repec:eee:gamebe:v:110:y:2018:i:c:p:50-57 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Analogy-based expectations; Signaling; Streisand effect;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design


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