Tuesday, October 16, 2007

History of Scientology Censorship and Attacks on the Internet

History of Internet Censorship by the "Church" of Scientology

1994 - Cancelbunny: Scientology censors alt.religion.scientology

Alt.religion.scientology (a.r.s.) has been one of the most active newsgroups on the Internet, a place where pro- and anti-Scientology netizens hotly debate each other. Beginning in 1994, Scientology operatives began tampering with a.r.s. by surreptitiously canceling postings critical of itself. The source of unauthorized cancellations came to be known as the Cancelbunny, although the Cancelbunny project really involved a number of cancelers. The Cancelbunny (or Cancelbunnies) deleted hundreds of messages using their email accounts at a variety of service providers, including Netcom, Deltanet, University College in Dublin, Ireland, Directnet, Kaiwan, and NetVoyage. All providers responded swiftly to determine the identities of the unauthorized cancelers and terminate their accounts. A group of netizens even joined forces to track down the Cancelbunny; they called themselves the Rabbit Hunters.

While the efforts of the Rabbit Hunters and Internet service providers slowed the Cancelbunny and forced it to jump around quite a bit, the bunny was still going actively in April 1995, 17 months after beginning its cancellations, and still appears from time to time now three years later.

1995 - Operation Delete a.r.s.: Scientology attempts to off the newsgroup

In January 1995 Scientology attorney Helena Kobrin unilaterally instructed Usenet servers to delete the whole a.r.s. newsgroup. Kobrin sent emails to the servers with the “remove” instruction usually used to delete newsgroups. Fortunately, her instruction was not followed, and three years later a.r.s is still very active.

1995 - Operation Raid: Scientology raids Internet users’ homes

Scientology’s 1995 raids of Internet users’ homes comprise one of the most atrocious chapters in the history of Scientology’s censorship war on the Internet. A great deal of information surrounds the raids. Briefly:

*February: Scientology raided the home of former Scientologist Dennis Erlich, seizing numerous items including computers and disks. Erlich ” along with Tom Klemesrud, the operator of his bulletin board system (BBS) and Netcom, his Internet service provider ” was subsequently sued by Scientology for “copyright infringements.”

*Early August: Scientology raided the home of former Scientologist Arnie Lerma for posting to the Internet a widely-available federal court document known as the Fishman Papers. The papers included excerpts of Scientology’s “secret scripture.” Scientology then sued Lerma, his service provider Digital Gateway Systems, and even the Washington Post for including 46 words from the Fishman Papers in an article on the incident.
Link: http://www.lermanet.com/cos/raid.html

*Late August: Again claiming copyright infringement, Scientology raided the home of Lawrence Wollersheim and Bob Penny, the then-directors of FACTNet, a nonprofit BBS (now a web site). With federal marshals standing by, Scientology seized computers, disks, files, and more. Naturally, Scientology then sued FACTNet.

*September: “Scientology agents, accompanied by a locksmith, local police, and two U.S. `computer experts’, entered the premises of XS4ALL (xs4all.nl), an Internet service provider in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Scientology demanded that XS4ALL remove a copy of the Fishman Papers from a customer’s web page. (XS4ALL refused to do so.) Dutch Internet users protested Scientology’s action by putting over 100 copies of the Fishman Papers on web sites all over the country. Scientology responded to this cyber-civil-disobedience campaign by suing four Dutch Internet service providers (including XS4ALL) as well as well-known Dutch writer Karin Spaink, who helped initiate the campaign. They withdrew this lawsuit on December 12, but filed a much larger suit, against 23 separate parties, on January 31. A court hearing was held on February 26, and a verdict was rendered on March 12, giving a total victory to the defendants.” [Written by Scientology critic Ron Newman].

1995 - Operation Anonymous Remailer: Scientology sues and squashes

Starting in January 1995 Scientology launched an attack against anonymous remailers and posters. In January a letter was sent to anonymous remailers demanding they not allow anonymous postings to a.r.s. or alt.clearing.technology. At this point, such prominent entities such as Electronic Freedom Foundation, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post reported Scientology’s Internet abuses.

Later, in the Spring of 1996, in an attempt to attack anonymous postings by “Scamizdat,” Scientology filed suit against a.r.s. poster Grady Ward and then Keith Henson. In connection with the suit, the Finnish anonymous remailer anon.penet.fi was ordered to reveal the identities of two of its users. The remailer’s administrator, Julf Helsingius, refused to disclose the names. Instead, on August 22, 1996, he closed anon.penet.fi, an action that shocked the Internet and was widely reported in the media.

1996 - Operation Spam Attack: Scientology clogs a.r.s.

Scientology’s abuse of a.r.s continued via a new method from May to December 1996. During this time, Scientology bombarded a.r.s. with thousands of spam messages taken verbatim from the Scientology web site. This action paralyzed the purpose and effective use of the newsgroup.

1998 - Operation Netizen: Scientology threatens netizens at large

Scientology had sent numerous emails to Netizens threatening litigation for posting even short excerpts of Scientology’s copyrighted material, despite the fact that copyright law allows such excerpting. Netizens and their families have received threats by email and fax, visits by Scientologists and private investigators, and slanderous phone calls.

* Web hosts of Tilman Hausherr and Ray Randolph were threatened with litigation. Scientology considers Hausherr’s parody of “$cientology” and Randolph’s domain name www.scientology-kills.net infringements of the Scientology trademark. To most observers, it seems that both uses are legal, since Hausherr’s parody and Randolph’s domain name constitute satire and commentary on Scientology rather than attempts to be mistaken for Scientology. The latter would be trademark infringement; but it would be difficult for anyone to mistake “$cientology” or “scientology-kills” for Scientology. Randolph has received the support of the ACLU and EFF, both of which will handle his litigation if Scientology follows through on its threat.

* Scientology sends Internet web site templates to 116,000 Scientologists, so that the Scientologists can set up pages that appear to be their personal home pages. City of Night says, “Church officials hope that by creating many, many web sites that link to Scientology’s home page, Scientology can clog search engines and prevent information critical of the Church from reaching those interested in learning all about Scientology.” [City of Night, March 19 - 25].

A number of these new templates are viewable on the links below:

D. Peterson http://members.aol.com/jasondrp/ Teri Milch http://home.mci2000.com/~tmilch@mci2000.com/index.htm Michael Lewis http://www.relaypoint.net/~lewisgroup/index.htm Grahame Scott-Douglas http://www.relaypoint.net/~grahamesd/ Kathy Weigand http://www.relaypoint.net/~kweigand/index.htm Denise Palm http://home1.gte.net/cedarlan/new/index.htm Kevin Brown http://members.aol.com/actinup2/ Tom Humphrey http://members.aol.com/humphreytr/index.htm

2002 - Multiple Internet attacks

The Church of Scientology briefly managed to yank references to anti-Scientology websites from the Google search engine, one of the main sites being xenu.net.

Citing the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Scientology lawyers claimed that Google may no longer include anti-Scientology sites that allegedly infringe upon the Church of Scientology's intellectual property.

Link: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2002/03/51233

2005 - 2007: The Scientology Internet attacks continue

Glen Stollery gets sued by Scientology over his parody website, www.scientomogy.info

Link: http://www.scientomogy.com/scientomogy1.php

* Multiple attacks on Myspace.com to delete user accounts that speak negatively of Scientology

Link: http://www.scientomogy.com/myspace1.php

* Multiple critics of Scientology, such as myself, get attacked

Links: http://www.scientomogy.com/scientology_pi.php

Please feel free to add more "Scientology attacks" in the comments section and I will update this page asap.

What you can do to stop Scientology?

One does not have to disagree with Scientology to agree that its actions on the Internet are reprehensible. Help us take action against this new censorship attack:

1. Forward this email following net etiquette to all interested Internet users, Internet service providers, and search mechanisms.

2. Forward this email to Scientology’s celebrities urging them to stop promoting an organization that takes such reprehensible censoring action against the Internet. Here are some Scientology celebrity email addresses: John Travolta: info@johntravolta.org Nancy Cartright (voice of Bart Simpson): nancy@kidsister.com Chick Corea: chickcorea@n2k.com Jenna Elfman: 8730 Sunset Blvd, #220W, Los Angeles, CA 90069 or to “Dharma & Greg”, 20th Century Fox, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, Ca 90034

Other Scientology celebrities include Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, and Kelly Preston. Write to them if you can locate their addresses!

2.Email Scientology at info@scientology.net and let them know you will not stand for their censoring free speech on the Internet.

Parts borrowed from Factnet