A men’s rights group has been accused of “hijacking” the name of a prominent anti-domestic violence group and is using it to publish “misinformation” about violence against women.
White Ribbon is considering taking legal action to stop the group, which uses the same name and similar branding.
White Ribbon Australia is an anti-violence organisation that appoints high-profile men to make a public stance against violence and encourage other men to do the same.
The alleged fake website is owned and operated by A Voice for Men, which claims on its own website to “expose misandry on all levels in our culture” and to “educate men and boys about the threats they face in feminist governance and to promote an end to that governance.”
The domain names are very similar – whiteribbon杭州龙凤论坛.au is the genuine Australian branch and whiteribbon杭州龙凤论坛 is registered by A Voice for Men.
It recent weeks it has posted articles titled: “Refuting 40 years of lies about domestic violence” and “Why women’s shelters are hotbeds of gender hatred”.
White Ribbon Australia national executive of engagement and partnerships, Fayssal Sari, told Fairfax Media he is aware of at least one person who wanted to donate to the organisation, but accidently sent the money to the wrong account, via the website.
“There’s potential for some serious impact and that does concern us,” he said. “Any attempt to encourage donations to this non-bona fide organisation could constitute fraud. Our legal advice is that there is possible fraud in intellectual property infringement, particularly around the branding and use of the ribbon.
“We have more than 2000 ambassadors nationwide. For this site to come up and undermine what these good men are doing is really disappointing.”
The A Voice for Men’s website was registered in 2012 but its details are hidden behind a firewall, meaning it is impossible determine where it is based.
Mr Sari believes it is Canadian or American. White Ribbon Australian registered their website in 2002.
University of Melbourne intellectual property expert Andrew Christie said A Voice for Men website “could be in big trouble” for using White Ribbon Australia’s trademarked name and similar logo.
However, he said taking legal action against the group could be problematic because it is likely based overseas and IP laws rarely cover international websites.
In Victoria, 29 women died in 2013 in relation to domestic violence, up from 15 in 2012. Family violence was a factor in 80 per cent of child deaths known to child protection services last year, up from 62 per cent in 2010.
The organisation found out about the competing website just weeks before its annual White Ribbon Day, on November 25. Hundreds of events have already been organised to raise funds to stop male violence against women.
Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack said she was horrified when she was told of the website.
“What happens if a woman is looking for information and if she came across a website that she thought had some merit or authority, and was provided with erroneous information? It’s such an irresponsible and unethical thing to do.”
She added it was “extraordinary” for the organisation’s brand to be “hijacked” to be used for purposes opposite to what it does.
“What they claim has absolutely no credibility. The overwhelming evidence that we have from the World Health Organisation, the United Nations, from research, provides a comprehensive picture of the cause of violence against women.”
Whiteribbon杭州龙凤论坛 was contacted for comment.