Banned in Wikiland

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Over at the always terrific Daily Telegraph group blog (Dan Hannan, James Delingpole, Toby Harnden!), technology writer Katie Lee notes that the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee has banned all IP addresses associated with the "Church" of Scientology. This is, of course, a symbolic ruling, as the followers of Xenu will likely just use IP-masking software to circumvent the ban:

They've been told off countless times, and now Wikipedia has finally popped its foot down and banned those at Church of Scientology HQ from adding or editing entries.

The Register reports that all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church and its associates have been blocked from contributing to the site (unless they apply for special dispensation).

Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (and one voter abstained) to place an immediate ban on the Church. The ban is an attempt to prevent the self-serving edits that Wikipedia alleges the Church uses to push its own agenda.

And if you haven't already (what are you, a Scientologist?), read Katherine Mangu-Ward on Jimmy Wales sprawling vision.

NEXT: Twitter for the Goose is Facebook for the Gander (Or Something)

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  1. I think we’re seeing the cyber version of block-voting that has traditionally bedeviled small American communities when a relatively large cohesive group formed in or moved into a community. Religious sects or cults were usually associated with the problem.

    Voting relies on the idea that individual act upon their own independent analysis of a problem. Any clustering of votes for a particular idea should result from the uncoordinated congruence of many independent thought processes. Block voting raises the specter that only a small number of individuals, perhaps only one, actually analyze the problem and that everyone else in the block simply duplicates that decision. It is a real problem in that carried to extremes it effectively destroys democracy and creates political system that merely rubber stamps the decisions of the block leader.

    It’s easy to see how a coordinated effort by an organization like the Church of Scientology could subvert the necessary diversity that an system like Wikipedia uses to edit itself for accuracy. However, its not easy to see how to work around the problem. After all, we still have problems with block-voting in small communities.

  2. THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE

  3. Epi, is there a missing link?

  4. Oops, I didn’t mean that philosophically……

  5. Have there been any new cults worth mentioning coming out since the intertubes became household necessities?

    While wiki may not be able to hold back Scientology, it may be able to hold off Scientology II.

  6. Epi, is there a missing link?

    Warty isn’t missing.

  7. Funny how Wikipedia maintains its integrity by continually becoming less democratic and open. Not that I begrudge Wikipedia for taking action. It’s just that there’s Wikipedia rhetoric, then there’s wikipedia reality. And the reality is that opening a data hole where you allow anyone and everyone to throw in anything kind of ends up a cesspool.

    The nice thing about the C of S is that, as Shannon points out above, it’s a ‘voting bloc’ if you will, so I’m assuming that Wiki can (for a short time, at least) shut down a large source of that cesspool activity.

    Well, a cesspool as I and Wiki might see it, but hard, inconvenient truths as the C of S sees it. Ain’t open democracy grand?

  8. Here is the sort of material that SCIENTOLOGY tries to keep off of WIKI, so that people get balanced view of their organization:

    “I am a former Scientology member. I was in charge of one of their organizations some years ago. All criticism of Scientology is true for the most part. The entire ‘religion’ is a fraud, and is based solely on making money at the expense of it’s membership. L.

    Ron Hubbard railed against psychiatry, yet he was having serious psychiatric problems himself, and was a drug addicted alcoholic abuser of his wife, no different than many other men. He claimed to have been decorated for his service in the US Navy, but was actually reprimanded on several occasions, and was viewed by his superiors as incompetent. Scientology places strict emphasis on convincing people they need help, even when they do not, and of course convincing the public to PAY OUT THE ASS for that ‘help’.

    And yes, they will stop at nothing to silence critics. It is only too bad that the org cannot be shut down, with it’s upper echelon prosecuted and thrown in prison for many, many years. IF you know someone who is contemplating getting involved with Scientology, do whatever is necessary to stop them before their bank account is drained dry. If they already are a Scientologist, and certainly if they have already contributed their hard-earned cash to the org, it is already too late. It may be possible to convince them to leave, but it will be very difficult, espectially if that person’s Scientologist ‘handlers’ get wind of the plan. IF YOU VALUE YOUR SANITY AND YOUR LIFE, DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THESE CON ARTISTS!!!
    Posted by: Xenu_Killer | June 26, 2007 07:59 AM

    A few years back, the group’s leaders set out to destroy investigative journalist Paulette Cooper’s life.

    In Byline magazine, a publication of the New York Press Club , Cooper for the first time told the full story of her 17-year battle against SCIENTOLOGY.

    In 1968 she wrote a story, “The Scandal of Scientology,” for Queen, a British magazine. Despite receiving a death threat, Cooper decided to write a book on the topic. “I was naive and had no idea of the horrors that lay in store for me,” she writes.

    A series of lawsuits by the Church of Scientology convinced the publisher of Cooper’s book to issue an apology and a recall, but the forces she had unleashed were not satisfied. First, Cooper discovered her phone was being tapped. Then, her cousin was assaulted by a man who, posing as a flower-deliveryman, gained entrance to her apartment and pulled a pistol on her. (The gun jammed.)

    When Cooper moved to a more secure building, someone sent 300 of her neighbors an anonymous letter claiming she was a prostitute and had molested a child.

    It got worse.

    Cooper was arrested and charged with mailing an anonymous bomb threat to a Scientology spokesman. In front of a grand jury, the prosecutor revealed that her fingerprints were on the letter. Certain she was going to prison for a crime she hadn’t committed, Cooper contemplated suicide. Her fianc?e left her. She hired a private investigator-none other than wiretapping suspect Anthony Pellicano-who proved useless. Her weight dwindled to 83 pounds.

    Her luck finally turned after a Scottish professor who was writing a book on Scientology provided prosecutors with information about “fair game”-the Church doctrine that encourages Scientologists to attack their enemies by any means. Cooper also persuaded a neurologist to inject her with truth serum and interrogate her to prove she was telling the truth. The government dropped its case.

    In 1977, an FBI raid on Scientology offices revealed the truth: Cooper was the target of something code-named “Operation Freakout,” a scheme intended to land her in jail or in a mental ward. She concluded that a man who had stayed in her apartment prior to her arrest had been a Scientologist who had stolen paper with her fingerprints on it to forge the bomb threat.

    “I sometimes get discouraged because Scientology gets so much assistance and publicist from people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, she writes. “As for me, I often wish I had never even heard the word ‘Scientology.’ But given the same situation, I would still do it all over again. I would not have been capable of remaining quiet, because I learned too many scary things and talked to too many people who were being hurt.”

  9. Even the libertarian Wikipedia founders have seen the necessity of evolving complex rules and hierarchies to govern the enterprise so that it functions in a useful way. I wonder if they as libertarians see the infinitely more complex real-world marketplace in a similar light.

  10. Yo – Fuck Scientologists.

    Apologies to Xeones.

  11. Ya know Mohammad was the L. Ron Hubbard of the 7th century.

    And so it goes.

  12. I have never seriously denigrated an entire religion on these pages (it was a joke Presbyterians. Really. Just a joke!). Not Muslims, not Baptists, not Papists, Hindus or practitioners of Shinto. It’s your thing and I’m a tolerant sort of guy who’s willing to live and let live.

    That said, I was definitely NOT JOKING ONE FUCKING BIT when I wrote “Fuck Scientologists”.

  13. Good for Wikipedia

  14. I wonder if they as libertarians see the infinitely more complex real-world marketplace in a similar light.

    don’t have to. Libertarianism, capitalism etc. aren’t about creating associations which are open and democratic in and of themselves. For instance, I’ll bet you Democracy Now! ain’t a democracy.

  15. Just in case you have not heard of it yet, this site has a great deal of information about this “religion”.

    http://www.xenu.net/

  16. This is a bad move.

    Scientology performs the free service of labeling morons as morons.

  17. Tony,

    Even the libertarian Wikipedia founders have seen the necessity of evolving complex rules and hierarchies to govern the enterprise so that it functions in a useful way. I wonder if they as libertarians see the infinitely more complex real-world marketplace in a similar light.

    Well, no, because the larger and more complex a system is, the more difficult it is for a relatively small group to hijack it. As a practical matter it is much easier for a small group to hijack a government than it is for small group to hijack the entire planetary economy. After all, that is what despotism is when you boil it down to its essence. Block-voting has always been a problem in small towns, not on the national level.

    The free-market is also immune from hijack because people in the free-market have to do what other people want them to do in order to succeed. A business can force people to use its products against their better judgment. If a cult runs a business, they still have to respond to consumer demand even if those demands run counter to the cults beliefs. Government on the other hand doesn’t have to produce and can force people to do as the government wishes. The body of decision makers is very small compared to the entire economy. A cult need only insert its people into a few dozen offices to control a government. The cult need not lessen to every citizen just the citizens in the cult.

    Wikipedia is vulnerable because it isn’t actually that large an organization. This is especially true when you look at each entry as a separate entity. It takes only a few dozen people to act in concert to alter hundreds of Wikipedia entries. An organization like the Church of Scientology with millions of members world wide can easily swamp Wikipedia. The fact that Wikipedia is free also makes it vulnerable. Scientology would have a very hard time attacking a for profit corporation because they would have to expend a great deal of money doing so. With Wikipedia they need only to expend the time of its most dedicated members.

  18. I wonder if they as libertarians see the infinitely more complex real-world marketplace in a similar light.

    Not sure how a voluntary open-source organization adopting non-coercive rules that apply strictly to its own operations somehow makes the case for state intervention in the economy.

    After all, a free-market economy is chock-full of voluntary organizations and associations adopting non-coercive rules that apply strictly to their own operations.

    If anything, the ability of Wiki to self-govern without running crying to nanny is a good example of civil society doing just fine without needing any jackboots.

  19. Even the libertarian Wikipedia founders have seen the necessity of evolving complex rules and hierarchies to govern the enterprise so that it functions in a useful way. I wonder if they as libertarians see the infinitely more complex real-world marketplace in a similar light.

    No Tony, Wikipedia is not libertarian despite having a quasi-libertarian as *one* of its founders. The core problem of Wikipedia is its lack of property rights. Articles are not owned, even metaphorically. Anyone can edit them at any time. This leads to a tragedy of the commons. The only reason the system works at all is because the evolved a few necessary rules right at beginning. They’re still evolving rules because people are still polluting the commons.

  20. Jaybird,

    Have there been any new cults worth mentioning coming out since the intertubes became household necessities?

    Pastafarianism.

  21. Have there been any new cults worth mentioning coming out since the intertubes became household necessities?

    The cult of Dagon? Or is that just me?

  22. Wikipedia works because its editors are more dedicated and ultimately have more power than its attackers. If it came down to it, Wikipedia could lock down or vigorously patrol Scientology articles as much as it needed to in order to stop the bad edits, at the expense of penalizing good edits as well.

    It’s also worth noting that Scientology wasn’t the only party disciplined by the Arbitration Committee. Various anti-Scientology editors and even an administrator or two were also disciplined, usually by some mix of restricting them to a single account, banning them from editing Scientology articles, or other, more focused, constraints. The list of disciplinary actions reads like the announcements of penalties after a bench-clearing hockey brawl.

    I’ve also noticed that libertarians can actually be quite restrictive about their own property, whether real life or on the Web. I think perhaps they’re more conscious than most people of the fact that it is theirs to fashion into whatever they want it to be.

    (As an aside, the Arbitration Committee’s final decision is sort of interesting to read-it looks a little like a legal opinion, citing rules and precedents and in one or two cases discovering new ones, except that you can actually see the votes for and against each principle. Apparently, there was a lot of controversy over whether “The Arbitration Committee may determine that [accounts of uncertain ownership] who edit with the same agenda and make the same types of edits be treated as a single editor”-that particular bit got only a 7-4 vote, where most of the rest was 11-0 or 10-0. It’d be kind of cool if there was an annotation next to each paragraph of a Supreme Court opinion indicating which justices agreed with that paragraph…)

    Have there been any new cults worth mentioning coming out since the intertubes became household necessities?

    Twilight fans come to mind.

  23. Epi, is there a missing link?

    Lamar,

    Clicky

  24. Tony | May 29, 2009, 3:59pm | #

    Wikipedia founders have seen the necessity of evolving complex rules and hierarchies to govern the enterprise so that it functions in a useful way

    That’s the difference (broadly) between civilization and anarchy.
    Libertarians at the outermost fringe favor anarchy.
    Most of us free-thinkers (with jobs) prefer civilization.

  25. The CoS isn’t the first group of IPs that got banned for abusively editing and overwhelming the system they have. Back in 2006, they banned Congressional IPs for abusing and breaking their rules. I support Wikipedia for doing this because the CoS was ruining their product. The precedent of Congressional IPs shows that it’s not just because the CoS is an easy, unpopular target.

  26. The CoS isn’t the first group of IPs that got banned for abusively editing and overwhelming the system they have. Back in 2006, they banned Congressional IPs for abusing and breaking their rules. I support Wikipedia for doing this because the CoS was ruining their product. The precedent of Congressional IPs shows that it’s not just because the CoS is an easy, unpopular target.

    Dunno ’bout that. Congress is pretty much an “easy, unpopular target” too. 😉

  27. Wikipedia is dedicated to producing a populist version of reality.

    Don’t expect in-depth thought; expect at best plagiarism from better sources.

    Wikipedia is not a sustainable model.

  28. Mom, Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet!

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