YouTube has vaporized a popular user account dedicated to criticizing The Church of Scientology.
Last Thursday, the world's most popular video sharer removed the 10,000-subscriber-strong "Xenutv1" channel run by Mark Bunker, a television journalist/well-known Scientology naysayer. Earlier in the week, Bunker posted a teaser for his three-hour interview with Jason Beghe - a film and television actor who recently defected from the world of Scientology - and the account was yanked just before Bunker was due to broadcast the interview in full.
"I was planning to post the entire thing on Thursday," Bunker told us. "But before I could do that - boom - the channel was gone."
The channel did not contain any copyrighted material. But Xenutv1 isn't Bunker's first YouTube account, and two previous accounts were removed for broadcasting copyrighted clips, including a channel known as "Xenutv." According to Bunker's conversations with the video sharer - who would not speak to The Reg about the matter - the fate of his second Xenu channel is tied to his first.
The first incarnation of Xenutv was canceled in early February. After posting a Scientology-related clip from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, Bunker received a DMCA take-down notice from the cable station's parent company, Viacom. Yes, the same Viacom that's suing YouTube for $1bn. Bunker intended to comply with the notice. But his account was removed before he had the chance to do so.
That very day, much the same thing happened to a private account where Bunker was hosting the infamous video in which Tom Cruise refers to Scientology as "a blast". In this case, the account was canceled after a DMCA notice from the Church itself.
"I received these take-down notices within an hour of each other," Bunker told us. "So I went to YouTube to delete these clips, and both accounts had been canceled."
Bunker then created "Xenutv1," and this time, he was careful to avoid copyrighted content. Thanks to some heavy publicity from an internet group known as Anonymous - which declared war on Scientology the Cruise clip vanished form YouTube entirely - the new channel developed a healthy following. Whereas Xenutv had about 3,000 subscribers when it was vaporized, Xenutv1 reeled in more than 10,000 in a matter of weeks.
When Bunker posted his Beghe teaser, the clip received 595,000 hits in less than four days. But then YouTube banned him again.
Two days earlier, the site had banned a channel run by Tory Christman, another outspoken Scientology critic and a friend of Mark Bunker's. Shortly thereafter, a post turned up on alt.religion.scientology in which someone bragged about silencing Christman and vowed to silence Bunker too.
After an Anonymous protest, Christman's account - which also steered clear of copyrighted material - was reinstated. Bunker's was not.
YouTube tells Bunker that Xenutv1 was erased because of the copyrighted material posted to his earlier account. "They said that because my first account was canceled, I was never supposed to have a second account," Bunker explained. "I was supposed to be banned for life."
According to Bunker, the site acknowledges that someone tipped them off to his second account, and it says this person did not represent Scientology.
YouTube also told Bunker that his account would be reinstated if Viacom agreed to rescind its take-down notice. But Viacom refuses to do so. In the meantime, Bunker has posted his Beghe interview to the YouTube competitor Vimeo and his Wordpress blog.
When it comes to YouTube, Bunker believes that his only chance for reinstatement is the outspoken host of The Colbert Report. This faux newsman has shown a healthy attitude towards such matters in the past - and a healthy sense of humor.
"Only one man can help me," Bunker says. "Stephen Colbert." ®