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Project Chanology is a series of protest movements launched against the practices of the Church of Scientology by members of Anonymous. The project was started in response to the Church of Scientology’s attempts to remove video clips from a highly publicized interview with Scientologist Tom Cruise from the Internet in January 2008.
On January 14th, 2008, a video produced by the Church of Scientology featuring an interview with Tom Cruise was posted on YouTube. In the video, Cruise makes various statements including saying that Scientologists are the only people who can help after a car accident,and that Scientologists are the authority on getting addicts off drugs. According to news reports, the video featured Cruise “extolling the virtues of Scientology”.
Project Chanology was formulated by users of the English-speaking image boards 711chan and 4chan, in addition to several other websites. The members all considered themselves part of Anonymous , on January 16th, 2008 after the Church of Scientology issued a copyright violation claim against YouTube for hosting material from the Cruise video. The project was publicly launched via a video uploaded to YouTube on January 21st, 2008 entitled “Message to Scientology” on the channel Project Chanology. The video states that Anonymous views Scientology’s DMCA action as Internet censorship, asserting the group’s intent to “expel the church from the Internet.”
On January 26th, the Church responded to the pressure from Anonymous to CNET, stating that the removed video featured “selective and out-of-context excerpts with the intent of creating both controversy and ridicule.” The next day, a second video entitled “Call to Action” was uploaded by Anonymous members, calling for protests outside of Church of Scientology centers on February 10th, 2008.
February 10th, 2008: First Wave of Protests
On the scheduled date, over 7000 Anonymous members from 100 cities across the globe came together in protest in front of Scientology churches. These protests marked the first time Anonymous organized an action that took place off the internet. Many news outlets covered the protests including the Boston Globe, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Scotland’s the Scotsman, Australia’s News.com.au and the Tampa Tribune.
During the protests, Anonymous members chose to constantly record their actions to both protect themselves from legal backlash, but also to have more control over how the protests were presented in the media: something that has persisted in later protests, especially Occupy Wall Street
March 15th, 2008: Second Wave of Protests
After the success of the first protests, Anonymous organized another set to take place on March 15th, L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday. Also referred to as The Ides of March, these protests drew another 7000 Anonymous members together across the globe.
October 2013: Craigslist Ads
Since as early as February 2010, Scientology members have been posting classified ads on Craigslist to secretly recruit new members. for recruitment of new members, the majority of them planted under the pretext of a group therapy session for people seeking spiritual guidance. By December that year, the true color of the ads had been exposed by Operation Clambake forum member RadioPaul, who managed to connect the dots between the ads on Craigslist and other local classified sites. In August 2012, a discussion thread dedicated to finding and reporting these sneaky ads (shown below) was created on the Anonymous message board Why We Protest as part of an anti-Scientology project known as ClearCraig.
Throughout November 2012, posters continued to use the thread to share links to Scientology messages on their local Craigslist sites so other users could help flag the posts as spam. However, Scientology’s propaganda campaign remained under the radar until September 22nd, 2013, when Scientology blogger Tony Ortega leaked several pages from a local Scientology chapter’s guide to writing such advertisements on his blog. That same day, Ortega’s blog post was linked to the forum thread on Why We Protest, breathing new life into the counter-propaganda initiative. In less than two weeks, the thread went on to generate more than 520 responses from other forum members, most of whom volunteered to support the ClearCraig campaign by sharing a list of relevant key words and phone numbers associated with Scientology’s classified ads, while others contributed by drafting counter advertisements (shown below) to raise awareness of the Scientology propaganda on Craigslist. A Why We Protest user emailed a tip about the thread to Business Insider, who posted an article about these counter ads on October 1st, 2013. The same day, similar stories were featured on The Daily Dot. Over the following days, additional stories appeared on ZDNet, Salon, Softpedia and Betabeat.
Jeff Jacobsen – We Are Legion: Anonymous and the War on Scientology
The Boston Globe – Dozens of masked protesters blast Scientology church
Why We Protest – Taking down Co$ on Craigslist/ Co$ ads on CraigsList
Operation Clambake – Co$ being run off Craigslist but hitting classifieds
The Daily Dot – Anonymous and Scientology are at war again--on Craigslist