Etsy has a banned product issue

Illustration from article titled Weapons, Ivory, and Other Etsy Banned Items Still Widely Available, Survey Results

Photo: Paul Zimmerman (Getty Images)

The Etsy online marketplace has been inundated with activity since the start of the pandemic, as millions have flocked to online shopping to avoid the lockdown blues. However, this pandemic-fueled growth also highlights Etsy’s struggle to moderate what goes for sale on its platform. A recent Insider The investigation found that approximately 800 listings violated the company’s policy on prohibited items, including animal remains, pornography, weapons and a host of mass-produced goods masquerading as custom-made items. hand.

Some of the examples the outlet found included mummified puppy remains, steel-tipped clubs, brass knuckles, preserved kitten fetuses, roach claws, poisonous plants, bogus herbal remedies. covid-19, tumors and other ailments, and uranium ore, a radioactive substance. Insider says it has identified dozens of lists of products made from elephant ivory, which are largely banned from trade worldwide after poachers have driven some species to the brink of extinction to harvest their much-loved tusks. Magical “spells” promising wealth, love and good health were also widely available for sale, as were counterfeit products from designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci.

While some of these products are not necessarily illegal, they clearly violate prohibited items policy, which bans the sale of drug-related accessories, adult content and dangerous items, to name a few. The platform prohibits “objects presented as weapons or intended to inflict violence”, although it makes exceptions for “tools”, “an unusable decorative object” and “foam reproduction weapons, in particular. rubber or plastic for training or role play. . “According to Etsy Rules, anything sold on its site “must be handmade, vintage, or handcrafted,” but it seems that many sellers routinely flout this rule, offering mass-produced products likely purchased wholesale from third-party suppliers. In an interview with Insider, Etsy said it uses a combination of automated and manual tools to detect illegal listings and also relies on user reports.

When contacted for comment, Insider reported that Etsy has removed the lists in question and is committed to stepping up its systems to detect illegal content. Etsy reiterated this commitment by a blog post Thursday, in which the company announced plans to spend “at least” $ 40 million to strengthen its policy enforcement systems. This investment will extend the coverage of its content review teams “tenfold” by the end of the year and deploy new self-removal tools that integrate image recognition and geographic targeting, among other initiatives, according to the trust of Etsy and head of the security team Corinne Pavlovic.

“With these investments in human capital and proprietary technology, we are adapting our enforcement metrics to prepare Etsy for its next chapter of growth, ensuring that sellers of unique and handcrafted items continue to find a welcoming home and that buyers continue to have an enjoyable shopping experience. manufacturers and preservatives, ”she wrote.

However, this announcement is clearly missing an explanation of why these banned items seemed to have passed under Etsy’s radar for so long. This is of particular concern as Etsy’s business model is based on transaction fees, the company therefore receives a reduction for each sale on its platform, prohibited products included.

More troubling still, it appears Etsy’s crackdown in response to the investigation was just a drop in the bucket. After Etsy removed the listings identified by the outlet, Insider reports that it was still able to find several more for ivory products, brass knuckles, mandrake roots, tools for using cannabis concentrates, mass-produced products and other prohibited items. We also searched Etsy’s Marketplace and within minutes found a bunch of banned goods, including a vintage ivory bracelet that went on sale as late as March, many weapons which are clearly marketed as such, and a store with more than 1000 reviews sell all kinds of spells to attract love, wealth and everything in between. We’ve reached out to Etsy for feedback and will update this blog once we respond.

Like online shopping surged in the midst of the pandemic, Etsy’s platform too. In his integrated annual report, the company said its annual revenue more than doubled in 2020 to $ 1.7 billion, and the number of items for sale on its site rose to more than 90 million.

But with this booming success can come a slew of new headaches, as many online platforms have learned this the hard way over the past year (looking at you, Zoom). In 2020, Etsy received 4 million reports of potentially non-compliant ads, a 400% increase from 2019, he said Thursday. According to Etsy, most of these flags, around 80%, were generated by its automated systems.

Etsy, of course, seems willing to spend a lot of money on this issue, but just hope it produces some real results. Because profiting from the sale of pet scraps, illegal ivory products and quasi-legality the goods are definitely do not a great look.

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