A British-owned iPhone App that plays nursery rhymes to kids is being used to advertise Scientology to children.
The campaign was exposed by dad David Millar, 46, who lives in the Austrian capital Vienna and who sent a letter to local media to complain when he was asked by his six-year-old son Michael "Daddy, What is Scientology?"
Unsure where the question originated Millar had asked his son why he was asking - and discovered the US-based cult advertising on Nursery TV, an iPhone App from Rotherham-based company Music Factory Entertainment Group Ltd.
Peter Parkin, chief executive of the Yorkshire-based company, said he was shocked and disappointed and would be demanding an explanation from Google but said it was out of his control. He said: "The mechanism's that control advertising content are controlled by Google on Google AdMob, they look at browsing history and the type of App and in theory as I understand it this sort of thing should not happen.
"I will be raising it with Google immediately and asking how we can avoid it. At the end of the day it is our App and just by association people may think we are in some way endorsing this - which of course we are not. But much of what we do is for children and we are expanding our product range, we will be seeing what we can do to stop it happening again."
Dad David, who lives in the capital Vienna where he is an architect, fired off a letter to the Austrian daily newspaper Heute, saying: "My son started school this year, and enjoys reading, he saw the words pop up on the advert when he was watching Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the 'Nursery TV' App with his younger sister - and a click later he was on the Scientology site."
Nursery TV runs three I phone Nursery rhyme TV Apps that are massively popular and its You Tube channel has notched up an incredible 127 million views. The Scientology advert was on all three Nursery Rhyme Apps for a week before David complained.
He said he was careful not to allow his kids internet access except to approved search engine sites for kids and only selected approved Apps, and was furious that the cult had managed to bypass that.
He said: "I don't care about Scientology although until recently I note they were banned here in Austria, but to have them advertising on children's TV is pretty outrageous.
"It was on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star but when you tried the other songs on the other channels it was on those as well, and stayed there all week. In the end I deleted the App.
David added: "I am British, I live in Austria and have a mobile phone with an Austrian T-mobile contract. Whatever song you chose, the Scientologists were there."
Computer expert Seth Weintraub from computerworld.com complained as long ago as 2009 about being unable to stop Scientology ads on his Google Ad Sense account but the move to target children is a new development.
In an article asking "Why is Google's AdSense doing the bidding of Scientology?" he wrote: "It appears that Scientology is in the midst of a big advertising campaign. They appear to want to advertise to my readers very much.
"But this is outrageous. Scientology is every ad block 24 hours/day for over a week now. My readers have rightfully started complaining and I'd really like Google to stop. If they are paying Google an exorbitant amount to advertise, I am not seeing any difference in my CPM rates. So, I've tried just about everything in my power to get them removed."
He said however that at the time of writing it was without success.
After further research he added that Google had removed the AdSense account of a group exposing some internal Scientology stuff and added: "Google also killed a Youtube account of an anti-Scientology crusader who was about to publish an expose on Scientology. They also removed Xenu.net, another anti-Scientology website's links.
"I don't think Google is doing the work of Scientologists. I just think they are getting a lot of cash from them and don't want to deal with their litigation tactics."