The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
'Scientology anti-drug program: Fabricated court orders suggest attempt to silence critics'
Gary Baum (Hollywood Reporter), who has written a lot about Scientology, has the story:
Someone appears to be trying to scrub warnings about the church's controversial Narconon program from the internet.
Nearly a decade after Scientology prompted a high-profile internet protest movement—sparked when the church attempted to remove a damaging YouTube video of member Tom Cruise speaking about the religion—comes the discovery of a new covert campaign to subvert online criticism of the organization's social work. A series of forged court orders were submitted to Google … in 2016 in an attempt to convince the search giant to expunge links to written objections to Scientology's controversial anti-drug program Narconon….
Collectively, the material seeks to mend the standing of unbranded Narconon facilities in Michigan and their owner, a prominent Scientologist named Per Wickstrom, whose reputations have been battered by statements on a number of dedicated websites and message boards critical of the church and the program, including WhyWeProtest.net and Exscn.net, as well as the general consumer watchdog service RipoffReport.com….
Four fabricated orders, dated May and August 2016, ostensibly … [come from courts] in Hamilton County, Ohio; Fulton County, Georgia; and Philadelphia…. It's unclear who's responsible for forging the orders. However, THR reviewed another sham Hamilton County document involving a request to remove links from search engines, a process known as de-indexing. THR obtained a business contract connected to this other filing, indicating that an entity called Web Savvy had charged a fee of $3,750 for the successful elimination of each "negative" link. Web Savvy and a related company, ReputationMasters.com, are based in Torrance, just south of Los Angeles, and both are run by a marketing consultant named John Rooney, who describes himself on LinkedIn as an expert in "removing negative content from the web and promoting client's positive image," citing RipoffReport.com at the top of a list of sites he focuses on.
Corresponding by email, Rooney denied that his firm had any connection to Narconon. When pressed to explain the documentation, he stopped responding to emails and phone calls….
For more on the Internet libel takedown system—other forgeries, other forms of misconduct and still other matters—see these posts.