Wikipedia Sticks It To Xenu

by thelostboy
May 29, 2009 8:00 AM
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I'll avoid making any of my own judgements (last time I posted something about the Scientologists I got a barrage of oddly threatening e-mails somehow, as if the 18 people who read this blog don't already question Xenu and co), I will note that this article from The Register reports wikipedia has has its own issues with the "religion," cracking down on self-serving edits made by the church. The Wikipedia supreme court (I'm serious), "closed out the longest-running court case in Wikiland history with the site's Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately." The move will ban all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates. It's thhe first time Wikipedia has officially barred edits "from such a high-profile organization for allegedly pushing its own agenda on the site." The Church of Scientology did not respond to the article's request for comment. Expands the source:

According to evidence turned up by admins in this long-running Wikiland court case, multiple editors have been "openly editing [Scientology-related articles] from Church of Scientology equipment and apparently coordinating their activities." Leaning on the famed WikiScanner, countless news stories have discussed the editing of Scientology articles from Scientology IPs, and some site admins are concerned this is "damaging Wikipedia's reputation for neutrality."

One admin tells The Reg that policing edits from Scientology machines has been particularly difficult because myriad editors sit behind a small number of IPs and, for some reason, the address of each editor is constantly changing. This prevents admins from determining whether a single editor is using multiple Wikipedia accounts to game the system. In Wikiland, such sockpuppeting is not allowed.

The Wikicourt considered banning edits from Scientology IPs only on Scientology-related articles. But this would require admins to "checkuser" editors - i.e. determine their IP - every time an edit is made. And even then they may not know who's who.

"Our alternatives are to block them entirely, or checkuser every 'pro-Scientology' editor on this topic. I find the latter unacceptable," wrote one ArbComer. "It is quite broad, but it seems that they're funneling a lot of editing traffic through a few IPs, which make socks impossible to track."

And it may be a moot point. Most the editors in question edit nothing but Scientology-related articles. In Wikiparlance, they're "single purpose accounts."

Some have argued that those editing from Scientology IPs may be doing so without instruction from the Church hierarchy. But a former member of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs - a department officially responsible "for directing and coordinating all legal matters affecting the Church" - says the Office has organized massive efforts to remove Scientology-related materials and criticism from the web.

"The guys I worked with posted every day all day," Tory Christman tells The Reg. "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."

Christman left the Church in 2000, before Wikipedia was created.

This is the fourth Scientology-related Wikicourtcase in as many years, and in addition to an outright ban on Scientology IPs, the court has barred a host of anti-Scientology editors from editing topics related to the Church.

Many Wikifiddlers have vehemently criticized this sweeping crackdown. Historically, the site's cult-like inner circle has aspired to some sort of Web 2.0 utopia in which everyone has an unfettered voice. An organization editing Wikipedia articles where it has a conflict of interest is hardly unusual, and in the past such behavior typically went unpunished.

But clearly, Wikipedia is changing. In recent months, the site's ruling body seems far more interested in quashing at least the most obvious examples of propaganda pushing.

Scientology's banishment from Wikipedia comes just days after the opening of a (real world) trial that could see the dissolution of the organization's French chapter.


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