To Norton Symantec CEO Steve Bennett

Dear Mr. Bennett,

It has recently come to my attention that a number of websites that address issues affecting the lives of men and boys, including avoiceformen.com, have been targeted as “hate sites” by your company. In this I am referring to one of your products, Norton Internet Security.

As I have had confirmed from multiple sources, individuals that attempt to access this site though your screening software are given an “access denied” message, along with the claim that avoiceformen.com is a “known hate site.”

Your customers are given no supporting information or rationale for such a listing, and no immediate option to override the warning and proceed according to their own will; just the simple invective of being painted as a hate organization.

Given this information, I thought it only fitting to write you publicly to say thank you.

As someone who I am quite sure is familiar with internet marketing, you are no doubt aware of the “Streisand Effect,” a term coined after singer Barbara Streisand sought to have images of her home removed from the internet. Naturally, given the intractable nature of the medium, her efforts were rewarded only by a spectacular proliferation of the very images she sought to sequester from public view.

Now, the decision to target avoiceformen.com, and label it as a hate group, is very likely to be significantly below your pay grade, whether the decision came from outside political forces, or simply from an enthusiastic and ideological low level manager. Either way, responsibility is at the top, and so appreciation should likewise be afforded in that direction.

We have little concern over traffic here, as avoiceformen.com is a very robust, well-traveled site. The benefit you are providing for us is profound, nonetheless. Our regular users will find their way to the site, primarily by not using your products. But your labeling us as a hate group will (and has) caused people to come investigate for themselves.

What they find when they get here is a highly diverse group of men and women, of all races, ethnicities and nationalities, of varying sexual orientation and of different religions and lack of religion, all bound together in the cause of human rights.

They find good people, working together out of concern for what is happening to our boys, who are falling out of education at alarming rates, and subsequently out of the work force. What they find are people who are concerned about the rising rate of male suicide and unemployment, about injustices men face in family courts, and about children who are suffering the absence of their fathers.

They look at our editorial board and they find individuals like Erin Pizzey, the founder of the world’s first shelter for abused women, and many other esteemed individuals who dedicate their lives to finding comprehensive solutions to very serious social problems. And they find a spirit of camaraderie and compassion that would be very difficult to nurture in an environment of hate.

In other words, they find that Norton Symantec has lied to them.

There have been some that have suggested that as the founder and publisher of avoiceformen.com that I should avail myself to your appeal mechanism, and seek to have this site removed from your list of hate groups.

I think not.

First, it is not in my personal nature, or worthy of this organization to go hat in hand to corporate tyrants obsequiously pleading to be spared their defamation. But much more importantly, your efforts to mislead your customers not only leads more people to this website — and our message of compassion for men and boys — but also paints a clear picture of the unsavory actors pulling strings under your nose to do their bidding. These happen to be the same kinds of ideologues causing many of the problems we seek to ameliorate.

So the current arrangement is a win across the board for us. And for that I offer my thanks.

Paul Elam, publisher, A Voice for Men

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