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eBay Bans Nazi, Hate Group Memorabilia

eBay Inc. Thursday moved to tighten its policy on hate and violence related listings to include Nazi memorabilia.

The auction site's existing policy -- adopted last year after was pressured by public sentiment to stop the trade in Nazi goods -- bans listings that "promote or glorify hatred, violence or racial intolerance, or items that promote organizations with such views (e.g., KKK, Nazis, neo-Nazis, Skinhead Aryan Nation)," the company said. But the policy has permitted trading in historical objects from those organizations if the objects are at least 50 years old.

The new policy closes that loophole.

"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," said Mike Jacobson, eBay General Counsel. "Given our expansion, as well as feedback we've received from our users, we reviewed our policy and concluded that these changes are appropriate."

eBay is not the only auction site to suffer from public ire raised over the trade in Nazi-related items. Yahoo!'s Yahoo Auction site was sued in a French court over "alleged justification of war crimes."

eBay has gone a step further. Its expanded policy also bans personal belongings, letters or artwork created by notorious murderers. It also prohibits novelty items bearing their names or images.

"Out of respect for the immediate family members of murder victims, we've decided to set an even stricter guideline," Jacobson said.

Under the new policy, items that will no longer be allowed include:

  • Items bearing symbols of the Nazis and the Nazi SS, including authentic German World War II memorabilia
  • Items bearing the symbols of the KKK or other hate groups
  • Crime scene photographs
  • Morgue and autopsy photographs
  • Letter and artwork from notorious murderers
  • T-shirts bearing the likenesses of notorious murderers
  • Copies of hate/racism/violence propaganda materials
  • Electric chairs and other capital punishment items.

However, the policy does not restrict all World War II era German items. Items that may still be listed under the new policy include:

  • German coins and stamps from the 1930s and 1940s regardless of markings
  • German World War II memorabilia that does not bear Nazi or SS markings
  • Most historical books and movies about World War II or Nazi Germany, even if the objects do bear swastikas or other Nazi symbols
  • War documentaries or documentary photographs portraying victims of war or violence
  • Items of historical importance associated with acts of violence against public figures.

The new policy will go into effect on May 17, in order to give eBay users the chance to complete current transactions.

Separately, eBay is refuting a study that found typical consumer collectibles are going for an average of about 25 percent less than they were a year ago on its site.

There has been a corresponding increase in the number of items for sale on the giant auction site, according to AuctionBytes.com, which puts out two free e-mail newsletters for the online auction community and operates an auction information site.

"Sellers have been telling us for some time that while the cost of selling on auction sites like eBay is increasing, they are realizing lower sales prices for their items," said David Steiner, president of AuctionBytes.com. "This study backs up the anecdotal evidence."

"There is not a shred of truth to this report," said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove. "eBay's marketplace is thriving -- you can't single out an item like collectibles, since we have 4,500 or 4,600 categories, with 6 million items listed on any given day."

The AuctionBytes.com site contains resources such as Collector's Corner, where experts offer advice on collectibles; information on reference sources, price guides, magazines and trade shows; and articles on identifying and valuing your piece. The operation was founded in 1999 by Ina and David Steiner, owners of Steiner Associates, a privately held Natick, Mass.-based producer of corporate training and marketing videotapes.