Well, well, well, looks like a certain alternative and controversial “esoteric healing” group was busy for a year or more trying to scrub their image on the internet. Doubtful News is one of many pro-consumer blogs that have reported information about Serge Benhayon’s questionable health treatments resulting in complaints to Google initiated by Universal Medicine (UM) and our URLs removed from Google search results.
For the past two years alternative medicine conglomerate and religion, Universal Medicine, has spammed Google with complaints of defamation. Some succeeded. The following is an incomplete list of URLs removed by Google from search results. It includes links to blogs, including this one, and links to news reports from major media outlets. So much for free speech and a free press in Australia.
The UM group is in Australia. Defamation claims have been made through Google, however, UM has not made any actual legal threats. Hmm, this seems a low-cost, low-risk, easy route to follow to manipulate your online reputation. Even though they seem to have lawyers at the ready, none of the websites received real legal threats. Other sites evicted from search results include many news reports on UM’s activities (including the reports we linked to in our FACTUAL stories). Also, Pharyngula (FTB), Museum of Hoaxes, the JREF forum, Reasonable Hank, and, naturally, “universalmedicineaccountability”, “factsaboutuniversalmedicine” and “universalmedicinecult”. They obviously dislike those sites.
I contacted Esther Rockett who clued us into this interesting news (since we were never informed we were acted against) to ask what can be done. She said there is no appeals process for Google’s actions. Google removes URLs by request without a court order in Australia, New Zealand and UK, but not in the U.S. I wonder why they were allowed to do this, since our site is US hosted and run. But the Internet is worldwide. However, it would take legal action on our part to return it to Google. I’m not going to do that – it’s just an entry in a search query, not the content itself.
Are they a cult? I have no idea. Depends on the definition you use and the truth of such allegations. Some think their religious leaning and practices strongly suggest this. But I don’t particularly care. I just think their treatment, such as esoteric breast massage, is questionable. But I am now going to engage the Streisand Effect by widely promoting the information that questions UM. And, I now think MUCH LESS of them for using such despicable tactics.
Incidentally, Esther notes that UM has not succeeded with a number of their complaints – probably the majority – and none in 2014. We posted this in August and it was not included on the removed list. Good news.
Thanks to Chilling Effects for their work in exposing parties that deliberately abuse Internet rules for their own agenda. Here is the complaint they found from Phoenix Global in January 2013 naming Doubtful News and others. Phoenix Global represents themselves thusly: “We are employed, and authorised to represent Serge Benhayon in relation to all risk services including internet defamation.”
Then they cite the various language they have problems with including the following:
[…] The site makes imputations that suggest Serge Benhayon is operating a cult. These comments are untrue, and not in the public interest. b. Serge Benhayon has never operated a cult. Serge Benhayon have not been charged, arrested, or convicted of any dishonesty offence. Serge Benhayon would not be involved with any offences of this nature. This content has been spread through numerous websites with the intention to defame Serge Benhayon. c. These comments are currently appearing on Google.com, Google.com.au, and Google.co.nz. The comments harm my reputation and cause damage to my business. Google.com.au: The publishers and distributors of this material would be liable for civil damages under the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld). Due to the possible retaliation, and threat to my safety caused by that the claims that in am engaged in criminal enterprises, this violates Criminal defamation sections of Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). Google.co.nz: These comments are in breach of the NZ Defamation Act 1992.
Liable for civil damages for citing a news source? These people are assholes.
Here is more on their tactics: Defamation claim or censorship – Universal Medicine’s complaints to Google This piece notes that UM legal got one blog taken down, but they reformed on WordPress. Granted, those blogs were far more egregious in their language and clear in their agenda against Benhayon’s model. But perhaps the high search return from blogs like ours in results was a factor for being targeted.
This is a good time to note the posts in question so you can see for yourself that we quoted the news reports that are not under any legal threat:
Universal Medicine movement called a ‘cult’, has unconventional treatments (Updated: Denied it’s a cult) [Notice we even give a link to their side of the story. I’d say that’s fair.]
Universal Medicine continues to be labeled “new-age cult” by some [But not by DN. I don’t make a judgement on this.]
Serge Benhayon | Doubtful News. [They also managed to block the URL for all searches on the site for his name.]
Check out this feature piece on Benhayon and his UM group [PDF]. He sure thinks a lot of himself:
“I know more than any scientist in my inner heart … I know everything about the universe and how it works. I can answer any question about any mystery in the world, any mystery in
– Serge Benhayon’s message for the “New Era”, January 1, 2012
Please share this post far and wide and reproduce as necessary (permission granted) to spread word that this is a cowardly and disgusting tactic that Universal Medicine representatives are using to block fair criticism and consumer information in Australia and New Zealand as well as hurting our hit counts world wide. I’m afraid it will become more prominent, affecting skeptical activism.
And if Google gets a complaint about this post, I am asking that they CONTACT ME (that should be the MINIMUM but this was never done) at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide justification. This is entirely fair criticism with no libelous content or intent to defame anyone. It is to provide information from outside parties to consumers and interested individuals.