Wikipedia Bans Church of Scientology From Editing

Friday, 29 May 2009 02:52 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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Wikipedia, the eighth most visited site on the web, “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit,” has decided to banish those edits coming from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates.

Site operators say they want to throttle back on the self-serving, ideology-pushing contributions that they say have been pouring in from Church members with an agenda.

According to a report in the U.K.’s The Register, the site’s arbitration committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately. This is the fourth Scientology-related arbitration in as many years - and in addition to an outright ban on Scientology IPs, Wikipedia has barred a bevy of anti-Scientology editors from editing topics related to the Church.

For sure, the current profile of the Church on the Wikipedia site is anything but a glowing tribute.

“Though it has attained some credibility as a religion,” the site notes, “Scientology has also been described by some as both a cult and a commercial enterprise. Some of the Church’s actions also brought scrutiny from the press and law enforcement. For example, it has been noted to engage in harassment and abuse of civil courts to silence its critics.”

The site’s entry includes a detailed report of a debacle in 1979, when, it notes, several Scientology members were convicted for illegal activities, including the largest theft of government documents in U.S. history.

There is also a section in the profile entitled: “Church or business?”

It’s a cinch now that the Church will not be first in line to clean up its own profile, much less contribute edits to the thousands of other features on the site. The Register reported that this move was the first time Wikipedia has officially barred edits from a high-profile organization for reportedly fostering its own agenda on the site.

Although Wikipedia has made no comment as to the decision to ban, there is plenty of verbiage under the subject heading: “Wikipedia: Requests for arbitration/Scientology.”

There the site spells out that “the purpose of Wikipedia is to create a high-quality, free-content encyclopedia in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect among contributors.

“Use of the encyclopedia to advance personal agendas - such as advocacy or propaganda and philosophical, ideological or religious dispute - or to publish or promote original research is prohibited.”

The bottom line: “Editors may contribute to Wikipedia only if they comply with Wikipedia’s key policies.”

Needless to say, some addicted Wikipedia free spirits have been critical of the historic Scientology crackdown, according to The Register. The inner circle argues that editing Wikipedia articles where there is a conflict of interest afoot is just par for the course - and in the past such behavior typically went unpunished.

Other Wikiphiles maintain that those tapping out edits from Scientology IPs may be doing so wholly independent of Church instructions.

However, according to the Register, a former member of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs recounted that the office has a history of launching massive efforts to remove Scientology-related materials and criticism from the web.

“The guys I worked with posted every day all day,” Tory Christman told The Register. “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.”

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