One thing seems clear these days. If you want to hide something from the internet - you're only likely to make it more widely available, so you're often better off not stirring the hornet's nest. That's what Mike Masnick wrote about Barbara Streisand's legal effort to have the photo of her Malibu beach house removed from the internet. The futile exercise that gave us the Streisand Effect.
Do the people who hire the lawyers realize that the act of trying to repress something they don't like to read online is likely to cause it to be read by many more people, including people who may not have bothered to know about it anyway? The move by Lee Hsien Yang, younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and second son of Lee Kuan Yew, just days after PM Lee demanded a website to apologise for a post that alleged nepotism in the appointment of the premier's wife as head of Temasek Holdings, has set off a stampede of keyboard junkies scouring the internet to locate the offending bits.
Less is known about why he suddenly resigned from Singtel in July 2006, a job that paid as much as $2.2 million in a good year. "It's certainly surprising, it's not something they've been telegraphing," was the reaction then of Hugh Young, managing director at Aberdeen Asset Management in Singapore. Even more surprising was the ex-CEO's parting remark, "At this point in time I really have no idea where I will be going." When he signed on with Fraser & Neave as business consultant for $1 million, even his father was surprised: "That's not a full-time job." "Yes," he explained, "but I'm also going to manage my portfolio." So he went to Fraser & Neave and managed his portfolio, wrote Lee Kuan Yew ("Hard Truths", page 415). Life is full of surprises.
If the legal tussle had proceeded on to court, even the kopitiam crowd will have something to yak about. Unfortunately the website has decided not to "vigorously resist Mr Lee's demands", its lawyer having discharged himself after claiming to fight "in defence of the freedom of expression in cyberspace." The offending comment posted on the website has been removed, nobody knows what the fuss was all about, leaving an open field for speculators to run wild with their imagination. The frustrated keyboard sleuths, at least the pissed-off ones, swamped the website with some 300 comments, postings that were allegedly outright "defamatory and seditious." Since everything online is being purged, rumour mongering will just have to revert to the good old fashion grapevine.