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Warning: This page contains material of a nature which may offend some readers.
This site is not affiliated with the Church of Scientology.
|Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.|
|-- George Orwell, 1984|
On March 13th, 1998, Scientology unveiled its plans to flood the World Wide Web (and, more importantly, the search engines which index the Web) with pro-Scientology pages. (A RealAudio recording of the announcement may be found here.)
Yet the "Scientology Web Kit" CD-ROM, which contains the programs to automate the creation of the nearly-identical Scientologists' homepages, contains another program, which users must agree to use. The wording in the contract seems fairly innocuous; users must:
(6) agree to use the specific Internet Filter Program that CSI has provided to you which allows you freedom to view other sites on Dianetics, Scientology or its principals without threat of accessing sites deemed to be using the Marks or Works in an unauthorized fashion or deemed to be improper or discreditable to the Scientology religion;
The filter, however, does more than it claims to. Certainly, it does filter out sites hosted by splinter groups which have broken off from the Church of Scientology and use Scientology materials "in an unauthorized fashion", such as freezone.org. It also blocks sites which are critical of Scientology, such as www.xenu.net.
Yet the filter doesn't stop there. Scientologists cannot access the online presences of newspapers which have run articles critical of Scientology, such as the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune, both in Florida; the Stern and the Berliner Morgenpost in Germany; even popular Web and Usenet search engines such as Alta Vista and DejaNews are blocked, possibly because critical Usenet articles and Web sites are available through them.
The filter does not limit itself to banning only the unwanted pages; entire domains are blacklisted by the program. The author of this page, for example, has a number of critical Web pages; because of this, Scientologists who have installed the filter cannot access any pages hosted by CyberGate, Inc., which claims to be the largest Internet Service Provider in Florida (and where these pages were hosted at the time the Scientology Webfilter was developed). If any Scientologists in Florida happen to use CyberGate, they cannot connect to their own pages, or any other pages on CyberGate unrelated to Scientology.
A number of Usenet newsgroups are likewise blocked. It is obvious why some groups made the list: alt.religion.scientology, where many critics of Scientology gather; alt.clearing.technology, where former Scientologists and "Free Zoners" discuss Scientology in an "unauthorized fashion"; alt.support.ex-cult and cl.glauben.sekten, where Scientology is discussed in terms of a cult rather than a legitimate religion. Less obvious are groups such as misc.taxes, where Scientology's shady deals with the IRS are sometimes discussed; rec.humor, which sometimes contains jokes at Scientology's expense; alt.showbiz.gossip, where Scientology's pet celebrities (such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley) are sometimes spoken of in less-than-glowing terms. For reasons that as yet remain unclear, even alt.gothic is banned by the Scientology filter.
Even IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and private email are not safe from the filter. Both incoming and outgoing messages are filtered for "forbidden" phrases, which fall into several categories.
The first category of banned words consists of terms from the secret Scientology upper levels, which Scientologists must pay large amounts of money to learn. Some of them, such as body thetan, are kept secret, others, such as Marcabs, can be seen in the materials available to all Scientologists, yet are inexplicably present in the list of prohibited phrases.
The second category consists of the names of critics of Scientology or cults in general. If these names are encountered, the filter quietly replaces them with blank spaces; Scientologists are not allowed to even see the names of the people who, for one reason or another, regard Scientology as dangerous or sinister.
The third category involves names or terms embarrassing to Scientology. For example, one banned name is Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died at the end of a 17-day enforced isolation within a Scientology building. Other banned terms include foot bullet, a term critics use to refer to Scientology's habit of undertaking actions ultimately to its disadvantage; 1990 deposition, a reference to a transcript of a legal deposition taken of David Miscavige, the current leader of Scientology, in which he portrayed himself as practically incompetent to answer even the simplest questions; poodle and nipplehead, terms occasionally used by some critics to refer to Miscavige; charlatan, a frequent description of L. Ron Hubbard; raw meat, a Scientology term for new recruits, and more.
Other terms include the titles of critical books, names of prominent Web sites, and terms like Napoleon Bonaparte, picket, trillion, private investigator, Ghost, and more.
Some of these terms, some of which are overly broad, have results that were probably not intended by the creators of the Internet filter; because Anima, the screen name of a critic of Scientology, is included in the list, the filter allows its users to see Web pages about Disney's l Kingdom, rather than Disney's Animal Kingdom; because SP, the abbreviation for Suppressive Person (a term for a person considered to be an enemy of Scientology), is included in the list, a popular character from Star Trek becomes ock, children compete in elling bees, and so forth. Indeed, since many Web pages use the keyword to indicate necessary whitespace, some pages become unreadable altogether.
The overall goal of the filter, it seems, is to prevent Scientologists from seeing any critical information, even at the expense of other information having nothing to do with Scientology.
Scientology boasts that it can help people learn to evaluate data more capably; indeed, one of its slogans, associated with the pro-Scientology Web page campaign, is Think for yourself. Yet by preventing its members from seeing both sides of the issue, those members are forced to let Scientology do their thinking for them. With alternate viewpoints forbidden, they are given an incomplete set of data to evaluate. Many coercive groups use this technique, called milieu control, to keep its members loyal by eliminating any information which would cause them to doubt or ask questions.
Does the Church of Scientology fear that its members, when given alternate viewpoints and the opportunity to truly think for themselves, might find Scientology lacking? Is their worldview so fragile that even the names of critics must be kept from their members?
The entire list of forbidden terms and sites may be viewed here. (It does contain some obscenity, so if you fear you may be offended by reading the list, do not follow the link.)
For more information on how the Scientology Internet Filter was discovered and decrypted, or even a copy of the software itself, see the following Web sites: