A story about the group’s deletion appeared in today’s edition of The Plain Dealer (Cleveland). (Thanks to reporter David Briggs for writing about it!)
In this comment, he explains his reasoning behind why he believes the shutting down of the group was a result of religious intolerance (I added in a few relevant links):
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….):