The folks in Scientology have waged a cyberspace war against their perceived enemies almost as long as cyberspace has existed. The Internet has been their battlefield since the early 1990s. Over the last 10 years or so, the Internet has become too large, ubiquitous and unmanageable for the Church of Scientology to control; but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t focused on particular Internet venues to spread its gospel and lies.

CNN reports that Wikipedia has finally had enough of Scientologists defacing their pages (WebCite cached article):

The collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned the Church of Scientology from editing the site. The [UK] Register [cached] reports Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, or ArbCom, voted 10 to 0 in favor of the ban, which takes effect immediately.

Wikipedia’s innovative free-encyclopedia draws upon the knowledge of millions of users to create and edit articles on every conceivable topic. Edits appear immediately and do not undergo any formal peer-review process.

Wikipedia officially prohibits use of the encyclopedia to advance personal agendas — such as advocacy or propaganda and philosophical, ideological or religious dispute — but the open format makes enforcing such policies difficult.

While Wikipedia’s format is indeed open — sometimes too open (see e.g. this and this, and this parody too) — the site generally has tools that can be used to backtrack edits and find patterns among them. That many of these edits have been coordinated, appears to be the deciding factor; Wikipedia tolerates a lot of things, maybe too many, but organized and sophisticated “gaming” of their site by a tight-knit group is not one of them.

Naturally, the Church of Scientology is pleading ignorance, and insists there was no coordination:

However, Karin Pouw, with the Church of Scientology’s public affairs office, told me she is unaware of any coordinated effort to alter Wikipedia. Instead, she described the edits as individual attempts to correct inaccurate information by impassioned Scientologists and interpreted the ban as a typical Wikipedia response to arguments over content.

Ms Pouw is wrong about Wikipedia on this score. They rarely take such stern actions against groups of users. That they did so one other time — as they did with the US DoJ (cached) — in no way makes this a “typical” action for them.

That Scientology would lie about Wikipedia is no big surprise.

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