The curious tale of a photoshopped Jesus, a €480 fine, and the Streisand effect

A court has ordered a youngster from Jaén to pay up after an image he shared raised the ire of a religious group – but has the case just drawn more attention to the original photo?

Jaime Rubio Hancock
Daniel Serrano and the photoshopped image that landed him in trouble with the courts.
Daniel Serrano and the photoshopped image that landed him in trouble with the courts.

When Daniel Serrano published a montage on Instagram of his own face in a picture of Jesus, his intention was not to make fun of the brotherhood of the Fellowship of the Amargura, which apparently has the copyright of the original image. In fact, one of the friends he was with at the time is a member of the religious group, located in Jaén (Andalusia). “He laughed,” Daniel tells Verne by phone. “He was one of the people who told me to post it.” At the time, he had 500 followers on the social network.

But the governing board of the Fellowship didn’t see the funny side. So much so that, after the image was published in April 2016, they took the case to the courts. On February 7 of this year the sentence was made public: Serrano, 24, would have to pay a fine of €480 for a crime against religious sensibilities, after pleading guilty on the advice of his lawyer.

The montage has this week been shared thousands of times and has appeared in numerous media outlets

At first glance, it might look as if the Fellowship has emerged victorious: the court ruled in its favor, and the youngster has since changed his Instagram account to private. But in fact the whole affair has suffered from the so-called “Streisand effect,” and the montage has this week been shared thousands of times and has appeared in numerous media outlets.

The term Streisand effect was coined in 2005, after the singer and actress sued a website for publishing an aerial photo of her house in California. Far from seeing the image removed, all she managed to do was make the photo go viral.

Similarly, when Serrano published the montage it was not shared as much as it has been this week. “I went five days without going into Instagram, and when I logged in it had 200 or 300 likes.” For an account with 500 followers, 300 likes is not bad, but it could hardly be said to have had a massive reach. Now, however, it’s easy to find a plethora of tweets that criticize the sentence and share the image, as well as publications that have covered the story.

Let’s see if they realize that we’re in the 21st century

Daniel Serrano

In response to the ruling, internet users have been photoshopping their own faces into images of Christ. “The more the better,” responds Serrano to that news. “Let’s see if they realize that we’re in the 21st century.” One of the people to do so is Joaquín Urías, a professor in Constitutional Law at the University of Seville and former counsel in the Constitutional Court.

“Well, given that sentencing a kid for making a montage of his face with Christ is outrageous to me... I do this out of solidarity. Greetings to the public prosecutor!!”

There have been a number of similar cases in Spain in recent years. Take, for example, Cassandra Vera, who was sentenced to two years in jail for 13 tweets she posted joking about Carrero Blanco, a prime minister during the final years of the regime of Spanish dictator who was assassinated by Basque pro-independence group ETA in 1973. Her posts were barely shared at the time of publication, but after news of the case broke, many twitter users decided to poke similar fun at the cost of Carrero Blanco.

In the wake of the controversy, the brotherhood has published a statement via its Twitter account explaining that it called on Serrano to delete the image before turning to the courts. “They told me it was because they had the copyright to the image,” Serrano explains. “But they said nothing about that in the trial.” Verne contacted the brotherhood, which opted not to reply.

The reaction in Twitter to the statement also shows the reach of the Streisand effect: the tweet has invited more than a hundred responses, many of them with more montages.

Jesus, what happened? #ChristFace

English version by Simon Hunter.

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