When the humorless real estate media company Zillow sent student Kate Wagner a cease-and-desist nastygram over her hilarious architecture critic site McMansion Hell, they probably didn’t realize that they would become the new textbook example of the Streisand Effect, and that they’d lose that battle before it even began.
If you’ve noticed how tacky large suburban house architecture has become in the past couple of decades, McMansion Hell is for you. It’s a blog that features hilarious critiques and takedowns of house design and decor that are promoted as good, but in fact are so bad that they’re BAD (a concept put forth in Paul Fussell’s excellent book — and these days, a timely one too: BAD, or the Dumbing of America.
McMansion Hell used photos of terrible large suburban houses from Zillow, which is fair use, but probably embarrassing for Zillow. That’s why they sent their nastygram, in an attempt to scare Kate into shutting down her site:
Oddly enough, Zillow didn’t even own those photos, which made their claims even more bogus.
Thankfully, the EFF stepped in. Their lawyers talked to Zillow’s lawyers, and Zillow backed down, issuing these mealy-mouthed statements:
“We have decided not to pursue any legal action against Kate Wagner and McMansion Hell.We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, including with attorneys from the EFF, whose advocacy and work we respect. EFF has stated that McMansion Hell won’t use photos from Zillow moving forward. It was never our intent for McMansion Hell to shut down, or for this to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression. We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our partners — the agents and brokers who entrust us to display photos of their clients’ homes.”
It may not have been meant to appear as an attack on Kate’s freedom of expression, but tell the truth, Zillow: it was most certainly your intent for McMansion Hell to shut down.
And now Zillow look like fools:
- Zillow ends its dumb legal crusade against McMansion Hell blogger
- An online housing giant picked a fight with a one-woman blog. And lost.
- Zillow and McMansion Hell bury the hatchet after nastygram rouses internet’s ire
Remember, the Streisand Effect was the result of trying to suppress pictures of a mansion, which is pretty much what Zillow were trying to do for many more houses. We should call it the Zillow Effect now.