Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Aug 10 2014 22:05:34

How Did Anti-Semitic Term Show Up on eBay Search Results?

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay UK is suggesting shoppers searching for Star of David t shirts might be interested in items featuring an anti-Semitic term. A reader alerted me to the fact that when you search eBay UK for Star of David T shirt, it comes back with the related term "fuck jews." I was able to replicate the search myself - and not just once. Each time I tried the search on Sunday evening, it came back with the same hateful suggestion.



eBay rolled out its next-generation search engine Cassini in the U.S. in 2013 and has since rolled it out internationally. I emailed eBay PR in the U.S. and UK asking for an explanation of how the anti-Semitic term came to appear in that particular search.

I tried many other searches and couldn't come up with anything similar. Many searches resulted in numerous related terms to try, and only a tiny percentage came back with a single suggestion under the "related" prompt.

The term could be considered an attempt to send a message to Jewish shoppers on eBay UK - it's not clear whether an eBay employee might have manipulated the "related" search feature, whether eBay might have been hacked, or if there is some other explanation for how eBay's search engine would link a search for a Star of David t shirt with the offensive, anti-Semitic term.

On the heels of the eBay UK live-chat security breach, it certainly makes one wonder what's going on over there.




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Readers Comments

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Aug 10 22:12:31 2014

An excuse or contrived "explanation" from eBay will not be adequate for this. EBAY OWES A BIG PUBLIC APOLOGY FOR THIS OUTRAGE...

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sun Aug 10 22:48:34 2014

these are getting to be scary times, indeed!

Humans never seem to learn from the past.

Although it is happening in the USA  too, anti-Semitism is experiencing quite a surge in Europe from what I've read in the news.

On the listing, whoever did it, it was deliberate and does not instill comfort in buying on that venue. Scary.  

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by: ConnecticutGal This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 10 23:15:00 2014

I am outraged at this.  And,quite surprised that your normally eloquent readers are so parsimonious in their comments on this particular blog.

Please let us know whatever you hear back from Ebay PR.  Basset is correct that humans never seem to learn from the past.  

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

Mon Aug 11 00:39:31 2014

This is not anti-Semitism by eBay; not even eBay could be so stupid; it's likely due to the usual sloppy allocation of key words that we have come to expect from this cretinous organisation ...

The material difference between eBay and the Mafia is that most eBay employees are unaware that they are working for a criminal organisation ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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by: Vy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 04:16:55 2014

It's obviously intentional, makes you wonder how it was done. I'll be interested to see ebay's response to this. We couldn't believe it when it was bought to our attention in the UK, loads of us tested it and indeed it did come up as per your screenshot, each and every time. I note that this no longer is the case, I guess this one's a bit of a hot potato.

No doubt, the ebay comment will be along the lines of the usual fluffy 'we have multi layered, state-of-the-art, mega, all singin', all dancin' verification security software in place' etc etc. Benefit of the doubt, they might well have, but that system is only as secure as the people who have access to it, as we've seen with the recent hacking debacle and the 'you can impersonate anyone on Live Chat' scenario from last week.

A lot of shit keeps happening at ebay recently, I can't help but see it as something from the Wizard of Oz, one little old man behind a curtain running the whole show.

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

Mon Aug 11 05:15:59 2014

Send a press release to the New York City media outlets. Send an eMail to the Daily Mail and the Drudge Report. You will get this noticed when they pick this up.

Ironic, coming from a company so interested in an enjoyable shopping experience.

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by: siva This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Aug 11 07:28:43 2014

I checked Star of David T shirt in ebay india, but no anti-semitic terms shown there..I think ebay may be hacked by someon in UK.. Because such big concern won't do like this..

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by: HappyOne This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 07:46:14 2014

Please tell me that EBay does not have filters on for the ''F'' word and other objectionable terms? I once had a listing pulled because it had a poor wording/reference to Mecca in a toy listing. I also had vintage (1910) plate that had good luck symbols of that era rejected because it included the word Swastika. Search suggestions are useless. Search for a rare/hard to find item that has few or no current listings and completely unrelated words and results are forced/plugged in. Trying to refine/change original search is impossible once ''suggestion'' is locked in.  Keep it simple let buyers search for what they want.  

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 08:20:38 2014

The UK has a long history of anti-semitism and that some would show up on eBay is not surprising.  

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by: Vy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 08:45:04 2014

''it's likely due to the usual sloppy allocation of key words''

Whilst I can appreciate that 'jews' and 'fuck' might be in a list of keywords, I cannot believe that it comes up as an offensive anti-Semitic slogan when searching Star of David t-shirt completely by accident.

Unless ebay have bought a lot of monkeys and a whole load of typewriters and let them loose in the programming suite.

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 09:33:45 2014

Things like this leave a lot of us speechless. I'm grateful Ina took it right to the source.  

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by: Kaz This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 10:17:48 2014

Thank Goodness, it's gone.
t-shirt is the ONLY related term when I searched just now.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Mon Aug 11 11:09:03 2014

What's a "Semite" ? Seriously...just want to learn....

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Mon Aug 11 11:12:18 2014

I see :
Wikipedia :
Today, the word "Semite" may be used to refer to any member of any of a number of peoples of ancient Southwestern Asia descent including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews (Jews), Arabs, and their descendants.
So, Jews do not have exclusive claim to the term.

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by: ebay refugee camp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 11:23:51 2014

I had a thinking day and I came up with this, JD should come out of the executive bonus check counting room and address this one or perhaps hire somebody to bring ebay back up to the surface.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Mon Aug 11 12:01:43 2014

"Unless ebay have bought a lot of monkeys and a whole load of typewriters and let them loose in the programming suite."

Now that is truly insightful ...

The material difference between eBay and the Mafia is that most eBay employees are unaware that they are working for a criminal organisation ... http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Aug 11 12:26:50 2014

Not really, The End  -  I have never heard it used in any context other than against Jews.


Wikipedia goes on to say (quote):

''While the conjunction of the units anti, semite and ism indicates antisemitism as being directed against all Semitic people, the term was in fact coined in Germany in 1873 as a scientific-sounding term for Judenhass (''Jew-hatred''), and that has been its normal use since then. For the purposes of a 2005 U.S. governmental report, antisemitism was considered ''hatred toward Jews—individually and as a group—that can be attributed to the Jewish religion and/or ethnicity. ''

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Mon Aug 11 13:10:03 2014

Clearly, those who are labeled anti-semite only have a beef with Jews, so it is not wholesale anti-semitism, as the Jews would have us believe. There is no beef with the other sects or people as the definition of Semite calls out.
To be an Anti-semite, one would have to be Anti-Asian, Anti- Arab, etc. And that just is not the case.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 11 15:24:30 2014

this is un-acceptable and for a company of this size to allow this to happen, this is obviously some sick internal doing, and not a hack.

I truly am almost out of words that I can use to describe my anger for this irresponsible disgraceful company,

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

Mon Aug 11 19:07:35 2014

I'm sure ebafia's Spin Department is undoubedtly working overtime on this one trying first deny then to shift blame and then reconstruct.

Wall Street analysts: ebay is crumbling from the inside. The Ho has managed to keep the thousands of site infrastructure problems concealed from analysts for several years but those who use it daily know that it's an extremely fragile house of cards that a baby could blow down.

Ebay will NEVER show any REAL growth (as opposed to the fictional growth it regularly feeds voluntarily blind Wall Street) until the infrastructure is fully stabilized, change for sake of change only ends, anti small business, anti American policies change drastically, and an INTELLIGENT management team from top to bottom is installed.

If in fact ebafia UK was hacked, don't stop there. Until the FULL extent of ebay's problems are of non big box sellers and criminal conduct will continue.

While obviously the search result Ina was able to able to duplicate was unequivocally anti Jewish/Semitic, it's important to make a distinction between anti-Jew and those who are critical of Israeli policies. Anti Israel does NOT equate to anti Jew.

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