It seems that YouTube has one set of rules for The Church of Scientology and another set for Scientology's critics.
Two weeks ago, YouTube vaporized a 10,000-subscriber-strong channel run by well-known Scientology critic Mark Bunker. His "Xenutv1" deserved to die, the YouTubers said, because they had already axed an earlier account, "Xenutv," where Bunker infringed a few copyrights.
Indeed, YouTube's terms of service clearly say "A user whose account has been terminated is prohibited from accessing, possessing or creating any other YouTube accounts."
But the world's largest video sharer hasn't applied this rule to the brand new channel launched by Scientology itself - and trumpeted with an official Scientology press release. Like Bunker, Scientology had an earlier account erased after it violated site policy.
Are you listening Stephen Colbert?
In March, as reported by The New York Post, Scientology launched a YouTube channel in an attempt to discredit members of Anonymous, a live-wire internet group intent on making life difficult for Tom Cruise and crew. Dubbed the "Scientology Official Report on Anonymous Hate Crimes," the channel identified individual members of the group, describing them as "terrorists."
YouTube doesn't allow videos that broadcast personal information. And the account was soon destroyed.
In a conversation with The Post, a Church spokesperson confirmed the organization was behind the channel. "We absolutely made the videos," they said. "We have researchers that have found these men. When you get death threats and bomb threats directly going after the church, we don't take it lightly."
A similar statement was made by a church minister speaking to The Battle Creek Enquirer after an alleged Anonymous bomb threat.
And yet Scientology is back on YouTube. This time, it's paying for the account. It's also paying for ads on the site, looking to drive some traffic onto its new channel. "Get the facts," the ads say.
YouTube did not respond to requests for comment. But Scientology did. First, we received a phone call from a woman with an otherworldly French accent. "This is the Church," she said. "We may be able to answer your questions. But first we want your email address."
A few minutes later, we received this: "The Church of Scientology has never had YouTube cancel an account, nor made any such request." Which does not answer our questions.
Meanwhile, Mark Bunker is annoyed. "I hope YouTube does the right thing," he told us. "It certainly looks like there's a double standard at work.
"Scientology will say the first account wasn't theirs. But you bet the order came from the top." ®