Although the ban will go into effect immediately for new items, the online auctioneer will not remove current listings of items related to the Klan, Nazis and other hate groups, company spokesman Kevin Pursglove said.
Also, the ban will not remove such items completely from the site. eBay will continue to allow older items that have "legitimate collectible" value, as long as those items are at least 50 years old, he said.
"Listings that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance (or organizations dedicated to such notions) have no place in a true community. We're all here to trade, to do business and to have fun with each other," the company said in a posting on its announcement board.
"eBay will not become a platform for those who promote hatred toward their fellow man."
The company's move comes two days after Long Island, N.Y.-based BiasHELP sent eBay chief executive Meg Whitman a letter asking the company to remove auctions of Klan-related material. Last year, the company came under similar scrutiny from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center for similar sales of Nazi-related items.
A search on eBay for "KKK" yields some 187 items, and a similar search for "Nazi" turns up 3744. Items included a new "Nazi Stormfront" flag, a set of stamps with Hitler's profile, and a pocket knife with the words "Ku Klux Klan" and drawings of several hooded Klansmen on the handle.
Although eBay recognizes that many users may be upset by the ban on hate-related items, Pursglove said the company was trying to balance the interests of collectors with those of users who are offended by such material.
eBay plans to watch its site closely for the next several weeks, looking for hate-related items, Pursglove said. Initially, the company will email users who post such items, notifying them of the policy change, but eventually the company will simply pull down the items immediately.
"In time, the community will definitely get the message," Pursglove said.