eBay to Goodlatte: 'Watch Your Language!'

4 October 2000
Who knew that execs from eBay, proprietors of the world's biggest and best known Internet auction, were worried about Internet gambling prohibition? While the connection may be indirect, the company's efforts regarding the connection could set back Rep. Bob Goodlatte's in his hard-fought battle to get his Internet Gambling Prohibition Act passed in the House.

eBay recently proposed that its "Good Samaritan" amendment be tacked onto the already heavily laden bill. The amendment, which would let Internet service providers off the hook for removing potentially illegal information from their clients' sites, is especially important to eBay officials who believe the company would be considered an ISP under current legal definitions.

According to the National Journal's Technology Daily, eBay lobbyists are pushing the amendment because current legislation punishes ISPs that police their sites for illegal materials, a cause of concern for the auction company. eBay actively prohibits the sale on its site of illegal drugs and related paraphernalia, along with alcohol, firearms, and other dangerous or illegally obtained products. The company is reportedly are worried that its efforts could boomerang. "It is only when websites actively monitor that they risk legal liability if they inadvertently fail to detect and remove such items from sale," the company contends.

Some experts, however, dispute that the auction company's concerns are viable, pointing out that current law absolves ISPs from liability should their clients perform illegal actions. As Net Coalition Executive Director Daniel Ebert explained, "It is not clear that current law does not protect eBay, and they have not demonstrated the need for this yet. We have some concerns about them coming in at the eleventh hour and asking for this change." eBay recently dropped its membership in the Net Coalition, a group of heavyweight Internet companies that works with policy makers toward preserving the Internet's open and competitive environment, over this very matter.