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.