Scientology Crime Syndicate



November 7, 2000, 10:12 AM GMT

Should Scientology and software mix?

Germany has banned an American PC package on religious grounds

By David Hudson

There's something terribly mid-90s about two stories grabbing headlines in the last few days, dredging up old stand-bys of the Internet beat such as freedom of speech, politics, religion and who gets to access what, where and when.

Scientologists have been butting heads with Netizens for years, but the current controversy has nothing to do with blocking or spamming Usenet newsgroups. Instead, the main players here are Microsoft and the German Interior Ministry. An American company, Executive Software International, supplies something called a disk defragmenter for Microsoft's Windows 2000 package, and the CEO of the US company happens to be a Scientologist.

"There were public voices, among others in some of the German states and also from the churches in Germany which said this part of the software could have a security problem," one anonymous German official tells Reuters. Microsoft spokesperson Thomas Baumgaertner explains why the software giant bowed to pressure and dumped the defragmenter: "Since in Germany they are very, very sensitive with these things, they recommended not to use this tool."

Meanwhile, the papers haven't quite caught up yet with developments in a Parisian court where French officials faced off against Yahoo yesterday. The hot button here: France wants its Internet users shut out of online auctions where Nazi memorabilia is bought and sold. Such auctions are already banned at Yahoo.fr, but that's the easy part; what can be done about French users taking part in auctions at any other Yahoo site?

The Industry Standard's Bernhard Warner reports that a panel of experts including "Father of the Internet" himself (no, not Al Gore) Vinton Cerf has told the court that French users could indeed be blocked from auctions at Yahoo's US site, although the block wouldn't be 100 per cent effective; more like 70 to 80 per cent. France may well tell Yahoo to block what it can.

An indignant Kieren McCarthy, writing for the Register, notes: "After years and years of the US telling everyone else in the world where they can go and what they can do, it's good to see that the great America is being told what it has to do in other people's countries. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it."



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