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This email is from FactNet, Inc. a nonprofit archive and newswire service. 8/22/01

Cancel Bunny and the Spambot:
 Censorship by the Scientology Cult

 

A new click war has exploded that poses a threat to both fair trade and free speech on the Internet. The perpetrator of this new war is none other that the notorious Scientology cult. The same fanatics that brought the Internet a myriad of censorship ploys including the Cancel Bunny and the Spambot has brought its quest for better censorship through technology to the pay-per click search engines. (The Cancel bunny is a software program that searches the Internet for emails that contain information the cult does not want you to see and then cancels those emails without the originator’s knowledge. The SpamBot is a software program that spams newsgroups critical to Scientology such as alt.religion.scientology with tens of thousands of useless or disgusting emails so that opposing voices are drowned out or newsgroup visitors are so offended or overloaded they want to leave immediately. If you would like to see more on Scientology’s history as the pariah of the Internet community start at http://www2.thecia.net/users/rnewman/scientology/home.html .)

This time the stakes are far higher that just censorship issues. If others imitate Scientology’s new search engine sabotaging tactic it will dramatically affect the financial fates of those who rely on search engine marketing for their business survival. This time Scientology has also crossed over into inhibiting fair trade.

To understand how Scientology’s newest search engine sabotaging tactic works it is necessary to understand a little about pay-per-click search engines. Pay-per-click is an advertising system where you buy where your web site appears in the search result rankings (#1, 2, 3 etc.) when someone enters a specific key word search term in that search engine. This ranking is determined through a bidding process where the highest bidder gets the highest ranking.

In pay-per-click search engine results if you are not on the first page of the search results so few people ever go to the second page and, for all intents and purposes you simply do not exist. (Recent market research at GOTO.com shows that the number 1 search listing gets twice as many hits and the number two listing and, the number 2 search listing gets twice as many hits as the number three listing etc., etc. This same hit/ranking average is common to the other major search engines as well. So, it does not take much math skill to see how powerful pay-per-click can be in changing your web site exposure.

Pay-per-click is also sometimes called “featured” or “sponsored” links. It is one of the fastest growing revenue sources for Internet search engines. Pay-per-click is currently considered one of the most certain and effective ways to get direct and immediate exposure for your website, products or company to individuals with a qualified interest.

Because pay-per-click is generating so much revenue for search engine companies like GOTO.com (more than 250 million last year) almost every other major search engine now offers or is planning to start offering it. --- Even Yahoo has its own version up and running. At this point in the story, pay-per-click sounds like a normal and innocent method of purchasing Internet advertising exposure. And, it would have remained so had not Scientology discovered a method to pervert the pay-per-click system for purposes of censorship to the point that it has now crossed over and also become a threat to free trade. The following is how FactNet gained first hand experience with Scientology’s new censorship and free trade blocking technique…

FactNet is a nonprofit Internet archive and newswire service dedicated to protecting freedom of mind by reducing harms caused by cults and mind control. FactNet, as part of its mission, offers views of Scientology’s on its web page at www.factnet.org opposing what Scientology promotes as its true nature and actions. FactNet purchases pay-per click search listings on key words relating to Scientology in the GOTO.com pay-per click search engine.

The reason Goto is currently being used by FactNet is that it affects whose website links show up on the first page in America Online (AOL), Lycos, AltaVista, HotBot, Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Ask Jeeves, CompuServe, EarthLink and many other search engines whenever you enter any of the following key words (Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, Dianetique, Dianetics, Dianetica, and Cienciologia). Cumulatively, if you keep in the top three listings GOTO’s pay-per-click search results reach about 75% of all searching eyeballs on the Internet according to recent marketing research. So, as you can see, we are talking about reaching lots of people who already strongly desire obtaining information about Scientology.

When someone does search these keywords they will see FactNet’s link called Scientology’s Dirty Secrets (Or whatever other keyword we are using Dianetics Dirty Secrets etc.). This simple educational pay-per click strategy has been so successful that thousands of new people every month come and learn more about Scientology’s abuses. (FactNet is now getting a million hits a month and about 25,000 plus unique monthly visitors.)

But Scientology has counter-reacted to FactNet’s successful pay-per-click opposing-views educational program. When we first began the GOTO.com pay-per-click program, for about 10 cents per click, we were certain of being the first web site listing people see when people are when searching for information on Scientology.

Scientology then devised their counter measures by creating 30-50 competitive bidding web pages (depending on the search term) to block (censor) our message from appearing anywhere in the critical high rankings on the first page of GOTO’s search results and consequently for all the other major Internet Search engines affiliated to GOTO.com that are listed above (You do not get into GOTO’s affiliates web site rankings and reach 75% of the Internet unless you are in GOTO’s top 3-6 rankings.)

This new Scientology search engine blocking occurs whenever anyone searches any of the Scientology related search terms mentioned above. In all cases where we have placed a new higher search term bid in order to re-gain a foot-hold in the top three positions of GoTo.com Scientology consistently counter-attacks by once again simultaneously moving the bids of to 6- 12 of their blocking web sites so that our web site opposing Scientology is relegated to search-engine no-mans-land (being out of the first 3-6 rankings in Goto.com) and stand little, if any, chance of being found or read.

If you want to see this search engine techno-censorship tactic in live action, type in ‘’Scientology’’ into the search window at GoTo.Com. Depending on where the search blocking censorship battle currently sits, you will either see FactNet’s listing for Scientology’s Dirty Secrets near the top of the rankings or you will see page after page of Scientology’s blocking web pages knocking us below the exposure critical 6th ranking or even completely off the first page. If Scientology’s Intel operatives have been busy clicking our link to drain our pay-per-click funds, you might see us totally gone, as we continually have to re-send more money to GOTO.com . (After this editorial comes out Scientology may temporarily stop the tactic to try a plausible denial, but we have preserved the actual GOTO ranking listings over the last month showing the same tactic being used repeatedly. (Go to http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/ScientologyGoToTactics.html to look at the evidence yourself.)

Simultaneously moving 6 or more web sites is censorship because it entirely dominates the top search results in these engines. And because all web site’s bids are being moved simultaneously we know that this bidding is coordinated from one central control point.

Just recently, in a new censorship variation The Scientology cult has have created and submitted so many Scientology websites in so many countries to Yahoo that they have just pushed the category “Society and Culture > Religion and Spirituality > Faiths and Practices > Scientology > Opposing Views“ completely off Yahoo’s first page when one searches on the term Scientology. This is big because Yahoo’s searches cover the other 30% of the net and as we said earlier if you’re not on the top of the first page of search results you don’t exist for the greatest majority of searchers.)

Now imagine that any of your business competitors wants to choke off your businesses pay-per-click search engine advertising on the Internet. All they have to do is copy Scientology’s multi-bidding web pages technique and blocking tactic with quickly constructed web sites that have a reasonable appearance of separation. Thus would give them a huge unfair business advantage. This could create virtual pay-per-click advertising monopolies in the world’s largest marketing tool --- the Internet.

Pay-per-click is predicted to become one of the major ways, if not the major way, you find information on the Internet in the future if revenues keep growing as they are doing now. If Scientology’s newest search engine sabotage tactic is imitated, this is a real fair trade nightmare. That is why it is so important pay-per-click must be protected from the abuse of being turned into a method of censorship or unfair trade.

What can you do or not do about this:

1. Contact the major pay-per-click search engines and encourage them to set up new safeguards to protect pay-per-click. It is in their interest since pay-per-click is hottest golden goose on the Internet laying the golden egg. If the perception becomes dominant that this type of censorship or fair trade abuse is permissible by the search engines then the Internet marketing community will rapidly look for a new advertising tool for business promotion in much the same way pay-per-click is quickly replacing free search listings or opt-in email displaced banners as effective internet marketing. 2. Let other people know about this abuse so they too can lobby for better safeguards in the pay-per-click search engines. 3. There are many free speech and internet advocates are upset with Scientology’s continuous censorship attempts on the Net and want them to be punished in such a way that Scientology is finally convinced that the payoff is not worth the payback. We have had many suggestions such as a call for an Internet wide “Click War” with Scientology by asking hundreds of thousands of Internet users to go to Scientology’s pay per click links in the various search engines and click them once a day to drain them of funds (as we believe they are currently doing to us). We have also had suggestions from the most extreme side of the Internet community to call for the world’s best hackers and virus writers to direct their talents to bringing down Scientology’s web sites and computers, but both of these suggestions ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT BE DONE OR ADVISED TO ANYONE. This is illegal and would become a de facto censorship of Scientology and their rights of fair trade and such actions would become the very abuse we are protesting. Lets get creative and think of some better ideas how we can stop this new search engine censorship bid blocking tactic without becoming like them. If you have a proactive and ethical suggestion FactNet will gladly entertain your ideas if you send them to manage@factnet.org with Pay-per-click in the subject line. (Please note that we may not be able to answer every email but if your ideas are good we will use it if it is within our means.)

For more information on Scientology go to http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/dianetics.html

This editorial opinion provided by FactNet, Inc. FactNet is a nonprofit Internet archive and newswire service dedicated to protecting freedom of mind by reducing harms caused by cults and mind control. FactNet's web page is located at www.factnet.org and has received over 20,000,000 hits. Re-distribution and proper re-posting of this document is appreciated. Please use proper net etiquette when doing so.

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