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Etsy Goes on Defense after Investigation into Illicit Goods

Etsy Goes on Defense after Investigation into Illicit Goods

After a reporter from Insider reached out to Etsy about illicit goods allegedly available for sale on its marketplace, the company went on defense.

“We’re investing at least $40 million in policy enforcement this year to ensure we uphold the integrity of our marketplace,” Etsy wrote in a post last week.

According to the Insider article, “An Insider investigation identified roughly 800 listings on Etsy selling banned products, which encompass nearly every one of the site’s categories of prohibited items. From dangerous weapons to pornography, from poisonous plants to cat and dog remains, from pseudoscientific miracle cures to T-shirts bearing the Confederate flag, the marketplace is overrun by the products that it says it bans.”

Insider said it presented Etsy with its findings, but even after Etsy took down the offending listings, “it was still easy to find many more rule-breaking listings almost identical to the ones Insider originally flagged.”

The day before Insider published its findings, Etsy preemptively published a post defending its practices – including the following excerpt:

“Etsy is an unjuried marketplace, meaning sellers run their own shops, create, sell and ship their own products, and are responsible for complying with our robust Seller Policy. Items on Etsy do not have barcodes or SKUs, and Etsy does not ever touch or possess the items for sale on our marketplace. Additionally, while handmade items are the heart and soul of Etsy, there is no universal definition for “handmade,” so our teams must take a thoughtful and nuanced approach to evaluating whether or not items fall on the handmade spectrum.”

Included in the post were some interesting statistics, including the following excerpts:

  • In 2020, Etsy received close to 4 million flags regarding potentially noncompliant listings, a 400% increase in flags from 2019; breaches of our handmade policy were among the most commonly flagged violations. This increase is in large part due to the exponential growth of the marketplace last year;
  • In 2020, 20% of shop and listings flags came from users in comparison to the 80% generated from our tools – a proportion that remained consistent with 2019;
  • Overall, we saw a 58% increase in the number of intellectual-property related takedowns compared to 2019, which we largely attribute to the significant growth of the Etsy marketplace last year.

Etsy went on to provide examples of how it worked to scale its policy enforcement resources to better-detect and remove prohibited items, and said it was investing at least $40 million in 2021 to further expand its Trust & Safety Program

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “Etsy Goes on Defense after Investigation into Illicit Goods”

  1. Yes, here’s more of that fine handmade rope I mentioned….
    A waste of a formerly perfectly good venue…..
    So many hard feelings….
    Next year this will all be history…..
    An empty space where “Etsy” used to be……

  2. Dear The End,

    “An empty space where “Etsy” used to be……”

    Is that the chair where the CEO is sitting right now?

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