Early Internet and Scientology

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Early Internet and Scientology
Author Antony Phillips
Type of Article Category:History of Scientology
Website http://www.antology.info
Email ant.phillips@post8.tele.dk

I suspect that Scientology failed completely to predict the effect the new communication media would have on their monopoly and ability to suppressive independent thought and communication. This is what happened. It should be realised that at that time there was only one class of multiple terminal communication on Internet – Blogs, Forums, Internet lists did not exist. What did exist was newsgroups.

A newsgroup was set up in such a way that anyone could access it, and anyone could write to it. The only requisite was to have an email address. I don't know how many newsgroups there were, but it was in the region of hundreds, and they each covered a definite subject, gardening for example.Their title did have a prefix, and the two Scientology newsgroups used the prefix "alt". The one which came first was called alt.religion.scientology (ARS) and I do not know who set it up (there was a procedure for launching a newsgroup). It rather quickly became a centre for negative, including rude, comments on Scientology.

Because it was felt that we needed a newsgroup free of what could well be called entheta, Homer Smith (who was very early an Internet Service Provider) set up a newsgroup and called it alt.clearing.technology (ACT). The word clearing was used because there was a movement to avoid the term Scientology (which then and earlier had a rather grey reputation).

There was a problem, in that if some one still in the "Church" wrote a message directly to the newsgroup, someone in his/her org (ethics?) might spot it and the person would be in hot water. Therefore the practice arose of using proxy servers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxy_server) of a special kind, which passed the message on, substituting a pseudonym. In certain cases, just to make sure, the message to the newsgroup was sent through more than one proxy server.

The owner or staff of the proxy server knew or could obtain the real email address of some one using a proxy server, so there was an endeavour to use proxy servers in countries not open to raids by the police. If I remember rightly one country thought to be safe was Finland but by some means the "Church" in USA managed to get a court order in Finland to reveal one person's real identity. If any one likes to do a bit of investigative work on that – I'll be glad to put the results up here.

Ken Ogger http://scientolipedia.org/info/The_Pilot_%28Ken_Ogger%29 had another way of getting round the problem. He was pretty good at the Internet and evolved two or three methods of sending mail from a place that could not be traced (which ws against the rules). His emails to ACT came from pilot@hiddenplace.com. He sent these to ACT once a fortnight, including replies to people who had written letters to him, and posted them at ACT. The Church never found out who had that address, until his wife revealed him

Talk of the NSA and the things that Snowden revealed reminded me of this.

Antony A Phillips 10:54, December 13, 2014 (MST)