GOOGLE, Censorship and Scientology?
21 MARCH 2002
Is GOOGLE supporting efforts to censor the internet?
Are Americans being stopped from accessing critical information about dangers to their society?
The latest scandalous story concerns Scientology. The implications of what has occured in the past 24 hours is of global concern for people who wish to access information that is not carried by the mainstream press.
"Andreas Heldal-Lund, webmaster of http://www.xenu.net/ , got a DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act] notification letter from Google earlier today. In the letter, a long list of URLs were listed as infringing, and Google apparently complied with the DMCA request by removing them." < http://www.politechbot.com/p-03281.html >
http://www.xenu.net/ is Operation Clambake. A Website that provides critical information about Scientology. It is a website dedicated to educating people about abuses relating to the Church of Scientology. (Which, by the way, many countries refuse to recognise as a church.)
GOOGLE responded to a query from Andreas Heldal-Lund with: "We removed certain specific URLs in response to a notification submitted by the Religious Technology Center and Bridge Publications under section 512(c)(3) of the the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Had we not removed these URLs, we would be subject to a claim for copyright infringement, regardless of its merits."
Does this mean that an educational website, for example, that wishes to discuss potential sexism in a Ford automobile commercial cannot replicate the commercial to illustrate its point because they will be blocked by GOOGLE?
Does this mean that satirical humour that uses corporate identities as targets will also be blocked by GOOGLE?
Does this mean that "fair use" is a useless legal concept?
"The doctrine of fair use is described at 17 U.S.C. Section 107. "Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include - (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for or nonprofit educational purposes, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work, (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."
GOOGLE is advised to be fair and transparent in these matters. FACTNet recommends that if GOOGLE is blocking websites from coming up in its search engine then they should publish a list of such sites for all to see. And they should also display the reasons these sites are being blocked.
GOOGLE cannot hide behind the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and claim ignorance of larger moral issues.
GOOGLE cannot afford to be seen as being a lackey of either Big Business or other vested-interest groups.
What is this all about?
The first principle of brainwashing is to stop alternative information. This scandal is just the latest in a litany of attempts by the Church of Scientology to stop critical information from finding its way into the mainstream press. It is not about copyrights. It never was. It is about controlling what people think.
To quote John Stuart Mill:
"On Liberty" (excerpt from Chapter 2)
"....The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error...We have now recognized the necessity to the mental well-being of mankind (on which all their other well-being depends) of freedom of opinion, and freedom of the expression of opinion, on four distinct grounds; which we will now briefly recapitulate.
First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.
Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.
Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.
And not only this, but fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but encumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience."
Copyright law should not be used to quell non-commercial public debate issues relating to grave social dangers. Whether information relates to public or private institutions we need open public debate on the issues of the day. We also need both public or private institutions to operate in an open and transparent manner to foster democracy and democratic debate.
We live in dangerous times. GOOGLE needs to stand up and be counted. Freedom of speech or not? Information control or not?
These are our humble opinions,
Lawrence Wollersheim and the staff of FACTNet.
To voice your own opinion - the GOOGLE contact e-mail adresses are:
Praise and complaints: firstname.lastname@example.org
Not satisfied with search results? email@example.com
Report errors, bugs and broken links: firstname.lastname@example.org
To watch this scandal being played out in real time:
Log into the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup to see the fur fly!
This current Scientology scandal regarding GOOGLE is being covered by these News websites:
The origins of Scientology's efforts to censor the Internet is discussed in these pages:
Snapshot of the Google-DMOZ Directory covering this topic - January 2003
Governments in Opposition to Scientology:
Feb 8, 2000
BBC News Online: France recommends dissolving Scientologists: A government committee in France has recommended dissolving the Church of Scientology there, on the grounds that its activities threaten public order. A report submitted to the prime minister, Lionel Jospin, described the church as a totalitarian sect that kept files containing personal information on its members. It said it was an extremely dangerous organisation that violated human dignity.
Dec 10, 1999
Church 'fails test' for charity status : Britain: The Church of Scientology was yesterday barred from charitable status after the Charity Commission ruled that it failed to promote the "moral and spiritual welfare" of the community.
Jan 22, 1997
Scientology Banned in Greece : In Greece, an Athens Administrative Court passed a judgment which affects Scientology materially. It states that the psycho-sect is to be banned. The judge stated that the financial machinations of the commercial sect were not compatible with the public welfare.
Sep 18, 1994
The Giant Scientology Octopus : German Federal Labor Minister Norbert Bluem (CDU) urged a "substantially rigorous, faster opposition" to the "Scientology" sect, which is active in Germany. He regards the sect as a "criminal money-laundering organization which is intent on expanding its delusional ideology worldwide under the pretext of religion and will stop at nothing." "It is high time that the big wheels of this human-despising cartel of suppression finally receive our message loud and clear: they are criminal!" "Potential members are put into psychologically and physically dependent relationships. They are subjected to brainwashing; their personalities are systematically destroyed. Then they are materially exploited without end. Even though we know all this, far too little has really been able to be done in effectively opposing this organization."
This article in TIME Magazine about Scientology called "Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power" is one of the most famous and is a vivid introduction to the subject of Scientology and the potential pitfalls of becoming a Scientologist.
Special Scientology copyright trade secret disclaimer
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