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Germany

Going, Going, Gone - eBay Bans Nazi Items

The online auction house eBay says it has cleared its German website of Nazi material which is banned here. A report on national German television had uncovered a thriving trade in right-wing material.

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No longer a place where extremists can buy and sell offending material

eBay Germany was quick to react to a film shown on the national ZDF television channel this week. A company spokesman said eBay would remove offending items for sale on its website and cooperate closer with Germany's domestic intelligence agency.

ZDF reporters had found CD's by extremist bands, right-wing videos and violent computer games which are banned in Germany on the eBay site.

German intelligence agency officials confirmed that extremists had put Nazi merchandise and Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" up for sale. Such items are banned from sale in Germany.

Hans-Jürgen Doll, of the intelligence agency in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg said extremist items sold on eBay included racist literature, symbols and signs of organizations which have been banned in Germany and CDs by skinhead bands.

Extremists appeared to have moved their trade in far-right material to eBay after police raids stopped other more traditional methods of exchange, Heiko Homburg, a spokesman for the regional intelligence agency in Brandenburg, told Reuters news agency.

Counter-measures

eBay's German subsidiary announced the company might from now on bar users who tried to sell right-wing material. It might also warn them that their details could be submitted to German authorities, an eBay spokesman said.

eBay Germany says it offers about a million items for auction every day. Sales in Germany are worth some three million euro ($ 2.65 million) daily.

Problems before

Online auction firms like eBay have been battling with the problem of offensive material before.

Last year, action groups in France took the Yahoo! auction site to court and sued over "alleged justification of war crimes."

The judges ordered Yahoo! to block French users from seeing listings of Nazi merchandise on its pages. The court threatened Yahoo! with hefty fines if it failed to comply.

The company immediately banned auctions of Nazi items.

Consequently, eBay also tightened its policy on Nazi memorabilia. Last May, it banned most items bearing Nazi symbols, including authentic World War II memorabilia.

eBay exempted only a few things from the ban, for instance coins and stamps from the Third Reich, which also bear Nazi symbols like the swastika.

Ban not enforced

But the way the company tried to tighten its rules and regulations last year seems not to have been enough.

In the 'Rules & Safety Overview' section on its German website, eBay specifies exactly

which types of merchandise are banned. It also asks users who have discovered offensive material on the eBay site to report this to the company.

But extremists still managed to put offending artifacts up for auction on the website.

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