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WCTI-Chap1_ResearchPaper - lntroduction Yahoo Marc Knobel...

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lntroduction Yahoo! Marc Knobel is a French Jew who has devoted his life to fighting neo-Nazism, a fight that has taken him repeatedly to the Internet and American websites. In February 2000, Knobel was sitting in Paris, searching the Web for Nazi memorabilia. He went to the auction site of yahoo.com, where to his horror he saw page after page of swastika arm bands, SS daggers, concentration camp photos, and even replicas of the Zyklon B gas canisters. He had found a vast collection of Nazi mementos, for sale and easily available in France but hosted on a com- puter in the United States by the Internet giant Yahoo.' Two years earlier, Knobel had discovered Nazi hate sites on America online and threatened a public relations war. AOL closed the sites, and Knobel assumed that a similar threat against Yahoo would have a similar effect. He was wrong. AOL, it turned out, was atypical. Located in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, AOL had always been sen- sitive to public relations, politics, and the realities of government power. It was more careful than most Internet companies about keeping of- fensive information off its sites. Yahoo, in contrast, was a product of Silicon Valley's 1990s bubble culture. From its origins as the hobby of Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo, Yahoo by 2000 had grown to be the mighty "Lord of the Portals." At the time, Yahoo was the Internet entrance point for more users than any other website, with a stock price, as 2000 began, of $475 per share.z Yang, Yahoo's billionaire leader, was confident and brash-he "liked the general definition of a yahoo: 'rude,
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)ding market share, he )ns dumber still. Con- rrontea Dy an obscure acavlst complaimng about hate speech and in- voking French law, Yang's company shrugged its high-tech shoulders. Mark Knobcl was not impressed. On April 11, 2000, he sued Yahoo in a French court on behalf of the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and others. Yahoo's auctions, he charged, violated a French law banning trafficking in Nazi goods in France. "In the United States [these auctions] might not he illegal," said Knobel, "but as soon as you cross the French border, it's absolutely illegaY4 Ronald Katz, a lawyer representing the French groups, added, "There is this nayve idea that the Internet changes everythmg. It doesn't change everything. It doesn't change the laws in Fran~e."~ Yahoo received a summons from Le Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez presiding. "The French tribunal wants to impose a judgment in an area over which it has no control," reacted Jerry Yang.6 Yang's public relations team warned of the ter- rible consequences of allowing national governments to control con- tent on the Internet. If French laws applied to a website in America, then presumably so would German and Japanese regulations, not to mention Saudi and Chinese law.
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WCTI-Chap1_ResearchPaper - lntroduction Yahoo Marc Knobel...

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