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Censorship

Google vs. DMCA and Scientology 383

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
Uebergeek writes "This article at the NYTimes (free registration, blah blah) details how google is dealing with the many complaints it gets from organizations when one of its links potentially violates a copyright (or just irritates the copyright's owner). Specifically, it talks about how Google is dealing with the Scientologist's complaints about the list of the Operation Clambake site... now Google features a prominent link to another site that shows the complaint that the Scientologists filed, along with the delisted links."
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Google vs. DMCA and Scientology

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  • When will it end? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DMCA (575172) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:44AM (#3387572)
    How long will the DMCA be used to trample freedom of speech, expression, and fair use, until Congress gets it into their thick skulls that this is BAD LEGISLATION, and repeals it?

    Maybe the overwhelmingly negative response to CBPTBA (or whatever) will act as a wakeup call.
  • Re:Spineless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ProfMoriarty (518631) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:45AM (#3387584) Journal
    In otherwords, Google has shuffled responsibility for the fight onto someone else. If they believe it should be listed, they should have the courage to list it themselves.

    Are you going to financially back a lawsuit if one is filed?

    THIS is what Google is attempting to avoid.

    They may be the best search engine around, but like everyone (sans Microsoft) they have very limited "off-topic" funds to fight "pointless" lawsuits.

  • Re:Spineless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sckeener (137243) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:52AM (#3387631)
    If they believe it should be listed, they should have the courage to list it themselves.

    I disagree. Google has the correct proceedure. I don't want individual companies taken down simply because they can't afford the legal fight...

    If it was just google doing this, I would have a problem. However I think google has shown other companies how to handle these type of issues....
  • hyperlinking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sadtrev (61519) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:53AM (#3387643) Homepage
    It's rather Ironic that the NYT article discussing the right to link in such a balanced and enlightened manner, itself contains no hyperlinks to any of the sites that it is discussing.
  • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:57AM (#3387668) Journal
    Seeing as Scientology fits all the classic signs of a cult, why has it not been properly labled and dealt with? Simply reclassifying it properly would give law enforcement agencies much greater access to investigate and prosecute abuses within the "church" of Scientology and would serve to protect the members from themselves.

    The only people who lose when you call Scientology what it is - a cult - are the profiteering people who run it.

  • Re:When will it end? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ProfMoriarty (518631) on Monday April 22, 2002 @11:59AM (#3387680) Journal
    The fact that the DMCA *IS* most definately being used to stifle free speech, in the terms of POLITICAL speech (as $cientology IS a religious lobby), should ALONE merit review....

    While I agree that the DMCA should be shot down ...

    How will cases that the plaintiff claiming violate the DMCA actually get to court with the apparent collusion of keeping cases using the DMCA out of the court?

    I believe that the case that Blizzard had initially claimed DMCA violations, but when the actual case was filed, there wasn't a mention of the DMCA.

    If Scientology actually does go through with suing Google (which Google is attempting to avoid), will there be actual reference to the DMCA? Or will they pull those arguements and replace them with trademark/copyright infingements?

  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:04PM (#3387707) Homepage
    They may be the best search engine around, but like everyone (sans Microsoft) they have very limited "off-topic" funds to fight "pointless" lawsuits.

    Agreed, but this one isn't pointless to them. Nothing to do with pro or anti-scientology, any attempt to force controls on content threatens the essence of a pure-bred search engine.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:08PM (#3387725) Homepage Journal

    We are not able to run the following ad you have created using the Google AdWords Advertising Program:

    Headline: The c99 standard must go!
    Line one: The committee has failed to provide
    Line two: a usable standard. Boycott it now!
    Home Page URL: biodome.org/~qg/fairuse.html
    Link to URL: http://biodome.org/~qg/fairuse.html

    Thank you for advertising on Google. We review ads on a case-by-case basis and reserve the right to not run certain ads, or certain categories of ads. Due to our current ads policy, we are unable to run your ad on Google.

    Google believes strongly in freedom of expression and therefore offers broad access to content across the web without censoring search results. At the same time, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising we accept on our site, as noted in our advertising terms and conditions. We do not accept advertising that advocates against any individual, group, or organization. Please note that the decisions we make concerning advertising in no way affect the search results we deliver.

    Please feel free to email us at adwords@google.com with further questions or concerns.

    Sincerely,

    The Google AdWords Team

    Neither the guidelines [google.com] nor the terms and conditions [google.com] say anything against "advocating against" any individual, group, or organization. So basically google reserves the right to censor any ad they feel like. Adult content is A-OK, but anything remotely opinionated goes.
  • by slug359 (533109) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:11PM (#3387747) Homepage
    Remember the Co$ follow Hubbard's teachings:
    "Don't ever defend. Always attack"
    Here's [216.239.51.100] a cache of a page that goes into great detail about this quote.

    This has been nicknamed by the Churches critics as Operation Footbullet [xenu.net] for obvious reasons.

  • Link to xenu.net (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hsenag (56002) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:14PM (#3387759) Homepage
    One point the article made is that the original controversy caused lots more people to link to xenu.net [xenu.net], pushing it up from 4th in the Google results for "Scientology" to 2nd. I'd like to encourage everyone who hasn't already done so to also do this - maybe it can be pushed up to 1st :-)
  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:20PM (#3387796) Homepage

    These days, having moral courage usually means having the cash to back it up. Granted, Google has more cash than most high-tech companies these days, but not enough to shrug off Scientology [xenu.net]. Also, Google could face a second, potentially more expensive investor lawsuit, should the Church of Scientology [xenu.net] sue. Not taking proper steps to protect your investors' dollars is grounds for legal action; and the ultimate result, if and when you lose both lawsuits, could be the end of your company, with all those jobs lost and all your intellectual property on fire sale. This is the same reason why Slashdot resorted to similar indirect means [slashdot.org] a year ago.

    The simple fact is that corporations exist to increase shareholder value -- not to make moral stands, employ people, heal people, or do all those other fuzzy things that they sometimes do in the process of making money. I don't like it either, but that's the state of the world.

  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sphealey (2855) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:32PM (#3387861)
    Also, Google could face a second, potentially more expensive investor lawsuit, should the Church of Scientology [xenu.net] sue. Not taking proper steps to protect your investors' dollars is grounds for legal action; and the ultimate result, if and when you lose both lawsuits, could be the end of your company, with all those jobs lost and all your intellectual property on fire sale.
    Of course, they could face a similar investor lawsuit if they fail to accurately catalog the Internet as they advertise, and as a result their credibility/number of hits/sales begins to drop.

    Cryptonomicon notwithstanding, does anyone have some links to these myriad of investor lawsuits that everyone in Silicon Valley is so terrified of? Because in 15 years of reading the WSJ daily I have read of one or two, all of which were thrown out by the court. US corporate law seems to be pretty much "pay your money and take your chance" when it comes to investors and their ability to actually affect the direction of a firm that they have invested in.

    sPh

  • Re:Spineless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Surak (18578) <surak&mailblocks,com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:39PM (#3387915) Homepage Journal
    Are you going to financially back a lawsuit if one is filed?

    Someone ought to. Seriously. We need court precedents to say that search engines are not liable for linking to sites...a search tool is just that ... a tool to find stuff. Nobody should be help liable if the search engine turns up stuff that someone doesn't agree with.

    Hello? EFF? CDT? CPSR? Are you guys listening???

  • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:43PM (#3387950)
    And they do have power -- a lot more than they're using right now.

    They're the premiere web search engine right now, with multiple companies (like Yahoo) using them as their own search engine.

    What kind of power does Google have? It can make a web presence disappear.

    Think of it like this: how do most people find sites on the internet these days? Search engines, right? Sometimes they'll find them indirectly but that's only by chance. When they're actually looking for something, they'll use a search engine. Which usually means they'll use Google.

    So by removing all references to a particular site, Google can essentially make that site disappear.

    And so Google should do exactly that to any web site that belongs to any entity that threatens Google with a lawsuit.

    It should prove especially effective against companies, which rely more and more on their web presence.

  • I have a idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:47PM (#3387980)
    Let's revoke the church of scientology's tax exemption.

    Silly? I don't think so; consider:

    Churches in America don't pay taxes. They're recognised as non-profit, socially befeficial institutions and as such, it's historically been seen as worthwhile to afford them tax free status (given that they meet certian requirements).

    The Church of Scientology is tax exempt. This despite the fact that they charge for their teachings and venomously attack those that provide these teachings for free (unlike other religions). This makes them more like corporation than a religious organization. Thus, they should be treated as one. Require them to file tax documents like any corporation and be subject to audit by the IRS.

    The CoS is a cult; and there's nothing wrong with that. Cults have existed for years throughout the world, and the distinction between "legitimate" and "cult" beliefs is at best a tenuous one. But the behaviour of the church of scientology is that of a corporation (evil and vindictive, but a corporation). Let's let them have their trade secret teachings and go after people with lawsuits for publishing secret teachings and critical views of their religion; but let us also not passively fund this corporation by making it tax exempt.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Monday April 22, 2002 @12:51PM (#3388010)
    In Russia, and in much of Europe, where controls on government intervention in the religious/ideological sector of the economy are not so stringent, the government is free to oppress scientologists, and does so. Read about it at the OCRT website. [freefind.com] Other governments use these same powers to quell political dissent, which is why in our society we have had the good sense to deny the government these powers.

    I find it funny to read Americans spout this kind of stuff. From the outside, American society and law seems much less forgiving about people who have different viewpoints that many other countries, such as Russia and European countries. A good example is that girl who was recently thrown out of school for opposing what the US has been doing in Afghanistan. How intolerant does a society have to be to throw a young girl out of school for being anti-war?

    It's funny. I live in Spain. Yesterday I was in a bar with some friends and a couple of American tourists. One of the tourists pointed a finger at my friend and in a suprised voice asked "are you legal?" After a bit of confusion we realised that he was asking my friend if she was old enough to drink in a bar. The girl was twenty. You cannot imagine how ridiculous it sounds to us here that in America an adult of twenty years of age cannot drink a beer in a bar. And you think it's the land of Freedom! Ha!
  • by issachar (170323) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:03PM (#3388103) Homepage
    Now here's a thought...

    What if you could convince your Senator or Congress-person to mirror the material? Do they have immunity for this sort of thing? Even if not, I'm sure there's more than one Senator out there who would enjoy ticking of the Scientologists.

    I seem to remember that Canadian MP's have immunity for anything that they say in the House of Commons. While this probably doesn't extend to their official websites, it probably hasn't been tested. They could also table the offending material as part of a debate on the subject which would give them a reason to post it. Again, I don't know if any of this would be legal, but it would certainly be interesting to find out. (And I believe that both the US and Canadian governments have more money and more responsibility to do this that google does).

  • by WildBeast (189336) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:09PM (#3388130) Journal
    "I find it funny to read Americans spout this kind of stuff. From the outside, American society and law seems much less forgiving about people who have different viewpoints that many other countries, such as Russia and European countries. A good example is that girl who was recently thrown out of school for opposing what the US has been doing in Afghanistan. How intolerant does a society have to be to throw a young girl out of school for being anti-war?"

    Well we didn't hear about that, nobody talked about it in the US but it wouldn't surprise me. Censorship is alive and well around here.
  • by petis (139263) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:21PM (#3388218)
    No, Cults are not just religions with fewer members. From the Xenu.net FAQ [xenu.net]:

    <Quote>
    "Is CoS a cult or a religion?"

    There are many types of cults. Some are religious cults and others are not, the first term does not rule out the other. Every cult can be defined as a group having all of the following five characteristics:

    • uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
    • forms an elitist totalitarian society
    • Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma
    • It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people
    • Its wealth does not benefit its members or society
    This definition is taken from the CIC homepage and it is my opinion that CoS fits this definition of a cult. Many critics and former members of CoS also describe CoS as a bait and switch racket or the mafia of religion.
    </Quote>

    That said, I agree that it's not really the government's job to deal with religions. But it is the government's job to deal with criminals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:26PM (#3388262)
    I seem to remember that Canadian MP's have immunity for anything that they say in the House of Commons.

    America has the same rule. Art. I Sec. 6 addresses priviledges and immunities of Senators and Representatives, namely: "... and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place."

    That still doesn't say whether there is any such immunity on their official web sites.

  • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:33PM (#3388323)
    In the US, it's not really the government's job to deal with religions unless they're a threat to something - they've ignored the big religions for this long, why not ignore Scientology?

    Because they are a "threat to something," and the Federal Government has known it for quite some time, having spent millions to put various heads of the Co$ behind bars.

    How is what they do different than what Christianity and Islam do?

    While there are frequent horrific actions performed in the U.S. by adherents or even senior authorities of Christianity and Islam (e.g. the recent revelations about Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston), I am not aware of large-scale illegal operations authorized and performed by heads of those respective churches. As just one example, this Time Magazine article [cmu.edu] notes massive wiretapping and burglary operations aimed at Federal agencies, for which a large number of top-level authorities of the Co$ (including Hubbard's wife) were sent to prison.

  • by radish (98371) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:47PM (#3388423) Homepage

    I can think of lots of ways in which so-called "mainstream" religons endorse or cause what could be considered "harm" to their members, depending entirely on your personal point of view.

    For instance (and please, these are not attacks, simply topics for thought) - the Catholic ban on contraception leads to how many unwanted pregnancies/back street abortions, maybe even deaths? What about religions which promote surgery on infants (e.g. circumcision)? I may be showing my ignorance, but isn't the Indian caste system based on religious belief? The list goes on...

    Not to mention the countless wars waged in the name of one god or another, that looks to me like "endorsing or causing harm to critics".

    I'm not defending the COS, really I'm not, but you have to treat all religions equally. Personally, I'd go for no special treatment for any religions, but that's cos I'm a non-beliver, and frankly the power wielded by the unelected heads of the major religions scares me :)
  • Re:When will it end? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nickyj (142376) on Monday April 22, 2002 @01:49PM (#3388439) Journal
    In the end it all sounds like "Prohibition", yeah I'm talking about alcohol. It will all go away because the amount of crimes will rise and I am just waiting for the Internet Mob to start it's reign all over again.

    In a few years, music, books, etc. will again be available over the web, at a nominal price.

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:11PM (#3388549)
    > Seeing as Scientology fits all the classic signs of a cult, why has it not been properly labled and dealt with? Simply reclassifying it properly would give law enforcement agencies much greater access to investigate and prosecute abuses within the "church" of Scientology and would serve to protect the members from themselves.

    I believe the only reason they were awarded "religious" tax-exempt status with the IRS is because of a denial-of-service attack against the IRS, using individually-filed spurious tax claims as weapons.

    Overview: $cn vs. IRS [uni-wuerzburg.de]

    One analysis [uni-wuerzburg.de] is particularly revealing.

    As I understand the story outlined in the pages I linked to above, "individual $cientologists" (that is, cult members, under directions from superior officers) filed thousands of lawsuits (that is, individual lawsuits, not a class action suit) against the IRS. The cost to the taxpayer of defeating each of these suits, one by one, would have been prohibitive. As a result, the IRS granted the cult tax-exempt status in a deal whose details are, shall we say, ethically-suspect.

    The tactic of using a DDoS-by-lawyer is straight out of cult doctrine: "The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass, not to win".

  • by chicks.net (566891) <chicks@chicks.net> on Monday April 22, 2002 @02:24PM (#3388645) Homepage Journal
    The best part of the whole article was the closing line:

    Scientology's complaint set off a flurry of linking to the critics' site, pushing it up two spots to No. 2 in the search results for "Scientology" - just below the church's official site.

    Bru-hahahaha!

    If we keep going we can push the critic's sites to #1-#10 and land the official scientology site on page 2 of the listings. :-)

  • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:15PM (#3389183) Journal
    Have you looked up the USA on the Amnesty site?:

    Pardon me, but if you want to run up and hug someone who's firing a gun at you, feel free, but I've no problem with shooting them in the head. Humanitarian crisis in afghanistan? Are you people serious? Men, women, and children were tortured and mudered every single day by the Taliban. Women were regarded as less than a farm animal. Now there are women in school, and the children are taught mathematics instead of "death to America, kill yourself for Islam." The US dropped food to the afghan people, and some people bitched. The US freed the afghan people from a totalitarian regime, and still some people bitched. We took prisoners to an American base, fed them, clothed them, gave them a place to sleep, all at cost and risk to us, and still people bitched. Amnesty Int would bitch if we put Al Qaida prisoners up at the Waldorf Estoria with room service and a view. If you want to hug the guy with a bomb strapped to his chest, feel free. I find this to be a good thing, as when he detonates himself, it'll quiet the bitching and moaning about our treatment of these murders, and you'll likely shield me from the blast. Thank you, I appreciate that.

    As for capital punishment, it's hotly contested even here in the US. Why don't we end it? Because we have a process. If it's decided that capital punishment doesn't fit our justice system, it will be eliminated. People whining at us will not eliminate it. Personally, I'm all for it. It reduces the cost of housing/feeding this person for the rest of their life; it ensure they will never walk the street again (no chance for escaping from prison 10 years down the road); and it most certainly fits the crimes to which it's applied. In most cases, the family of the victim (assuming it's homocide) has enormous pull to ensure the death penalty is not used if they don't believe in it. (Matthew Shepard case)

    Now, I'm looking at this and I can't believe it:

    Central Asia on the brink of a human rights crisis
    Philippines: Human rights must be respected to secure peace and stability in southern Philippines

    We're supposed to force everyone in the world to play nice with one another? Whenever we try to ensure that people are treated justly, (Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/Afghanistan/Bosnia/etc) all we get is flak for our "occupation". Everyone wanted the US to come and save Saudi Arabia from Iraq, and now they're bitching because we were/are on Saudi soil? I sincerely hope that we pull out of the middle east altogether, so that when Saddam starts firing off the chemical weapons and people start dieing, we can sit back and laugh at the ignorant folks who kept complaining about us being there.

    We're always the first ones everyone calls when something bad happens, and we're the one everyone complains to when anything happens that they don't like. "Please come save me, but get the hell out when I say so." The people who decry our way of life are the same people who gain a large benefit from it. Those in the Middle East who complain about our way of life don't seem to have any problem accepting the money they get from selling us oil. Were it not for the US, the kurds in northern Iraq would still be dieing of the chemical weapons used on them, kuwait would be an Iraqi province, afghan women would still be being beaten and murdered while denied the most basic rights, most of Japan's income wouldn't be there, and WWII would have ended a bit differently (lest you forget the American supplies we sent, the Sherman tanks, the troops, the weapons, food, engineers, etc). Hell, the French still hate the Americans for some odd reason, even though we helped liberate France.

    Speaking for the USA, we'd like a friggin 'thank you' some time soon.

  • Re:I have a idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:22PM (#3389241)
    I'm pretty sure the IRS tried this, but the Co$ declared war on the IRS and won, or at least negotiated a truce (whose terms are secret.)

    I read about this years ago in some magazine. Don't remember which one.

    Also, I don't think cults are "OK." There actually *is* something wrong with cults (they brainwash and manipulate their members), and the distinction is not that tenuous.

    But it is for individuals to fight against cults (by not joining them and by speaking out against them in public and so on).

    It is wrong for the federal government to single out cults and harass or persecute them, particularly if they are religious cults.

    Although, naturally, there is nothing wrong with law-enforcement agents prosecuting lawbreakers.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday April 22, 2002 @03:25PM (#3389273) Journal

    M. Scott Peck, MD in his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled came up with these 10 criteria for a cult:

    1. Idolatry of a single charismatic leader
    2. A revered inner circle
    3. Secrecy of management
    4. Financial evasiveness
    5. Dependancy (followers become dependant)
    6. Conformity
    7. Special language
    8. Dogmatic doctrine
    9. Heresy (Peck's definition of this is a little vague; something about the relationship between God and man not being proper)
    10 God in captivity (Peck defines this as claiming to know everything about God)

    I would add an 11th criterion: You have to give an excessive ammount (perhaps all) of your personal wealth to the organization. Maybe Peck would fit that under conformity or dependance.

    Peck notes that prior to Vatican II, the Catholic Church met most of these criteria, and still meets many of them. I suppose that one of the dangers of trying to find an objective measure of something is that you risk placing things you hold to be of value in a less positive light. Exercise for Slashdot readers: Apply these criteria to the Free Software Foundation, and/or the Free Software movement in general.

  • Scientology differes from other religions and how they are allowed to act in the U.S. in a few ways.

    1. In most religions, you can receive the higest level of spirtual fullfillment for free; If you can afford it, you are asked to donate money, but even if you don't, no church services will be denied to you. In Scientology, you can easily become bankrupt trying to reach any level of spiritual satisfaction.

    2. In most religions, you can leave whenever you want. In Scientology, once you're in, they will make it very hard to leave.

    3. In most religions, the basic tennents of the religious philosophy can be explained and known to anyone. (i.e., Jesus Christ was God's son sent down to Earth, he died for our sins and saved our souls). I could'nt begin to tell you what that is for scientology, because A: I don't know and I can't afford to find out, and B: If I did know, I could'nt tell you for fear of being sued.

    4. In most religions, religious texts are free to distribute to others. In fact, it's encouraged to show the texts to others not in the faith. There is no copywrite on the Bible or the Koran. In Scientology, all religious 'texts' are vigerously protected by copywrites, and just being able to see them requires a great deal of financial expenditure.

    Don't get me wrong. Scientology is not compleatly evil. From people I've talked to, including 'ex-Scientologists', the orginization has some pretty sound self-help/life improving methods. (It also has some pretty dangerous ones). But being an (expensive) source of psychological help does not make you a religion. Psychologists, self-help gurus can perform simular services, and yet they are not afforded tax freedom.
  • by dvdeug (5033) <dvdeugNO@SPAMemail.ro> on Monday April 22, 2002 @06:11PM (#3390418)
    There is no copywrite on the Bible or the Koran.

    This is a side point, but there actually is a copyright on any new translations of the Bible, and it is often enforced. If you buy a computer Bible program you'll note that the NIV almost always comes seperately for an additional charge. That's because the company has to pay the translators to include it.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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