Nazi Artifacts Continue to Haunt Yahoo in France

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Just weeks after Yahoo Inc. said it would ban auctions of Nazi artifacts, a group of former Nazi concentration camp inmates filed a lawsuit in Paris yesterday against Yahoo's chairman.


The lawsuit accuses Tim Koogle of "justifying war crimes and crimes against humanity" because his company once facilitated the sale of Nazi relics.


The group of former inmates is claiming a symbolic one franc -- or 15 cents -- of damages against Yahoo. The lawsuit also calls for Yahoo to buy ads in major French and U.S. newspapers to publicize, as presumed by the plaintiffs, an unfavorable court judgment for the Internet firm.


Yahoo did not comment on the lawsuit.


French-based rights groups sued Yahoo last year over auction sites selling items such as Nazi daggers and concentration camp uniforms, saying they broke French laws that prohibit the sale and promotion of racist material.


Yahoo argued that the Web sites involved were aimed at the American market and said the U.S. First Amendment governing freedom of speech prevented it from shutting the sites down.


A French judge ruled against the Santa Clara, CA-based company in November and gave it three months to set up a filtering system to prevent Web users in France from accessing the auctions. The court said that it would fine Yahoo $14,000 if those products are not filtered out starting Feb. 20.


Since then, Yahoo has banned Nazi and Ku Klux Klan merchandise from its U.S. commercial sites. Yahoo also recently implemented software designed to filter out hate group products.


While Yahoo has admitted the software is not foolproof, the company said that it believes its system is a good start. In addition, the firm has enlisted a team of employees to look out for objectionable products.
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