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eBay to ban sale of hate items

The online auction giant announces a global ban of all hate-related items in a move highlighting the clash between moral and commercial interests on the Web.

In a move that highlights the clash between moral and commercial interests on the Web, eBay announced a global ban Thursday of all hate-related items on its site, even if they previously had been allowed because of their historical value.

Under the revised policy, eBay sellers will no longer be allowed to sell items such as Nazi battle flags or Ku Klux Klan cloaks. Previously, sellers could list such items if they were more than 50 years old. The new policy will go into effect May 17.

"As the eBay community expands around the globe, we are encountering different laws and different points of view as to what constitutes illegal, offensive or inappropriate items," Mike Jacobson, eBay general counsel, said in a statement. "Given our expansion, as well as feedback we've received from our users, we reviewed our policy and concluded that these changes are appropriate."

After coming under pressure from outside groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay last year banned the sale of items that promote hate groups such as the Klan and the Aryan Nation, except those with historical value.

Last year, a French court ordered Yahoo to block the sale of Nazi-related items to French citizens. Although it maintained that it could not effectively block such sales and that the law could not be applied to its U.S. site, Yahoo put a similar ban in place earlier this year. Yahoo did not make exceptions for items of historical interest.

eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the company's move was not a reaction to the court decision against Yahoo.

"We were certainly aware of the situation they had, but they were facing a different set of circumstances," he said. "Our decision was based on what we were discovering about the eBay community and our hopes for moving forward."

As part of the new policy, eBay will also ban the sale of items related to murders or crime scenes unless they are more than 100 years old. Items that will be prohibited include things such as artwork from murderers and crime scene or autopsy photographs.

On Wednesday, eBay pulled the auction of a piece of a door reportedly from the scene of a police shooting in New York after relatives of the victims complained.

Despite the policy, eBay will continue to allow the sale of German stamps and coins dating from the Nazi era, as well as German memorabilia from World War II that does not have Nazi markings on it.

Pursglove said the policy applies to all of eBay's sites worldwide. Some sites may have more stringent polices becuse of local laws.