Friday, 29 May 2009

A bad week for Scientology?

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Quite some time ago now, I reported on how Wikiscanner, which locates the IPs of those making edits to Wikipedia, had found that edits to pages concerning Scientology had been made from computers linked to – you guessed it – Scientology. To be fair to Scientology (and it's not often you'd hear me say that), it was hardly a major scandal – the Vatican and the Mormons were caught at it at the same time, and everyone knows people favourably edit their own Wikipedia pages. But in their quest to maintain a reputation for objectivity, the people behind Wikipedia have just banned any edits from IP addresses belonging to the Church of Scientology, which, according to IT news site The Register, "marks the first time Wikipedia has officially barred edits from such a high-profile organization for allegedly pushing its own agenda on the site".

Former Scientologist turned high-profile critic Tory Christman, who I actually met when I reported on an anti-Scientology protest last year, says she was involved in Scientology's web operations prior to leaving the Church in 2000, and although this predates the emergence of Wikipedia, whe explained the methods she was involved with to The Register:
"The guys I worked with posted every day all day. It was like a machine. I worked with someone who used five separate computers, five separate anonymous identities ... to refute any facts from the internet about the Church of Scientology."
Meanwhile, this week has seen the Church of Scientology in France go on trial for fraud in a case which could see it banned across the Channel. It is accused of exploting vulnerable people for commercial gain – here's the lowdown from the BBC:
"The woman at the centre of this case says she was approached by church members in Paris more than 10 years ago, and offered a free personality test. But, she says, she ended up spending 21,000 euros ($29,400, £18,400) on lessons, books and medicines she was told would cure her poor mental state.

Her lawyers are arguing that the church systematically seeks to make money by means of mental pressure and the use of scientifically dubious 'cures'.

A lawyer for the church, Patrick Maisonneuve, said: 'We will contest every charge and prove that there was no mental manipulation.'"

The case is expected to finish in June.