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Despite Policy, Terrorist-Related Listings Remain on eBay

eBay has a firm policy against listing items connected to terrorist groups, but enforcement has been uneven, according to one report.

A user told EcommerceBytes that he has reported numerous listings related to groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS over the last few years, but has been dismayed to see no action on the company’s part to remove the offending material.

“Despite reporting these items multiple times, they remain online,” the user wrote in an email. “One seller has made thousands of dollars selling Hamas flags.”

eBay’s policy on the issue is clear enough. In the policy section governing “offensive material,” eBay states that “items related to terrorist organizations” are taboo.

In an email, eBay spokesman Ryan Moore reiterated the company’s ban on terrorist-related items, as well as listings that fall into numerous other objectionable categories.

“eBay policy does not allow items that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance,” Moore said. “We take proactive measures to identify listings that violate our policies, including but not limited to keyword filters and monitoring tools. Additionally, listings that are brought to our attention that violate these policies are removed from eBay.”

But those filters and the reporting mechanism don’t catch all of the embargoed listings.

Searches conducted this week of eBay’s listings for the terms “Hamas” and “Hezbollah” retrieved hundreds of results, including some permitted items such as books about the organizations, but also flags and other materials that appeared to promote the groups.

As an example, EcommerceBytes shared with Moore one such listing, which carried this description: “Clear Acrylic Keyring Key Ring 7 5cm x 5cm Flag Hezbollah.”

The next day, that listing was gone. eBay also appeared to have removed all other Hezbollah-related items that were in violation of its policy.

“As it relates to the item you’ve brought to our attention, this is an item that is not allowed on eBay and we’ve since removed it,” Moore wrote. “We’ll continue to actively monitor our marketplace and remove items that are brought to our attention that may have bypassed our filters.”

As of this writing, however, numerous items relating to Hamas, including the Palestinian militant group’s flag, remained on the site.

The State Department names both Hamas and Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations, which Moore said is the basis for eBay’s enforcement of its policy on the marketplace.

Despite eBay’s swift action when a reporter called attention to the issue, the eBay user who said he has reported numerous terrorist-related items over the years remains frustrated with the company’s response.

“Nothing happens after I reported several listings, as I’ve saved them in my watch list to observe,” the user said. “I’ve even called eBay about this at least 2 years ago and nothing was removed after a (customer service representative) said he would look into it.”

Moore would not directly address that user’s experience.

“I can’t comment without knowing which specific items were reported, but in general, we are always working to ensure appropriate action is taken on items reported to us,” he said.

There is no hard and fast rule for how eBay responds to sellers who post terrorist-related listings, though such an infraction can lead to the suspension of the user’s account, according to Moore.

“Violations of eBay’s Prohibited and Restricted Items policies results in the removal of the item and, depending on the circumstances, can result in a range of other actions, including restrictions of buying and selling privileges and suspension of an account,” he said.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

Kenneth Corbin on Linkedin
Kenneth Corbin
Kenneth Corbin
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn.