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Subject: scientology raids xs4all - press coverage (Het Parool)
Date: 10 Sep 1995 09:09:08 GMT
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(c) Het Parool - Saturday 9 September 1995, pag. 3
SCIENTOLOGY AT WAR ON INTERNET
There is a war between users of the Internet and the Scientology Church.
This week, the battle reached the Netherlands, when the cult seized the
computers of Amsterdam Internet Provider Xs4all. Today (saturday),
Internet users are on an worldwide picket agaings the Church of
By Addie Schulte
The Scientology movement does not like criticism and uses all means to
silence their critics, according to Internet users. The raid at Xs4all
is just the last of many examples of how the Scientology church tries to
remove information they don't like from the net.
In America, four former members of the cult were raided this year.
Supposedly they distributed documents through the net, to which
Scientology holds the copyright.
Scientology is an extremely succesful yet at the same time extremely
controversial movement, which was founded in the fifties by L. Ron
Hubbard. Hubbard died in 1986, but the cult still florishes and claims
to have eight million followers worldwide. In the Netherlands and in the
United States, Scientology has the status of a church, which gives them
tax benefits. Money is important in the church. The church, which is a
closed society, offers psychotherapeutical courses to its followers
which cost a a large amount of money.
The battle with the Internet community is about texts which are used for
some of these courses. They are for the so called OT (Operating Thetan)
levels and became public during a trial in de United States. For a while
anyone could order these texts from an American courthouse by paying the
costs of copying.
The texts were evidence in the case between former cult member Steven
Fishman and the Church of Scientology. Fishmans story reads like a
secondrate detective story. In 1988 he was was arrested on the suspicion
of fraud which he commited while being a cult member. The cult ordered
him to murder psychologist dr U. Geerts, because he told him the
specifics of his crimes. Later the cult ordered him to commit suicide
('end of cycle' in the Scientology jargon) and in prison an attack on
his life was made by a cult member.
At his trial he entered the OT levels as evidence, to prove that
Scientology had forced him to commit the fraud.
This is the material which Scientology had the most
problems with. The church owns the copyrights to these texts and its
followers have to pay enormous amounts of money, up to hundreds of
thousands of dollars, to read them.
Some weeks ago, their lawyers succeeded in changing the status of the
documents. They are no longer publicly available.
Meanwhile the texts were distributed through the Internet. Critics had
placed them on a computer in China among others, to make it difficult to
Scientology to have them removed via a lawsuit. Later on the documents
were removed, because the data traffic to China was troubled. The
documents were too much in demand.
Scientologists were battling information about the Cult on Internet
since the end of 1994. Their main target was the newsgroup, and
electronic discussion panel, alt.religion.scientology. The lawyer of the
movement in the US tried to have Internet providers remove this
newsgroup, an action which was seen by Internet users at large as an
attempt at censorship and a restriction of freedom of speech.
With the aid of special computer programs even messages from others were
removed from the newsgroup.
In February of this year, Internet providers in the US and Finland were
dealt with. In august various former cult members were next. Also, the
Scientology church started a lawsuit against the Washington Post, which
This week, Scientology targeted Amsterdam Internet Provider Xs4all.
Tuesday morning, a bailiff, a locksmith, some policemen and two American
members of the Scientology movement entered the offices of Xs4all.
Their mission was to seize the computers of the Internet provider which
connect thousands of people through the worldwide network.
Based on the supposed infringement of copyrights, the Amsterdam court
gave the Scientology movement permission for the seizure. Previously,
the Scientology movement announced that they would attempt legal action
At first, the cults action was aimed at the presence of an 'anonymous
remailer' at the computers of Xs4all. This is a program that anonimises
email. Users of the Internet can send a message to such a remailer,
which strips the sender from the message and sends it on. As a result,
it is no longer possible to see who sent the message. Remailers are not
forbidden and can be found on various places on the Internet.
According to the Scientology movement, the anonymous remailer at Xs4all
was used to send texts to which the church holds the copyright.
According to Felipe Rodriguez of Xs4all the remailer was already out of
commission for two months at the time of the raid.
At the time of the raid, the Scientology movement produced another
complaint. One of the users, known as 'fonss', had put the OT levels on
his homepage, a personal page an Internet which users can make by
Management of Xs4all refused to satisfy the demand to remove the
information but informed the user about the complaint. He removed the
text by himself and replaced it with a 'link", a pointer to a different
location. "Of course, there was protest against the activities of the
Scientology church on Internet, also by people who didn't bother about
During the raid a letter disappeared which was directed at a friend of
one of Xs4alls employee. An hour later, this friend was called by a
member of the cult. The Internet provider is still conferring with
lawyer mr. P. Bakker Schut about legal action against Scientology.
"We are part of an international communication structure. We are not
going to force our users", according to Felipe Rodriguez of Xs4all. Het
is furious about the latest attempt at censorship of the computer
network. "Is a cult going to decide how Internet works? Without knowing
it, the Justice Department has allowed the Scientology movement to use
it for their own private goals." The Justice Department has no
[Translated from Dutch by Mike Schenk, September 10, 1995]