In 2009, Wikipedia barred the Church of Scientology so that the religious body could not edit any articles on the content-rich site anymore.
Apparently, the punishment was meted out because the religious institution was guilty of repeatedly editing articles on the site in a way that was dishonest and undeservedly favorable to the church.
Before this incident, Wikipedia never cracked down on self-serving editing on its site so hard. And banning a group as big as the church was the main reason why the news grabbed so much attention.
The Charge and the Conflict
As per evidence the Wiki admins came out in this long-running case, several editors were openly editing Scientology material on the site, using the church’s equipment and coordinating their activities.
As per WikiScanner, the web-based database app that tracks IP addresses and their sources, several news stories discussed Scientology articles on Wikipedia being edited from Scientology IPs. This was concerning because it could jeopardize the site’s reputation for neutrality.
According to one of the site’s admins, policing edits originating from Scientology equipment was particularly tough as several editors from multiple IPs are at work and each editor’s address was constantly changing. This mitigated admins from ascertaining whether one editor was using several Wikipedia accounts to trick the system.
Editors accessing Wikipedia through the IP address of an organization and editing Wikipedia articles that are related to that firm have a plausible conflict of interest. Irrespective of the editors’ relationship to a firm, the entity itself bears an obligation for using its equipment and servers appropriately. If it fails to do that, Wikipedia could address obstinate violations of basic site policies via bans or blocks.
In a historic 10-1 ruling, Wikipedia’s arbitration council voted in support of banning users that come from Church of Scientology-owned IP addresses.
According to CM Burns from Bighappyprofits.com, a site that tracks the best online business models, users editing Wikipedia articles isn’t new. In fact, it is the norm.
But never has Wikipedia resorted to blocking a site or user group from adding or editing content on their platform.CM Burns Bighappyprofits.com
So, this is truly a first!
Founded in 1953 by a science-fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology has been always criticized for brainwashing its members and usurping their funds. The case hubs on the 400+ articles about the highly secretive church and its patrons.
Wikipedia bans the Church of Scientology because the concerned pages were accused of fierce editing battles that pitted Scientology critics and editors of the church. The church’s editors fought their naysayers by citing materials published by themselves or their sympathizers.
The committee even banned several individual editors, preventing them from editing articles related to Scientology on the site for six months at least. The editing privileges were to be reinstated only if the editors exhibited that they would not violate Wikipedia’s rules.
This isn’t the first the time the church has come under the scanner of Wikipedia. In fact, this is the fourth time it has attracted Wikipedia’s attention for the wrong reasons. The past year, 2008, saw several disputes that involved anti-Scientology campaigners who functioned as a team under the ‘Anonymous’ name. Anonymous is not party to this case, as only registered members can edit Wikipedia articles under dispute.