Non-discrimination and minorities

Dilemma:
Third-party race-hate issues
Name:
Yahoo! Inc
Sector:
Internet search engine providers
Location:
France

This case highlights the complex dilemmas that companies may encounter when needing to balance compliance with the anti-race-hate laws in one country's jurisdiction with freedom of expression expectations elsewhere.

French law strictly prohibits the sale or display of objects that incite racial hatred, including items of Nazi memorabilia. In the case of LICRA and UEJF v Yahoo, a French High Court found in 2000 that Yahoo! had violated France's Code Penal by allowing French internet users to buy Nazi memorabilia offered on its US-based auction site. Nazi-related items are not available on Yahoo!'s French site (yahoo.fr), but French users were able to access such items via the company's US-based site (yahoo.com). The court ordered that Yahoo! Inc. prevent French users from accessing internet sites auctioning race-hate memorabilia, or face heavy fines. The French judge heard evidence from court experts who concluded that system checks could block up to 90% of French users from buying Nazi memorabilia, but concurred with Yahoo!'s own assessment that it would be technically impossible to block every French user from accessing every racist site.

Yahoo! sought a judgement from a federal court in the United States that the French order was invalid against its US arm under the provisions of the US constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Yahoo! Inc. eventually lost its case in the Californian federal appeals court in January 2006.

In 2001, prior to the US court proceedings, Yahoo! Inc. amended its user policies to no longer “allow items that are associated with groups which promote or glorify hatred and violence, to be listed on any of Yahoo's commerce properties”. In a public statement, Nazi and Ku Klux Klan items were singled out. Yahoo! said trained representatives would monitor the site regularly and that it would use software to identify potentially objectionable items. The company cited ethical rather than legal reasons for the change. Internet auction company eBay has also instituted a global ban on the sale of hate-related items.

Further information:

http://www.pcworld.com/resource/article/0,aid,124367,pg,1,RSS,RSS,00.asp
http://docs.yahoo.com/info/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1032605.stm
http://www.news.com/2100-1017-250452.html
http://www.out-law.com/page-6536
http://www.digitalworldtokyo.com/index.php/digital_tokyo/articles/supreme_court_passes_on_yahoo_nazi_case/