RealTime IT News

Yahoo to Monitor Auction Items for Bias, Set Fees for Sellers

Yahoo! has revised two online auction policies with the implementation of a monitoring program against "hate" materials and the addition of its first-ever listing fees.

The monitoring program, which will employ human reviewers and software, was initiated after the site was publicly criticized for selling Nazi and Klu Klux Klan memorabilia.

Items that came under attack by such groups as the Anti Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center include swastika T-shirts, Klu Klux Klan robes and a print of a watercolor painted by Adolf Hitler.

The monitoring program goes into full effect one week from today.

Prior to the announcement, Yahoo had vigorously defended its online selling policies, stating that it did not monitor what was posted on its site, but did remove "inappropriate" material after such a posting was brought to its attention by users or watchdog groups.

"We are being more proactive on the Yahoo side to really stamp out anything in violation," Brian Fitzgerald, senior producer for Yahoo Auctions, told The New York Times.

In addition to the ire of civil rights groups, Yahoo has taken heat from authorities overseas. A French court recently ordered the auction site to pay fines of about $13,000 a day if it did not install technology that would shield French users from seeing Nazi-related memorabilia on its auction site. French law prohibits the display of such material.

Last February, Ebay, a Yahoo competitor, experienced similar public pressure. The company now prohibits the sale of Nazi or Klan items that are less than 50 years old.

The pricing structure at Yahoo undergoes change beginning Wednesday. Sellers who post items on the auction are now required to pay a fee for listing an auction item; the fee will range from $.20 to $2.25, depending on the value of the item being sold; an additional fee of $.40 and $0.75 will be added to set reserve prices below and above $25, respectively. Unlike other auction sites, the company does not charge a closing fee or take a percentage of final sales.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the company could generate an incremental $26 million in revenues from listing fees in 2001.

Fitzgerald noted that Yahoo has come under pressure to add fees to several of its services to help reduce its dependence on advertising, which now accounts for at least 80 percent of its revenues.