Atheist MySpace Group Still Defunct

The Atheist and Agnostic Group on MySpace (once, technically the largest atheist group in the world) is still deleted.

The Secular Student Alliance issued this press release:

“MySpace refuses to undelete the group, although it never violated any terms of service,” said Bryan Pesta, Ph.D., the group’s moderator. “When the largest Christian group was hacked, MySpace’s Founder, Tom Anderson, personally restored the group, and promised to protect it from future deletions.”

“It is an outrage if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the world’s largest social networking site tolerate discrimination against atheists and agnostics– and if this situation goes unresolved I’ll have little choice but to believe they do,” said Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain of Harvard University. News Corporation, Murdoch’s global media corporation which also includes Fox News, purchased MySpace in 2005.

“My personal profile was deleted as well, and despite weeks of emails to customer service, plus a petition signed by 500 group members, MySpace won’t budge. I think these actions send a clear message to the 30 million godless people in America (and to businesses whose money was spent displaying ads on our group) that we are not welcome on MySpace,” said Pesta.

Tom, you are *so* removed from my Top Eight…

Unless you fix this. It shouldn’t be difficult. (And yes, I’m putting this all on you.)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://go-ba-nana.blogspot.com Autumn

    Is there anything organized to get this fixed that we can help with? Something like a petition, phone calls, letters, etc.

  • Richard Wade

    Nothing short of a lawsuit will remedy this. This is way past appealing to Tom to do the right thing.

  • http://auryn29a.livejournal.com Auryn

    I know nothing about MySpace groups but…can’t you just create a new one?

  • Huffy

    I was a manager and founder/manager for a couple of different groups on MSN.

    Twice our group…which on each occasion was at the top of the atheist and religious dicussion groups popularity lists for msn…was shut down for ‘violations’. The violations were reported by a member of the group. They never investigated. Never asked a manager to explain the conduct. Never even reviewed records (as there were no violations to be found).

    In each case, after complaining bitterly…we merely created a new group and tried to reach as many of our former members as we could.

    Here is the rub…the complaints of wrong-doing in each case were from the same person…a person who posed to be different things and was in fact a manager in one case. Come to find out…he did it to other groups too. The last we heard, he was claiming to have been in the seminary all along and on the verge of obtaining the priesthood. Fitting I suppose that someone so deceitful and full of malice would gravitate to that calling. Of course, that could have just been another lie.

    Just thought I would share some similar frustrations…and point out that other groups that were not atheist in nature were restored after such incidents…but ours was just told “too bad”.

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved

    Maybe it is time to sue those fucktards in court.

  • http://www.ocatheists.com Michael Doss

    I can’t help but thinking there’s a lot more to this than we’re reading from SSA. I find a post at http://www.freemyspace.com/?q=node/80 with what seems like a lot of the same info, but different facts (Tom reinstated the group after complaints from Christians a few years ago, and this time the group was hacked, not complained about, as noted in the Friendly Atheist link above).

    The SSA press release doesn’t even mention that this was a phishing hack, instead it implies that Christians complained and the site was removed. The Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheist_and_Agnostic_Group) linked from the press release has still different information.

    I have a feeling this has MUCH more to do with incompetence (if that) than it does with discrimination.

  • Mriana

    Why did they delete it to begin with? I never did get that clear. Of course he has deleted other people and groups too. It seems like tyrrany to me. Don’t know who’s going to be next.

  • Richard Wade

    Why did they delete it to begin with?

    Given the differential treatment described in examples above, you can probably name that tune in one note.

    I’m quitting my little bitty MySpace site and telling Tom Anderson why. I won’t support an organization like that. He won’t give a shit but that’s how empires start to fall, by not giving a shit.

  • psychodiva

    I think we should all join the thing and start up groups- repeatedly.

  • http://sycologist.blogspot.com/ MJ

    Well, in a country where the president doesn’t believe that atheists are “true citizens” I can’t say i am too surprised. Sad nonetheless.

  • BZ

    While I’m suspicious of Bush, that quote is quite unverified.

  • http://www.killerisme.com James

    When George Bush Sr was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O’Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates had the following exchange with then Vice President Bush.

    Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are Atheists?

    Bush: I guess I’m pretty weak in the Atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

    Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are Atheists?

    Bush: No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

    Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

    Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I’m just not very high on Atheists.

  • stogoe

    Typical Murrikan bullshit. “Only the rights of Bigots will be respected; all others GTFO” should be our national motto.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/463/ Perry

    I suspect we Atheists would be considered evil if we adopted the same tactics and tried to shut-down “TheirSpace” accounts…

  • http://www.ocatheists.com Michael Doss

    I think we should all look at a few more facts before immediately jumping on the “OMG IT’S A CONSPIRACY MURDOCH LOL” bandwagon.

    In the end, Myspace is a website run by a private company. It can do as it pleases, though I’d bet this has almost nothing to do with an evil Christian plot to bring down Atheist groups, and more to do with a large group getting hacked by a third party, then deleted to get rid of the problem (because the software on myspace kinda sucks).

  • Pingback: MySpace: No place for Atheists? « Oz Atheist’s Weblog

  • http://ozatheist.wordpress.com/ OzAtheist

    Bottom line – is the atheist group not being re-instated because they are atheist? I doubt that can be proved either way.
    Does it look like the atheist group is discriminated against? IMHO Yes.
    Therefore MySpace should reinstate it ASAP, just the appearance of discrimination (or whatever word you want to use) should be enough for a company to react. How soon do you think something would be done if it appeared that a company was discriminating against Women, or African Americans or a Disability group?

  • http://www.ocatheists.com Michael Doss

    I don’t think it looks like it is, at all – the group was hacked and overrun. All Myspace knows is that the group suddenly had all sorts of changes, but they can’t know who did them (or if they’re legit). There are a lot of different stories going on here, and I don’t think any of us have the answers or all the information, surely not enough to dictate to Myspace how the situation should be handled.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    Well, in a country where the president doesn’t believe that atheists are “true citizens” I can’t say i am too surprised. Sad nonetheless.

    I will point out that even if that quote is accurate, it’s twenty years old, by a guy who was president two presidents ago.

    How long are we as atheists going to continue to nurse THAT wound? If something a dude said twenty years ago is still pissing you off, you haven’t been paying attention to what his son is doing today!

  • Richard Wade

    If we are to go by the reports from the Atheist and Agnostic Group, MySpace has apparently made no effort to communicate with their grieved customers. As the silence goes on the actual cause of the deletion becomes less important and the apparent lack of caring on the part of MySpace becomes the more important issue. If MySpace has played no role in this incident either directly, by negligence or by complicity, then why have they not made a clear and unambiguous statement to that effect? The silence begins to say a lot. The comparison to Tom Anderson’s efforts to help the large Christian group that was hacked to rebuild their site is the most damning.

  • http://www.ocatheists.com Michael Doss

    Richard, there’s just too much we don’t know. We do, however, know this, from http://www.freemyspace.com/?q=node/80:

    Our group was deleted before– two years ago– by a group of christians who would troll myspace for profiles/groups they found offensive (i.e., non-christian) and then mass complain to customer service til the group got deleted. Tom stepped in and restored our group then. He even posted in our group saying he’d help protect us against future attacks (linked below). Despite this, neither Tom nor anyone at Myspace will help fix our current hacking.

    There was, at least two years ago, a precedent for getting these groups back up and running, from Tom himself (who isn’t running myspace, for what it’s worth – he’s a public face. He doesn’t do the programming or “own” it). And there certainly hasn’t been “silence” from Myspace – they deleted the group AS a means of dealing with the takeover issue.

    I just have problems faulting Myspace here for being anything other than a company that probably gets 10,000 requests like this a day, and can’t deal with them all. If anything, this sounds like a technical problem. If that’s everyone’s Myspace problem, fine – but c’mon, atheists – use occam’s razor here – the most likely explaination isn’t “myspace hates atheists!”

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you Michael for this other perspective. I suppose as you suggest that we ought to withhold judgment until further information is available. MySpace probably does get a lot of hacking/technical problems daily, but probably not so often from so huge a group as the A&AG. All we do know is that the injured customer is not happy with either the situation or the company’s response so far.

    Certainly a business should not treat its customers poorly, and even if the business is innocent, it should take strident steps to not even appear to have mistreated its customers. If only from the public relations angle, MySpace does not seem to be handling this well. I’m sure there are many people who will not hear or heed your appeal for cooler heads. Every day this goes on unresolved, MySpace’s reputation suffers. That part of it at the very least is their responsibility.

  • http://www.myspace.com/aiffb Bryan

    Hey all. It’s been an interesting day. I want to be as transparent as possible, and welcome skeptical inquiries about how I know Myspace deleted my group because of religious intolerance.

    First, thanks much to Hemant for helping communicate all this, and featuring it in more than one of his blogs. Thanks also to the godless community, the response has been overwhelming, and I think I owe anyone who took time dealing with this some further elaboration.

    I started the group in June 2004. In the summer of 2005, it was deleted most definitely because of complaints from “religious intolerants”. A myspace user group called the “christian crusaders” was responsible for getting many groups deleted back then (including a large pro-abortion group).

    Their strategy was to scour myspace looking for profiles and groups they found offensive, and then mass complain to myspace customer service. CS at myspace is very much hit or miss. The crusaders simply kept sending emails til someone at myspace took action (a key I think to what happened recently).

    It took 3 weeks or so, but eventually the group was restored. Tom Anderson himself (pre news corp) posted to the group saying “myspace doesn’t censor” and “if any thing happens to the group in the future, just send him an email” (if interested, check out whom Tom lists as his heros. I suspect he is at least agnostic, but I also suspect he doesn’t control his profile anymore, post newscorp).

    All was fine til around thanksgiving 2007 (with April 2007 resulting in the group’s award from the SSA and Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain).

    My profile which controls the group was hacked. I still have no idea how; if anyone wants to blame me for stupidly falling for a phishing scam, I probably am guilty, but I honestly don’t know how it happened.

    The group was renamed jesus is love; 100s of regular users were banned (which oddly is permanent in a myspace group; cannot be undone, even by the group’s moderator). All our huge threads were deleted and the hacker was systematically deleting users from the group as well.

    It stopped when my profile was deleted. Note that with my profile’s deletion, every single thread I ever made to my group got deleted as well.

    This lead to the first round of requests to myspace to restore it (see an earlier blog here from Hemant for an example). It also led to the online petition which now has 600 sigs.

    Sometime in mid december, I finally got someone sympathetic at Myspace to restore the group.

    The problem was, all the regular users were still banned.

    Once again I sent repeated requests to myspace asking if the users could be unbanned (the group was essentially dead; delete 100 or so regulars from any internet forum and guess what happens).

    I got dozens if not 100 auto-reply emails from customer service. Finally, on 1/1/2008, I got a reply– I think– from a person. It said “thank you for this information; we are deleting the group”. Literally 5 minutes later, the group was gone.

    Sorry for the book length explanation. I realize the evidence is circumstantial, but I think there are enough parts to establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment on myspace’s part (if interested in my argument regarding this, see my new myspace profile).

    Add to this how myspace (post newscorp) reacted to the biggest christian group getting hacked and deleted, and I think I have a rational basis for the claims made in my press release. Note that very few “discrimination” cases will have a smoking gun. I doubt there is a “crush the heathens” internal memo that was circulated among myspace execs. Most cases of discrimination are established by what I’ve been calling “prima facie” evidence (I’m no lawyer, but see Mcdonnell Douglas Corp versus Green for an example of how this works). I think an agent of myspace (and therefore myspace) deleted the group for religious reasons and I think I have enough evidence to meet the legal test for disparate treatment.

    So, there it is. I’ll glady answer questions people pose here, but give me some time. I’ve spent the whole day emailing, so excuse any babbling above. We all know there’s a difference between believing and knowing (please no atheist versus agnostic discussions here…:). I believe myspace deleted my group for religious reasons, but I don’t know it. I’d argue my belief is reasonable and rational, however.

    For the one person still reading (thanks mom) myspace code is so weird that even though our group is deleted, it still exists in internet limbo. The threads are accessible, and if you know the html glitch, you can even post in the group. That said, it trully is deleted as a group. Here’s the back door link to the topics. Note the second pinned topic is the 2005 post by Tom Anderson (I hope the link doesn’t ruin the formatting….):

    http://forum.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=messageboard.viewCategory&categoryID=0&groupID=100002606

    Sincerely,

    B

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Bryan Pesta Sheds More Light on the Atheist MySpace Group

  • Joe

    They’ve also seemingly done this kind of thing to Buddhist groups as well. MySpace staff will make believe like they are fixing the problem or restoring the group, but end up doing nothing and wait until the moderator gets frustrated and just starts a new group from scratch. The main Buddhism group with over 20,000 members has been in shambles for over a year after a script kiddie went to town, and nobody at MySpace is at all reactive about fixing the problem.

  • Nicole

    Its god damned myspace for crying out loud who gives a fuck they can take what ever they want on and off of it. They would like to be a regular household name and maybe they don’t want to be considered PRO-ATHEISTS for that matter! Get a life outside off myspace and the internet world and create a REAL GROUP if it’s such a big ordeal!!!!


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