eBay’s fight against hatred and discrimination

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe

August 18, 2016 – “Your listing has been removed: Hateful or Discriminatory.” An email with this heading has recently been sent to the renowned Munich-based auction house Numismatik Lanz which quite actively engages in eBay. The removal of an auction was further commented on: “Checking your eBay account we found that you did not follow our Hateful or Discriminatory Policy. Perhaps you are not aware of the fact that this type of activity is not permitted, or perhaps you have simply overlooked this policy.”

For all those who are not familiar with this policy, it includes, in brief, that eBay prohibits offering articles that glorify or trivialize National Socialism or extremist and / or anti-constitutional ideas. A laudable goal! No doubt about it! In his reply to the eBay security team, Dr Hubert Lanz only ventured to object that, at the time when the coin, which was removed because of its anti-constitutional message, had been minted in Apollonia Pontica, nobody knew anything about the Nazis yet and that the swastika had been chosen for the effigy without any anti-constitutional hatred in mind. 

Screenshot of the auction offering the archaic hemiobol from the city of Apollonia Pontica, retrieved on August 8, 2016.

That, however, of course did not irritate the eBay security team at all. Confidently, a representative of the eBay security team replied with the following statement:

“We are aware of the fact that the symbol on the article you have listed was also in use in other countries and during other periods. However, within the current legal framework, a swastika is considered to be an anti-constitutional icon and not allowed. We therefore had to remove your listing.
As my colleague … has already informed you, articles that are offered conditional on the production of evidence of a scientific-historical interest are also not allowed on our market platform. Indeed, we wish to avoid the articles being purchased by individuals who are not acting in a scientific-historical interest.” 

This is close to being credible would not eBay, when the beginning “Swas” is being entered, offer the categories “Swastika”, “Swastika – Militaria”, and “Swastika – Coins Third Reich 1871-1945”. Completely undisturbed, in the latter category coins dating from the Third Reich featuring the swastika are listed. Apparently, these do not radiate the same hatred or a similar discrimination as the little coin from the city of Apollinia Pontica, located in today’s Bulgaria. 

Politely, the security team further pointed out that the eBay customer service may conduct a survey, with the aim to evaluate this contact. Such evaluations are a proven tool to make the customers believe that their concerns are cared for. That eBay does not really take an interest at all is something that the community of eBay coin dealers still remembers vividly: In 2009 it became known that eBay had granted the Conference of Swiss Cantonal Archaeologists the right to have auctions removed arbitrarily. Since that time, dealers protect themselves from this numismatic inquisition by simply not delivering to Switzerland. 

eBay will certainly not change its attitude towards customers as long as they keep on selling their articles through the auction portal. In the last year, on the other hand, the German eBay sales figures seem to have dropped significantly for the first time. From 1.511 billion dollars in 2014, it fell to 1.310 billion dollars in 2015. 

Maybe eBay has to start to take greater interest in customer loyalty in the future and, to this end, even develop something like expertise.

Oh yes, until August 12 the auction with exactly the rejected object was back on eBay again. And of course the small obol with the swastika symbol was not shipped to Switzerland.

It goes without saying that CoinsWeekly also reported on the 2009 scandal.