Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri Nov 14 2014 20:19:35

Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

By: Ina Steiner

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Does free speech extend to ecommerce? A reader criticized eBay for not doing a good enough job in enforcing its ban on terrorist-related items, and we delved into the issue in a Newsflash story published yesterday.

Another eBay user wrote today saying he wanted the opportunity to discuss the story.

"There is another side. Restricting free speech or free selling has serious drawl backs. When did the USA become the only nation to declare someone a terrorist? In some countries the United States is the terrorist. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. I'm fairly certain England thought we were terrorists. I don't support Hamas, but the article was way too simplistic."

Clearly there are some things that make people feel uncomfortable, whether they are legal or not. eBay as a public company decided to draw the line at items that are "offensive," as well as banning illegal goods.

Should people be allowed to sell items glorifying organizations that the government deems to be terrorists? Does free speech even apply to ecommerce?




Comments (16) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Nov 14 21:38:47 2014

In order to answer the questions Ina poses in this article, US Supreme Court rulings in this area should be examined.

Free speech isn't an absolute.

-- Yelling fire in a crowded theater isn't free speech.

-- Fighting words aren't free speech especially those leading to violence aren't free speech.

-- Speech leading to incitement to riot isn't free speech.

As a nation we can determine which groups we label terrorist. The dissenter here may disagree with the government's terrorist designations, but the tyranny of the majority (a philosophical and legal concept not a slam on the dissenter) shouldn't be able to determine whose is and isn't a terrorist.

What is needed and sorely lacking any more in this country is rational, logical, and civil discourse based on FACT not political propaganda. Instead we have shrill ideological fanstasy based on usually misleading if not untruthful statements designed to appeal to our lesser angels.

It's also useful to remember that the United States's middle eastern policy is centered around the protection of Israel unlike Europe where there's a much more pro Palestinian and pro Arab centric philosophy because they were former colonies.

The dissenter correctly points out that some of theorganization that US has labeled terrorist like, for example, Hamas, are indeed regarded as a freedom fighting group in the the Arab world.

The fact is that both Arabs and Israelis have killed hundreds if not thousands of innocents in what may turn out to another 100 Year War. Since the United States clearly sided more with Israel than any of the Arab states since 1948, we see this conflict through a not entirely objective media and political lens.

After all the Arabs regard the nation the of Israel as a terrorist organization propped by the US so it really does matter which side you sympathize with whether you support a terrorist group of free fighters.

My own feeling is that any group or state that engages in the killing of non combatants and the destruction of their property is a terrorist organization.

While ebay may not include all terrorist groups in their list, Hamas historically has killed innocents and destroyed the property of non combatants.

How is this substantively different than a speech that incites hundreds of people to riot and innocents are killed? It's happened in this country.

Ebay bans and largely doesn't police listings for animal parts and old artifacts of certain kids. I don't regard my free speech rights restricted because I can't/won't list these banned items.

Sellers of these types of goods have many other venues that probably will accept them and can always sell them on their own website.

So in my mind it's matter of whether ebay thinks these type of items are appropriate for the platform rather than a free speech issue.

Further, free speech restrictions by non governmental agencies is perfectly legal.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Fri Nov 14 22:02:27 2014

""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.""

Surely, everyone involved with eBay knows by now that there is no point in reporting anything to eBay; demonstrably, eBay will do nothing until the media becomes involves, and even then they with often do very little ...

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: ZEAK This user has validated their user name.

Sat Nov 15 06:28:46 2014

yelling fire in a crowded theatre is not the same as selling a hamas flag. there is no immenent threat is selling a flag there is in yelling fire that argument is bogus. fighting words? incitement to riot? gie me a definition of those ive never heard of the supreme court ruling on either of those another bogus argument. if that were the case the entire town of ferguson would be under arrest along with most of msnbc.

the terror list put out by the state department is subjective even they don't follow it and it changes from administration to administration.

you have a problem with hammas? I don't blame you. most arabs don't. they have a problem with Israel should we then stop selling Israeli flags? how about Iranian flags/? their listed as a terrorist sponsoring state. for you libs how about banning Gadsden items, for the right lets ban acorns or black panther related items.

this is all politics and a market place should not get involved. this goes for payment processors as well. in fact that is the bigger problem. you can always find another place to sell even our own site but payment processors have also joined the bandwagon and ban items.

this is strictly a way to ban political thought when your guys in its great when someone elses is you will be singing a different tune.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Nov 15 12:21:13 2014

@ZEAK

You'd better learn something about law before you erroneously call well established legal principles rooted in statute "bogus arguments."

Further, a flag in and of itself is just that. But in this case, it represents a non state group with a well documented history of killing non combatants and destroying private property.

As for labeling me one of those dastardly "libs," you know NOTHING about me or my political views unless you selected 'ZEAK' as a new screen name to post your poorly thought out, knee jerk defensive response and normally post here under another screen name.

You might actually find it useful to actually read the First Amendment to determine who or does and who or what doesn't have the right to suppress or restrict your free speech and do some research on the restriction SCOTUS has put on free speech.

There is no greater danger this country faces than low information, lemming citizens who vote exactly like Rush, Sean, Bill, their preachers or any other political/religious ideologues of any political stripe tell them to them without bothering to learn facts.





Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Sat Nov 15 12:39:15 2014

Ming correctly observes that ''free speech restrictions by non governmental agencies is perfectly legal.''

It often amazes me how many people don't understand this. This seems to be especially true on blogs, forums, discussion groups, facebook, comment-sections on news sites, etc.

• ''What, the admins deleted my racist comments? How dare they violate my 'RIGHT' to free speech?!''

• ''The admins of the XYZ auction site are FASCIST-NAZIS for prohibiting the sale of my HITLER and KLAN items. Free-speech! Free-speech! War on Christmas! Communists! Benghazi! Impeach! I'm gonna sue!''

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Map

Sat Nov 15 14:10:55 2014

I guess i would be called closed minded but I hope that ebay will always choose to ban all items for sale that are connected to terrorist groups that call for the total destruction of Israel and all Jews everywhere in the world.

Thankfully the British Europeans sought the return of the land for the Jews post WWI with the completion Post WWII in 1948 with the state of Israel coming back home which they deserve after the horrible Holocaust.

All business, groups, Governments & individuals should be sanctioned & censored who support or propagate pro Palestinian and pro Arab or ISLAMIC centric philosophy because in their charters they call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews worldwide.

Just one ebay listing for the sale of a Hamas flag is a public platform for the purpose of incitement to murder Jews.

Should never be tolerated.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 16 02:02:38 2014

I guess so much for ebays "Sophistocated Detection Systems", huh folks?

Icahns buyin'- somethings up.

mh
PS: ASK WENIG about the Pan Am bags thing.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Ed Gadfly

Sun Nov 16 02:57:45 2014

When people decide to shun Economic Terrorism will eBay ban it's own shirts?

What is terrorism? Is it striking at unknown targets to cause destruction and or discomfort? Like a PayPal 21 day hold, right?

At least when people have the "terroristic" items, you can see who they are. You can confront that person and challenge their beliefs.

eBay ought to make listing visibility and customer service their priorities because the customers demand it.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Nov 17 07:07:17 2014

Ask the guy with the backpack who was denied boarding on the aircraft I was on last night about free speech.  His free speech ensured that he never left the ground.  "I was just joking" after the fact didn't cut it with TSA or the airline.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Nov 17 07:12:27 2014

Annie says "War on Christmas!"  

Oh, that's one of my favorites. Now if you say "War on  Christmas before Thanksgiving" I'm good with it.  ;)  

And the new one describing net neutrality as Obamacare for the Internet. Seriously?  

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 17 08:38:41 2014

Ya all need to head on over to DailyKOS for some real controversy.

And ya all need to go to Israel and SEE exactly what Hamas and the rest of "Palestine"  has DONE there.  

I did.  Lived there.  Came back for various reasons.

But--heres the thing--I can see what Arab backed groups have DONE and still see SOME of the Arab points. Is Israel perfect?  Nope.

As far as ebay is concerned--they don't give a rats patootie as long as it is not completely blatent.  You CAN buy many Nazi items on there--if you know where to look and believe me--this is NOT some super secret double probation code dealie--they are right out there in plain sight.

Have I reported these things?  Many times.  Has eBay done ANYTHING?  Nope.  I have been doing this for YEARS.  Live chat (remember that?)  Phone.  Emails.  When eBay HAD these things.  Am I willing to give up my whole DAY to sit on HOLD for these things?  Welllllll---I would if I thought it would do ANY good.  

PS--Nazi coins are one glaring category.  Other World War II items are also on there from the German side--go look. They may not use the WORD "swastika"  but the SYMBOL is right there in your face.

A "Hammas" flag?  The "Battle Flag"  of the Confederacy?  The Gadson Flag?  ALL are incitements to--what we would NOW call--terrorism.  As one blogger on a completely DIFFERENT issue put it when mentioning the Tea PArty Flag--"This is traditionaly used when one is not in favor of the current government".

Well--if THAT is the case--then where has it BEEN for the past 200 years?

As long as "venues"  such as eBay and the REST of these sites keep selling this stuff---people will be sponsoring terrorism.  

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: Bidonmine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 17 08:59:29 2014

There is no greater danger to a free society then those who believe that censorship is a good thing.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: Joanbet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 17 09:47:29 2014

The fact is that I have the right to determine what speech is allowed to be spoken in my house.  And so do you.  And so does every private Ecommerce site.  The right to free speech gives every citizen the right to say whatever they wish (with the few safety restrictions  - fire, etc.) but it doesn't give them the right to say it everywhere.  

And it doesn't give the right to say it without consequence.  So spewing racism on the airwaves can get you fired, swearing at school can get you expelled and selling terrorist paraphernalia can get you banned from an Ecommerce site.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 17 12:43:52 2014

Ah-hem, when I see ISIS chopping of the heads of innocent people, people who were there volunteering to HELP their people, I don't want to see ANY company or business making money from it by selling items that exploit ISIS, or any terrorist group.  Please.  Where is the common sense here?  It isn't Americans who are using a machete to slice off someone's head and then publicly releasing the video of it as if we are proud.  If any American did that it would infuriate the world.  Americans cannot even fight back or defend themselves without being accused of being "terrorists".  Americans cannot even open their mouths without the world attacking them for it.  The only reason why those in other countries hate America is simply because they have been conditioned to do so by their elders and their leaders who are nothing but lunatics who seek power for the wrong reasons.  Radicals like those from the Middle East have received misconstrued information about America and they have seen and heard nothing but hatred towards America since they were born, therefore it is instilled.  This type of hatred is blind and inherent, not logical or deserved, and I don't condone hatred like that, and we shouldn't be selling items that exemplify that type of hatred.

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 17 13:13:14 2014

I am a huge supporter of our Freedom of Speech and I wholeheartedly agree that we are losing it more and more every day, but for me this is more of a money issue and not so much a "rights" issue.  It is not right or productive for someone to make money or get rich from exploiting terrorism or terrorist groups.  The exploitation has the ability and opportunity to appeal to many young people who may have some form of mental illness, from mild to severe. Most of the young people who have gone off to fight with ISIS or other terrorist groups had undiagnosed mental illness and that mental illness was preyed upon by the recruiting methods and publicity of those crazy and violent terrorist groups.
Speaking your mind is something that should be protected, but using "freedom of speech" to protect or promote killing, violent acts, or hatred, can be very harmful.
“People all over the globe are coming to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as though it were a right. Censorship due to hypersensitivity is precisely what you would expect when you train a generation to believe that they have a right not to be offended. Eventually, they stop demanding freedom of speech and start demanding freedom from speech.  The idea that we can truly tackle hard issues while remaining universally inoffensive — an impossible pipe dream even if it were desirable — seems to be growing increasingly popular.  Freedom of Speech is being eradicated in this Country.  Of the many side effects of the retreat from free speech that was predicted 20 years ago, one was that if we privilege feelings over free speech and allow claims of offense to slow or stop meaningful discussion, people will naturally abuse this ultimate trump card.  In the end, the societal bar for what is “offensive” will simply get lower and lower.  This “offendedness sweepstakes,” does not take long to produce terrible or, often, absurd results." ~ Greg Lukianoff

Perminate Link for Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce   Terrorism and Free Speech in Ecommerce

This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Mon Nov 17 23:48:17 2014

Outstanding comments. A joy to read.  



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