eBay Could Teach Facebook About Social Responsibility

megwhitmanzuckerberg1I just threw a quarter into the wishing well.  I usually do not “wish and tell” but I will make an exception.

I wish former eBay CEO  Meg Whitman,(1998-2008) would take on the role of a Jewish mother for an afternoon.  I wish she would  pick up the  phone and place a motherly call to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I wish she would take Mark to lunch.  I wish she would give Mark  the  benefit of her much more extensive experience in the business and corporate world.  I wish she would  talk with him  about the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility.  Talk about how this responsibility goes beyond the X’s and O’s of the First Amendment.  It goes beyond free speech. It goes beyond canned corporate-speak and lawyer-speak.  It goes beyond the bottom line.

I wish she would explain to Mark that some things are just wrong.  Explain that some things can not be supported on any level regardless of the public backlash and financial bottom line.

I wish Meg would sit down and talk to Mark Zuckerberg  about why eBay banned the buying and selling of Nazi memorabilia world wide even though it is not illegal in the United States.   I wish she would educate him on the historical concept and context of social responsibility that Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook seem to be lacking.

Let’s talk history.  As outlined by Michael Arrington in his Tech Crunch blog,   eBay’s total ban on the buying and selling of Nazi memorabilia was instituted in 2001 in response to concerns by anti-hate groups. Why did they do this?  The buying and selling of such items is not illegal in the United States.  I would be first to admit that there are probably many pure collectors of Nazi memorabilia with no animus towards Jews or who deny the Holocaust.  It would certainly affect their bottom line negatively. The outcry was substantial.  Yahoo followed suit.  So why do it?

The answer can be found in the eBay Terms Of Service. I will quote from Michael Arrington’s article:

“Part of the balancing act eBay uses when making a decision on a listing is is to ban items which “lack substantial social, artistic, or political value.” It goes on to state “this includes items that may be deemed inappropriate or insensitive to victims of natural disasters or human tragedies.”

Meg, if you read this, please take Mark under your wing.  Please explain that being sensitive to the victims of  human tragedies such as the Holocaust is not a 1st Amendment issue.  Its not a  free speech issue.  It is  not an open discourse issue. It is  not a financial bottom line issue. It is not a  platform dependent issue.

It is a moral issue.  It is compasssion issue.  It is a human issue.  It is just the right thing to do.  For Facebook to ban groups that deny the Holocaust is also the right thing to do.


7 Responses

  1. Brian,

    Firstly, I will give it to Meg, having what is, by Wall St. considered to be the most solid online business platform in the world, she is by all standards an excellent businessperson.

    I totally disagree with eBay's position on selling this memorabilia, however. Why shouldn't people be able to own a piece of history? Seriously?

    eBay is a retail platform. Facebook is a service-based social platform and therefore there needs to be something deeper to compare it to. I would like to know what the deep concern is about the anti-holocaust groups. Why should they not be allowed to post? They BELIEVE that what they are saying is true. You believe it is propaganda. I agree with you, but if they are going to take down these groups, I also want every religious group removed. They are spreading lies and propagandized garbage all over the internet. Jesus Christ is like Santa Clause for grown ups, but since he has a billion followers, it's okay? Let's recap that the bible tells people to kill their children if they talk back, beat them with sticks and kill entire cities for heresy. It spreads violence throughout and if you're going to argue that the new testament is any different from the old, Jesus makes clear that the letter of God's law comes from the old testament. To argue otherwise is moronic and to argue that "they didn't mean you should LITERALLY beat your kids and kill people" is obscenely ignorant. Yet, there are groups all over facebook, spreading the word of love via Jesus.

    Seriously, this is one example, but I can get about 10 others.

    My wife taught Sunday school in a very small church until they no longer had the funds to keep it going, nor the attendance. My kids believe in God. My wife does too. So when my children ask me a question about something that I, for the most part completely disagree with, I have to say "Well, why do you think so? What makes sense to you about it? What doesn't? Let's talk about it." And I calmly sit down and converse with them. I don't answer their questions by saying "this is like this because…" I answer their questions with questions that will hopefully lead them to think for themselves and come to logical, rational conclusions. We can't stop people from thinking how they do, especially those who are unwilling to listen. We can, however, educate the rest of the people to think for themselves and disregard the kinds of idiocy that these "there was no holocaust" groups are spreading.

  2. I dispute that being socially conscious to human suffering and being willing to take a stand on that basis alone is platform dependent

  3. Matt,

    My issue with your take is that seems to indicate that every BELIEF is entitled a forum on facebook. Have we fallen so far down the path of moral relativism that ALL beliefs must be treated with equal respect – regardless of all evidence to the contrary?

    I'd submit that there is a HUGE difference between the type of belief that you reference, that of religious belief/ spirituality, vs. whether or not one choses to believe in well-documented RECENT history. There is simply no rationale defense for the Holocaust never happened "position"

    Now one could probably attempt to ask "Why single Holocaust-denial out"… While I haven't checked I certainly wouldn't be shocked to find other absurd groups on FB denying the moon landing, or consisting of flat-earth society devotees. But the difference is that this is a group with obvious malicious intent. What other reason WOULD a group have to deny the slaughter of 6 million Jews and some 20 million total?

    The only plausible goal to deny this ACTUAL history is the spread of hatred for the victims of the Holocaust – by attempting to spread the claim that Jews are behind a world-wide hoax of the worst kind imaginable!!!

    This being the case…and facebook being a form of media how is it NOT their responsibility to police this hogwash!?! The presence of these groups on facebook is akin to a hate group submitting for a prime-time network ad buy for a recruitment piece.

    Could you imagine the national outrage if Fox aired a holocaust denial add during American Idol!?! It would be the network's social responsibility to REJECT such an ad. Facebook being a form of MEDIA – the presence of hate groups ON facebook is much closer to the tv ad buy scenario than it is a situation where free speech is the issue.

    Now that facebook is a form of media by which SO MANY people obtain information – MANY of them young and impressionable – it is simply socially irresponsible for the company to continue to allow these hate groups to exist.

    The argument I keep hearing in favor of facebook's position is that to eliminate these groups would be the start of a slippery slope whereby there is no telling what would be policed next. I would argue that, in a world with ANY level of common sense this take is absurd. Moreover what of the REAL danger of the slippery slope of an environment that legitimizes ALL ideas as worthy of a public forum via a popular media device, regardless of how nefarious?

    No one is saying hate groups can't legally make their views public…but as a responsible business entity facebook DOES have the responsibility to say: "Take the message elsewhere! Not on our platform you don't!!!"

  4. Well done – that'll show hate-filled neo-Nazis that you mean business. This is confused and sentimental, and will have absolutely zero impact on the problem you purport to address. No impact at all, therefore hollow words.

  5. "I agree with you, but if they are going to take down these groups, I also want every religious group removed. They are spreading lies and propagandized garbage all over the internet."

    A bit hyperbolic of you to equate "denial of 60 year old events witnessed and suffered by millions" with "any favourable comments toward any of the hundreds of religions believed by the absolute majority of all human beings who have ever lived and are alive today." Do you really expect us to think you believe all those people are as bad at Holocaust-denying neo-nazis? Please.

    The first step in any evil is to dehumanize your opponents as conspirators, nutjobs, or numbers. Then you can do "what needs doing" to them (read Eichmann in Jerusalem, by Hannah Arendt.)

  6. I use religion, especially Christianity as an example, because regardless of intent, they spread racism and genocide world-wide.

    To use another example, there were a group of people who told everyone what to think and what they could read and write about 60 years ago. They called them Nazis.

    I have to agree that to deny these people, whom we all consider complete lunatics and hate mongers their right to post such things is to take away the rights of a minority. I keep hoping that as a civilized world we will grow beyond that. People will say what people will say. Impressionable youth? bullshit. People who say these things are the same people who let their 13 and 14 year old children watch anything and everything on television. The reason they do this is because they feel a certain level of comfort in explaining to their children why or why not something on television is in accordance with their own set of core values.

    However, let some of those children bring home a book slandering Jews, or attempting to describe the history of the world in a different light than the scope of their own comfort zone or perhaps even something as popular as Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not A Christian" and all hell breaks loose. Not because there is anything wrong with the reading of those things, but because they induce fear amongst the general public due to their non-conformity to socially acceptable status quo and usually in combination with a lack of education or knowledge about the subject.

    If my daughter came home with a piece of material describing views that somehow tried to make her think the Holocaust did not exist, I would sit down and we would talk about it. We would read about it. She would figure out in short fashion that this is a lie and her next logical question would be "Daddy, why would someone lie about something like that?" Discourse. Civility. Acceptance of things that you find absurd. Not acceptance of the thing itself, but acceptance of the right of existence. Most often peoples' offense comes not from their being appalled at such things but rather stems from their ignorance and fear. These are what allow us not to be mislead, but to grow as a race of intelligent beings.

    A majority of people thought that Bush was honest about events in Iraq, and millions were convinced that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, even though empirical evidence pointed so obviously against the validity of either. hundreds of thousands died because of it. Where were your crowds of angered-and-up-in-arms then? Did we ever once try to get any of that propagandized crap off of facebook or any other site? It was libelous, false and misleading information meant solely to inflame a country – a world even – to go to war.

    The fact of the matter is that these groups will continue to exist and all else aside, maybe you should be happier to have them out in the open where they can at least be monitored by you to an extent rather than spreading their hatred through other children at the playground and the malls.

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