eBay’s Ban on Hate Strategy

Giant online auctioneer eBay, Inc. announced Friday that all items related to hate groups such as the Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan will have to meet specific criteria before qualifying for auction on its site.

According to a posting on its message board, eBay will not allow any listing that promotes hatred, violence or racial intolerance — or listings from groups that hold these views.

Under the new guidelines, an item must be at least 50 years old to be considered a “legitimate collectable.” Additionally, the listing cannot be used “as a platform to glorify or promote the group or its values.”

Users Expressed Concern

“eBay recognizes that some older relics of organizations that promoted hate, violence or racial intolerance are legitimate collectible items that serve as a reminder of past injustices or horrors,” eBay noted. “Obviously, the past cannot be erased, and such relics can serve as important reminders and educational tools in a community that can learn from the past.”

eBay had been coming under increasing pressure to remove questionable materials from its auction block. Last year, the company received a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center — which monitors anti-Semitism around the world — suggesting that the presence of Nazi memorabilia was offensive and insensitive.

Should eBay Act as a Censor?

Despite providing unintended publicity for the very hate groups that it will now ban, eBay has seemingly rid itself of its problem. However, by restricting the sale of such merchandise — no matter how abhorrent to some — some people believe that eBay has become nothing more than a ham-handed censor, flying in the face of the concept of the Internet as a place of intellectual freedom.

While I certainly agree that the Internet should not be censored, I think differently about eBay, which is a business, not a government. eBay has an absolute right to decide that it will not allow hate groups to promote their views by auctioning off its propaganda materials.

Not a Government

If eBay were the federal government, it would be a different story. While I may abhor the hate mongering of these groups, I know that our system may not prevent these groups from stating their opinions or setting up Web sites.

If you want to see real censorship and suppression, just look to the Chinese government, which reportedly shut down more than 100 Internet cafes last week for giving away state secrets.

A private corporation is not responsible for maintaining the liberties of a free society. It is, however, beholden to the public, which has the power to keep it solvent or drive it into ruin. In this case, eBay has decided that the overall comfort of its users is more important than the vicious agendas of a few.

If hate mongerers want to speak their minds, they have the right to do so. Just not on eBay, and I applaud the company for it.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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