Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mercy Ministries using Youtube to censor abuse reports

Deconverts reports on Mercy Ministries:

Earlier tonight I received a comment on one of our earlier articles readers which covers the abuse of women in the Hillsong-supported “Mercy Ministries” programme that one of the videos we linked to has been removed from YouTube in an apparant attempt to censor the voice of abused women, unhappy with their treatment at Mercy Ministries, via a false claim under the DMCA. The reason for the removal appears to be as a result of a malicious copyright “Take Down” claim by “Mercy Ministries International” as an attempt to censor the voices of some of the women who were psychologically damaged by their programme. This “programme” claims to help desperate women with drug addiction, mental illness and eating disorders. The truth is that women end up far more troubled, and far worse off than when they started. Ruth Pollard of the Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Instead of the promised psychiatric treatment and support, they were placed in the care of Bible studies students, most of them under 30 and some with psychological problems of their own”.

The video that we linked to contained a radio interview in which several women talk openly and candidly about their experiences at Mercy Ministries. And judging by the severe abuse they claim to have received, and the number of women speaking out, they are not alone. Needless to say, Mercy Ministries International do not appear to have gone on record to address these complaints. Instead they used a “Take Down” notice mechanism on content which does not contain their intellectual property (it was all discussion of the programme, by participants of the programme), therefore the only logical conclusion is that they are attempting to censor the free speech of these women. The “Take Down”, or Digital Millennium Copyright Notice is the legal framework which allows any artist or author to remove, in this case, video and audio content from YouTube by claiming (in this case, very, very illegally) that they are the owners of the content and did not give their permission. This act allows sites such as YouTube to operate without legal claims against them that they are encouraging copyright violations since content producers (such as TV companies) can easily remove copied content.

What is to stop anyone from filing “Take Down” notices against any video they don’t like?

There are severe legal penalties if you fraudulently file a DMCA “Take Down” notice against content which is later shown to have not violated your copyright. For instance for reporting, entertainment (satire) or other fair use cannot be taken down without breaching the DMCA. Using the DMCA in this way might get the videos taken off in the short term, but you open yourself under penalty of perjury to both damages and potentially both civil and criminal charges. Mercy Ministries International, following in the footsteps of Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino of Creation Science Evangelism) seem to think it’s ok to lie for Jesus and disabuse others of their rights to free speech. And most importantly, the free speech of those who need it the most. How about desperate, single women struggling with mental illness?

Anyway, here’s a link to a few more videos on YouTube covering this issue. If you feel strongly about the rights of others, the voice of the weak and abused or even for that matter your own rights, speak up now and get the message out about how Mercy Ministries International are using strong arm tactics to maliciously and illegally issue take down notices on content which although does not hold them in good light, is not theirs and they have no legal right to censor.

What’s all this about DMCA “Penalty of Perjury”?
How might criminal and civil action be taken against Mercy Ministries?

Fundamentalist Christians using the DMCA “Take Down” notices to censor content on the Internet (and especially YouTube) has been seen before. Most notably from the evangelical creationist, “Venomfangx” who maliciously and with risk of criminal and civil charges under penalty of perjury decided it was worth the risk in order to have any criticism of him and his values censored from the internet. Not only is this a major problem for freedom of expression, but it highlights exactly what type of organisation Mercy Ministries is. They are an organisation who clearly have no qualms about filing illegal take down notices on YouTube videos in which their activities and the harm they have caused to vulnerable women is exposed. As if we needed more evidence, Hillsong’s Mercy Ministries clearly have no morals. (Or perhaps they get their morality from the bible? You tell me.)

Abuse at Mercy Ministries (Part 1/7)
An interview with a Christian girl with bipolar disorder who suffered further at Mercy Ministries

Want to hear more? Search for it
(new videos will go up all the time)

Mercy Survivors (a site set up to help women get over Mercy Ministries)

“They prayed to cast Satan from my body”

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