Nazi ban goes into effect on Yahoo auctions

But coins, stamps and books remain on the site, like a vintage 1933 copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" offered by a Canadian seller.

The decision to ban the items came from a desire to avoid facilitating commerce in hate material, but the ban specifically did not include publications like books, magazines and movies.

Yahoo has developed software to scan entries submitted for auction. Those items which match a profile of banned material will be blocked. What isn't clear is whether a bowl with the words "Soup Nazi" (a reference to US television show "Seinfeld") would be banned as surely as a Nazi flag would. While Yahoo will employ an unnamed number of proactive human monitors to complement the software, "there is a grey area," said Brian Fitzgerald, senior producer for Yahoo auctions, "and it's not a foolproof technology."

The criteria for defining a hate group remains a grey area as well. Fitzgerald had a hard time explaining what would qualify, beyond specifying Nazi and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) material. He referred to Yahoo's terms of service, which prohibits content that is "hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable" from being uploaded, posted, e-mailed, transmitted or otherwise made available on its service.

However, Yahoo has not yet chosen to actively seek out and ban Nazi or other hate material on its other online forums, personalised content, branded programming or other various communications tools.

In November, a French court ordered Yahoo to filter out users in France from its auction sites where Nazi items are sold, and would have fined Yahoo about $US14,000 for each day it exceeded the order's February deadline. German authorities have also investigated Yahoo's local site for the alleged auction sale of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," which is banned there.

An attorney for Yahoo said the site's policy change does not in and of itself comply with the French court ruling, and that Yahoo does not intend to comply with the ruling.

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