Bob! crowd, was that "just about everybody got hit." Barwell's
discovery that two of his postings had been canceled was quickly followed by
another: USC Title 18, Part I, Chapter 121, "Unlawful access to stored
communications." At the beginning of March 1995, he wrote a letter to the FBI
asking it to enforce the code, with copies to his own Internet service provider (ISP),
Neosoft, and to Netcom, the service the forgeries were coming from. "Two days
later, Netcom FINALLY announced after nearly two weeks that they finally disabled
the accounts through which the forgeries were occurring," Barwell wrote by email a
few months later.
Another set of cancellation attempts surfaced not long afterward using the southern
California provider Deltanet; the two accounts involved were terminated after only
two days. After that, the forging cancellers got more sophisticated: starting in early
April 1995, they were anonymized by using public-access newsreaders and
falsifying the name of the machine the postings came from. The
many cancellations that spring that appeared to come from Britain's Demon
Internet, for example, were eventually traced to a public-access news site in Dublin.
No one has ever owned up to the cancellations. When asked about them in April
1995, CoS in-house attorney Helena Kobrin replied in an email message, "In an
effort to protect its rights, the Church has contacted several Computer Bulletin
Board operators in recent months who, when apprised of the illegal and offensive
nature of the postings, agreed to remove the infringing materials from the Net."
When the cancellations continued through July and August 1995, a team including
representatives from the United States, Canada, and Germany and calling itself the
Rabbit Hunters or, more formally, the Ad-Hoc Committee Against Internet
Censorship, began some fancy technical detective work. By comparing system logs
and monitoring news servers, the group believed it had finally traced the source of
the trouble to the account of a Scientologist who had posted prolifically early that
spring. Asked to comment on their claims, Kobrin did not reply.
In the meantime, more drastic action was being suggested: on January 12, 1995,
Kobrin posted the following message in alt.config:
We have requested that the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup be
removed from all sites. 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.
The assembled system administrators' collective reply, essentially, was, "Forget it."
Even if they had agreed, alt is enough of an anarchy that the newsgroup probably
would have survived anyway, as most sites are set up to automatically honor all
group creation ("newgroup") requests but ignore all group deletion ("rmgroup")
requests. The reason is that there is a substantial school of thought that holds that
no alt newsgroup should ever be removed, even if it's clearly past its use-by date,
like the jokingly named alt.fan.tonya-harding.whack.whack.whack.
Many alt groups were not discussed on alt.config; many were also created with
forged messages, just as many include company or other names without
authorization. This is business as usual, however much it sounds like lawlessness
By email, Kobrin commented, "As the newsgroup involved were [sic] only a very
small number out of the total newsgroups, it was considered that it might be
preferable to do it that way than to take legal action. This did not turn out to be the
case and the matter is a dead issue now." This was probably the moment when any
chance that the Net and the CoS would find some way to reach conciliatory terms
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