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(RNS) Wikipedia, the user-edited Internet encyclopedia, has banned the Church of Scientology from editing entries about the controversial religion.
Internet addresses known to be “owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates, broadly interpreted, are to be blocked,” according to the decision.
While the ban applies to all Wikipedia entries, exceptions could be made for non-Scientology related topics, according to Wikipedia.
Made by Wikipedia’s arbitration committee, the decision comes amid an ongoing battle between admirers and critics of Scientology over more than 400 articles on the topic. It was the fourth time in four years the Wikipedia committee was asked to arbitrate a Scientology-related dispute.
While Wikipedia aims to be a site for “neutral” information, Scientology entries have been slanted to fit particular views and partisans on both sides have “resorted to battlefield editing tactics,”
according to the arbitrators.
“Many Scientology articles fail to reflect a neutral point of view and instead are either disparaging or complimentary,” the committee said. A handful of Scientology critics were also banned from editing Wikipedia.
Wikipedia traced some of the edits to “editors openly editing from Church of Scientology equipment and apparently coordinating their activities,” the arbitrators said. The Web-based encyclopedia has policed similar efforts by corporations, government offices and colleges.
Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology International, downplayed the decision, calling it “a routine internal action by Wikipedia to clean up its editing process.”
“More importantly is the fact that Wikipedia finally banned those who were engaged in unobjective and biased editing for the purposes of antagonism as opposed to providing accurate information,” she said.
Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, said it is the first time a church has been banned from editing the site. The 10 voting members of the all-volunteer arbitration committee reached their decision after a six-month “intensive process,” he said.
“The work the arbitration committee does is not easy or simple,” Walsh said. “This has been an issue that’s been simmering for many years and we wanted to deal with it in a meaningful way.”
By Daniel Burke
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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