Yahoo! Sued for Auctioning Nazi Artifacts

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! in Paris Tuesday, charging the Internet giant with illegally hosting auctions of Nazi-related paraphernalia. Selling or displaying any items that incite racism, including Nazi artifacts, is strictly illegal in France.

LICRA, which called for a boycott of Yahoo! for the same reason in February, said in a statement, “This sale of symbols of the greatest ever crime against humanity trivializes Nazism in the extreme.”

Block French Access

While uncovering no Nazi memorabilia for sale at Yahoo!’s French site, a search by the E-Commerce Times using the key word “Nazi” turned up over 1,000 items — including Luftwaffe patches, Nazi War Merit Medals, photos, and daggers for sale at Yahoo! Auctions.

In the suit, due to be heard by a Paris court on May 15th, LICRA is asking that Yahoo! make auctions of Nazi paraphernalia inaccessible to surfers in France and its territories. LICRA also wants Yahoo! to be fined $96,000 (US$) for each day that it fails to comply.

The group said, “LICRA demands that Yahoo! take the necessary measures to prevent the exhibition and sale on its sites of Nazi objects throughout the national territory.” However, LICRA has not detailed how access to Yahoo! Auctions should be barred from France and its territories alone.

Yahoo! and Racism

This instance is not the first time that Yahoo! has found itself at the center of a racism controversy. In February, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) attacked Yahoo! for allowing anti-Semitic and racist groups to operate at Yahoo! Clubs.

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said, “In turning a blind eye to these hate clubs, Yahoo! is enabling haters to organize, attract recruits and disseminate offensive material and messages.”

While Yahoo! said in February that it would work to eliminate clubs that violate its prohibition against posting content that is “hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable,” a recent search of Yahoo! Clubs revealed numerous “White Pride” and Nazi clubs filled with messages of hate and racism.

Other Lawsuits Pending

Last month, both Yahoo! and eBay attracted unwanted attention when objects for sale on their sites triggered legal action. eBay was sued by actor Jerry Orbach, who claimed that the auction giant had violated his rights by posting personal information — including his social security number — online.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! was hit by a joint suit filed in a San Francisco federal court by interactive entertainment powerhouses Sega America, Electronic Arts, and Nintendo of America. The companies claimed that Yahoo! knew that counterfeit video and computer games were being sold through Yahoo! Auctions and Yahoo! Stores.

TOS Protection

Yahoo!’s terms of service clearly state that the company is not responsible for items listed for sale through Yahoo! Auctions or for postings made in Yahoo! Clubs.

The company also prohibits sellers from offering items for sale that are “illegal to sell under any applicable law, statute, ordinance or regulation” or that Yahoo! finds “inflammatory, offensive, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically objectionable, or otherwise inconsistent with the spirit of Yahoo! Auctions.”

While Yahoo! Auctions is a U.S.-based site, it is accessible from any country in the world. Therefore, it is not yet clear whether sellers are subject only to the laws of the country they are posting from, or whether they must abide by the laws of every country in which the site is accessible.

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