Two well-known critics of Scientology have had their user accounts on the video sharing website YouTube suspended. The YouTube accounts of both Tory Christman and Mark Bunker were suspended this week. In an exclusive statement to Wikinews, YouTube explained why accounts are suspended, but did not specifically state why these particular accounts were suspended. Neither Christman nor Bunker received a notice or explanation from YouTube as to why their accounts were suspended.
On Tuesday April 15, Tory Christman a former Scientologist and volunteer for their Office of Special Affairs, and known as ToryMagoo44 on YouTube, had her account suspended for unknown reasons. On Wednesday, after complaints to YouTube from other YouTube users and from members of the group Anonymous, Christman’s account was restored.
Wikinews confirmed Friday that Mark Bunker known as ‘xenutv1’ on YouTube, a television journalist and critic of Scientology, had his user account suspended. This is the second time that Bunker’s account was suspended. He was formerly known as ‘xenutv’ when his account was suspended the first time.
“I want to see the complaint and on what grounds did YouTube suspend my account. I have done nothing on that account that would violate any of their terms and my videos and account should not have been pulled. The only caveat to this is my first account “XenuTV” was suspended a while back for a Steven Colbert video I had from Comedy Central. At that time I created XenuTV1 and according to YouTube’s terms you can only have one account. Any time I have ever been asked to remove something that may violate their terms for copyright materials, I comply immediately. It would be wrong and a misuse of power to pull my account because of this lone loophole in their terms,” said Bunker exclusively to Wikinews.
Bunker, who is also the owner of the anti-Scientology website www.xenutv.com, has become known as Wise Beard Man to Anonymous. He was interviewed by Wikinews in February. Bunker started XenuTV in 1999 and began to make videos that he provided for the Lisa McPherson Trust. Bunker has been a critic of the Church of Scientology since 1997.
In 2006, he won a Regional Emmy Award after he and KUSI-TV news reporter Lena Lewis produced a documentary news video on the issues with the United States – Mexico border with San Diego, California.
With permission from Christman, Bunker responded to his account’s suspension with a video post to her YouTube channel on Thursday. Bunker stated: “This afternoon at 2:41, I found out YouTube canceled my account. No justification was given to me, I got no notice from them, and there appears to be no recourse. And why did this happen? Because the Jason Beghe interview was about to be posted – and Scientology did not want anyone to see that. My tease for the Jason Beghe interview went up on Sunday, and by this afternoon we had almost six hundred thousand views, and it had been profiled in newscasts around the world. There is a lot of tension being drawn to this video, and Scientology wanted to stop it.”
Jason Beghe is a television and film actor who joined Scientology in 1994. He gave USD1 million to the Church of Scientology over the years, and told Roger Friedman of FOX News that Scientology head David Miscavige called him “the poster boy for Scientology”. Beghe appeared in promotional videos for Scientology in 2005. In April 2008 he left Scientology, and contacted Andreas Heldal-Lund, who put him in touch with Mark Bunker. Bunker arranged an interview with Beghe, which was uploaded to Bunker’s YouTube account on April 7. The posted video is a 3-minute portion of a larger 3-hour interview with Beghe about his criticism of Scientology. In the video Beghe states: “Scientology is destructive and a rip-off. … It’s very, very dangerous for your spiritual, psychological, mental, emotional health and evolution. ”
In an interview with Wikinews, Tory Christman commented on the suspension of her account, and now Bunker’s: “Well having worked for the Office of Special Affairs which is part of the Church of Scientology, they used to have me go out and open up phony accounts, I didn’t know they were stopping free speech on the net but once I realized that … I said ‘I can’t do this, I didn’t get into Scientology to stop free speech’. … I’m pretty sure, you know, I’m quite sure, that it’s Scientology. That’s what they do, that’s their view is just ‘shut em down’ they have no morals on it or anything. They just figure ‘screw em, shut em down’.”
Christman said she found out her YouTube account had been suspended on Tuesday: “I came back from lunch at four and Mark called me and said ‘Do you know your account is suspended?’, and by the morning of yesterday it was back up.”
When asked if she had received a notice about the suspension from YouTube, Christman responded: “I never got anything, and I’ve looked through everything, I never got any kind of a notice, either way. … I never heard from YouTube either way – suspending it, or putting it back. And I’ve written them, and it was only put back thanks to Anonymous and all the critics and people that wrote in to them, I’m quite sure – Because tons of people did, it wasn’t like they just put it back up.”
“I would like to know, why was it suspended, why is Mark’s suspended, what are the violations, okay, because if the Church of Scientology is just paying them off that’s kind of weird, isn’t it?,” added Christman.
Wikinews asked Christman if she knew if the suspension of Bunker’s account had anything to do with the interview with Jason Beghe: “Why Jason’s video was pulled, I don’t know, and I’ve spoken to Jason and he didn’t know either.”
She told Wikinews: “I would like to know why. Someone should have a right to be told ‘you are screwing up on this, remove this video’ … ‘change it’. But to never be notified and then just you’re suspended, that’s kind of weird, I think. And I have every intention of either, YouTube can contact me, or I’m going to keep contacting … they need to let the people know what is going on.”
A YouTube spokeswoman told Wikinews that they would respond to our e-mails “as soon as possible.” Within two hours YouTube issued an exclusive statement to Wikinews saying that they “do not comment on individual videos.”
“YouTube takes these issues very seriously but we don’t comment on individual videos. Our general approach is simple: we have clear content policies about what videos are allowed on the site. For example we prohibit clips that infringe copyright or show extreme violence. Videos that breach these rules are removed and we disable all accounts belonging to repeat offenders,” said a spokesperson for YouTube exclusively to Wikinews. When asked, YouTube did not state when or if Bunker’s account will be reinstated.
Apr. 18, 2008