geert lovink on 4 Jan 2001 11:08:38 -0000

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<nettime> Yahoo! to ban Nazi items

[This is an interesting move. Instead of the announced libertarian techno
stand, Yahoo! is taking the safe PC side. Would this move really be
an altruistic one, giving it's stock dive of the last months? I have not
heard of pressure being put on Yahoo! from US-American anti-
racist, Jewish or anti-Nazi groups. Well, no profit from hatred, fine 
with me. Yet, the claim of US websites, they can impose their local
laws and regulations on everyone anywhere else in the world may
not fade away any time soon. geert]

Yahoo to ban Nazi artifacts
By The Associated Press
Last Update: 11:27 PM ET Jan 2, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yahoo! Inc. will stop carrying online auctions of Nazi
artifacts and other hate-related materials after some users complained
that such items promote hate and violence.

The new restrictions, which take effect a week from Wednesday, could
also address a November court ruling from France requiring Yahoo to
block such items from French users.

Although Yahoo  has insisted it cannot limit access to certain
geographic regions, as the French court ordered, Yahoo may effectively
comply by blocking the items from everyone.

The new guidelines will also apply to the site's classified listings
and its e-commerce partners. Yahoo! search directories, chat rooms and
other areas are not affected.

The senior auction producer at Yahoo, Brian Fitzgerald, said the court
order played no role in the new policy, other than to raise awareness
internally and speed the decision.

"We decided we don't necessarily want to profit from items that promote
hatred or glorify hatred and violence," Fitzgerald said.

But Mark Gambale, a consultant at Gomez Inc. in Waltham, Mass.,
questioned the timing.

"In a way, it's a pre-emptive strike in making sure this (the French
ruling) doesn't become a serious issue," he said. "International law has
a unique way of evolving. Yahoo! is trying to clean its own house here."

Fitzgerald said that while some users support the trade of such items
on free speech grounds, the majority of comments received by Yahoo were
in opposition.

When the new policy takes effect, Yahoo will also begin screening items
before they are listed. Computer software will reject any item that
appears to violate the site's policies. Users will be able to appeal
rejections to a human being.

Auction sites have typically rejected items only after they are posted.

Beginning next Wednesday, Yahoo will also charge sellers 20 cents to
$2.25 to list an item, although it will not collect a commission on
sales. Other auction sites, including eBay  and , already
charge for both.

The three changes, Fitzgerald said, are part of an overall effort to
improve quality of listings - the ban and the software to screen out
objectionable material, the fee to screen out junk items.

The newly banned items at Yahoo include medals, weapons, uniforms,
official documents and other items that carry swastikas or other symbols
associated with hate groups. They join a banned list that now includes
cigarettes, live animals and used underwear.
Jupiter Research analyst Andrew Ari Clibanoff said Yahoo faces
competitive pressures, in addition to its legal troubles. Noting that
eBay already has a limited ban, Clibanoff said he was surprised Yahoo!
even took this long.

The leading online auction site, eBay, bans hate materials only in
Germany, France, Austria and Italy - countries where such items are
illegal. Sellers may not ship such items there, and buyers from those
countries may not bid on them.

In April, two French groups sued Yahoo under its old policies, accusing
the U.S. company of violating French law barring the display or sale of
racist material.

A French judge ruled in November that Yahoo must prevent French users
from auctions of such items, or face $13,000 a day in fines. On Dec. 21,
the company asked a U.S. court to block the order, saying France doesn't
have jurisdiction.

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