Norton removes AVFM from list of hate sites, and perhaps others, just as much longer list of banned sites surfaces.
It appears that Norton Symantec has removed A Voice for Men, and perhaps a dozen other websites from a DNS registry list of “known hate sites” after a media inquiry left them with some uncomfortable questions about their practices.
John Leyden of theregister.co.uk conducted an investigation of Norton Symantec’s listing of A Voice for Men and other MHRM sites after getting complaints about the actions from our fellow activists at MRALondon.org.
It appears Symantec acted quickly to remove the block. The matter was also investigated by Simon Edwards, technical director at Dennis Technology Labs and chairman of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization. Edwards, an experienced antivirus tester, set up Norton DNS and determined that it “”[L]ooks like Symantec has updated its records”.
As reported by Leyden, “The screenshot posted by avoiceformen.com makes it clear that it was Symantec’s DNS system that was labeling its site as a “hate group”.
So while it appears that the security software manufacturer has relented and removed A Voice for Men from the defamatory DNS listing, there are still unanswered questions about how it happened in the first place. It also appears that Symantec is making little effort to explain anything to the sites affected or to the Norton customers who have demanded answers. Company representatives now seem intent on acting as though the banning never happened.
Early in the investigation, before the Register became involved, a concern about the DNS listing was brought up by a Norton Symantec user in their customer forum. That individual posted a complete list of the sites that were known to be banned, and followed that with a request:
Please fix this issue ASAP It would also be appreciated if you could find out who exactly was responsible for falsely categorizing such a large number of sites on this topic, such censorship is very disturbing indeed.
That request we met, after it was revealed that the blacklisting had become a very active discussion on Reddit, with an initial response by forum administrator and Norton Symantec employee Tim Lopez, who stated the following:
I posted in the Reddit thread directing people to this forum thread so that these forums can be utilized as the source of the most recent information on this topic.
Just to let you know, we’re investigating this right now and looking in to the reasons for these categorization.
I’ll provide an update as soon as I have more information!
Norton Forums Administrator
Lopez later promised to have an update on the matter available the next day. To my knowledge, no such update has been provided.
Gee, list of hate sites? What list of hate sites?
I think it can be safely assumed that Symantec is now just holding its breath, hoping that this will go away, without any public concern over why the company put itself in the position of censoring their customer’s access to differing political views.
Said the Register’s Leyden:
…[W]hat’s far more difficult is to fathom why Symantec can’t account for how its technology classifies a named site, despite complaints from the party concerned, combined with two days of nagging from El Reg‘s security desk.
Leyden’s investigation not only calls into question the lack of accountability on the part of Symantec, but also questions the basic premise for the listing.
The men’s rights movement, of which A Voice for Men is a part, is a reaction against social changes brought about by feminism. The group bills itself as “masculine counter-theory in the age of misandry”.
The movement rejects criticism that it a reactionary force seeking to restore centuries of patriarchy.
All of this is clearly not agreeable fodder for many women but to label the site as a “hate site” seems a little over the top.
This is clearly not the final chapter in this story for Symantec. AVFM has learned since the story began that the list of banned websites may be much, much larger than originally known.
According to The Rights of Man Blog, there are actually some 48 men’s and father’s issues related sites that have made their way to being banned by Norton Symantec. We do not know at this time if any or all of these other sites have been removed from Norton’s hate list. And more importantly, we do not have an explanation from Norton Symantec as to how and why they got there to begin with.
Norton should not be allowed to just blow off public concerns about its conduct in defaming an established segment of the population whose sole “mistake” is to hold the belief that men and women should be treated equally under the rule of law and in social custom.
As they present themselves to the public now, it appears that Symantec’s position is that men do not qualify for the same rights and considerations as everyone else, and that indeed any effort to assert that they are will be met with censorship and public demonization.
On behalf of AVFM I want to express my thanks to John Leyden of The Register for bringing more public attention to this story, and I want to urge him to continue, as we are, to demand an accounting by Norton Symantec for its actions.