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.

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