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Alt.religion.scientology

The newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (often abbreviated a.r.s) is a Usenet newsgroup started in 1991 to discuss the controversial philosophy known as Scientology, as well as the Church of Scientology, which claims exclusive intellectual property rights thereto and is viewed by some as a dangerous cult. A.r.s has become the focal point of a violent, aggressive battle known as Scientology vs. the Internet, which has taken place both online and in the courts.

The online "war" first came to the attention of Internet users in general when Scientology lawyer Helena Kobrin attempted to remove the entire newsgroup from Usenet. In January of 1995, a rmgroup message[?] (a command designed to remove a newsgroup) was posted to Usenet containing the following statement:

"We request that you remove the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup from your site. The reasons for requesting its removal are: (1) It was started with a forged message; (2) not discussed on alt.config; (3) it has the name "scientology" in its title which is a trademark and is misleading, as a.r.s. is mainly used for flamers to attack the Scientology religion; (4) it has been and continues to be heavily abused with copyright and trade secret violations and serves no purpose other than condoning these illegal practices. -- Helena K. Kobrin, Counsel for trademark and copyright owner"

This message was largely ignored (and openly protested) by system administrators who carried the newsgroup. Rather than removing it from Usenet, the newsgroup's popularity exploded. For a period during the first half of 1995, the newsgroup was one of the most popular and active on the entire Internet, with message traffic greater than the vast majority of newsgroups.

As time passed and the Scientology online battle continued without end, the newsgroup's popularity lessened somewhat. It still maintains heavy traffic, averaging three to four hundred messages per day.

Critics of Scientology claim that Scientologists are forbidden from reading or accessing the newsgroup. As proof, they point to a software package distributed by the organization to its members. This software package, described as an "Internet filter," blocks anyone using the program from accessing the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology, many Web sites containing information critical of Scientology, and all references to the names of many vocal critics of the organization. This Internet filter program has been dubbed "Scieno Sitter" by critics.

See also: List of newsgroups

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