Scientology Faces Wave of Cyber Attacks
BYLINE: David Sarno
LOS ANGELES: "We were born. We grew up. We escaped."
So reads the motto of ExScientologyKids.com, a website launched last week by three young women raised in the Church of Scientology who are speaking out against the religion. Their website accuses the church of physical abuse, denying some children a proper education and alienating members from their families.
One of the women behind the site, Jenna Miscavige Hill, is the niece of David Miscavige, the head of the church, and Kendra Wiseman is the daughter of Bruce Wiseman, president of the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology-sponsored organisation opposed to the practice of psychiatry.
The day before ExScientologyKids.com launched, another inflammatory allegation about the church began to circulate online. "L Ron Hubbard Plagiarised Scientology," read a headline at the Internet culture blog BoingBoing.
The post linked to images of a translated 1934 German book called Scientologie, which critics say contains similar themes to Hubbard's Scientology, which he codified in 1952, according to a church website.
These were just the latest in a series of Scientology-related stories to burn across the internet like grass fires in recent weeks.
The largest thorn in the church's side has been a group called Anonymous, an online coalition of sceptics, hackers and activists, many of them young and web-savvy. The movement has inspired former Scientologists to come forward and has trained an internet spotlight on any story or rumour that portrays Scientology in unflattering terms.
No corner of the web, it appears, is safe for Scientology. Blogger and lawyer Scott Pilutik recently posted a story noting that Scientology was yanking down eBay auctions for used e-meters, the device the church uses for spiritual counselling.
eBay allows brand owners - Louis Vuitton or Rolex, say - to remove items they believe infringe on their trademark or patent rights. Basically, fakes. But, Pilutik said, the used e-meters being taken down were genuine.
"What's actually going on here," he wrote, is that the church is "knowingly alleging intellectual property violations that clearly don't exist". Within a day, Pilutik's blog had more than 45 000 visitors - so much traffic that his site crashed.
Facing a steady stream of negative publicity, Scientology has found itself on the defensive. The church has referred to Anonymous as a group of "cyber-terrorists" and, in a statement, said the group's aims were "reminiscent of al-Qaeda spreading anti-American hatred and calling for US destruction". …