Yahoo! removes porn after Saudi mufti called for boycott

Published April 15th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Internet giant Yahoo said Friday it would remove pornographic material from its Web networks in response to consumer complaints. The company, which has been struggling amid the slump in the Internet industry and slipping online advertising, confirmed earlier this week that it had set up a separate "adult and erotica" shopping area. 

 

Analysts had noted that Yahoo, which relies heavily on online ads, was seeking to capitalize on one of the most profitable areas of e-commerce. But in the face of protests and even a proposed boycott by a Saudi religious leader, the Santa Clara, California, firm reversed itself. 

 

The company said that in the next few weeks it would eliminate the pornographic videos and digital video disks currently available on its shopping, auction and classified sections. In addition, Yahoo said in a statement that it will no longer enter into new contracts for adult-related banner advertisements. 

 

Saudi Arabia's mufti, the highest religious authority in the conservative Muslim state, recommended Muslims Friday, April 13, to boycott Internet search engine Yahoo! for its role as a porn online middleman. 

 

"I advise Muslims browsing the Internet to be wary of suspect sites that seek material interest at the expense of morals. We must boycott them," Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Al-Shaikh told Asharq Al-Aswsat newspaper. 

 

Shaikh Abdul, who issued a fatwa last month banning the children's game Pokemon, was commenting on Yahoo!'s decision to open an online pornography store in the cutthroat fight for economic survival in the struggling Internet marketplace. 

 

"If boycotting (Yahoo!) means it will stop posting immoral material, Muslims must boycott it," leading Saudi cleric Shaikh Abdullah Bin Abdul Rahman Bassam added, quoted by the paper. 

 

The Los Angeles Times said Wednesday that Yahoo! had embraced the online porn industry, one of the few sectors of the Web that is actually profitable, in the face of an economic slowdown that has hit the Dot.com sector hard. 

 

Yahoo!, which is accessed by 185 million people worldwide each month, posted a net loss for the first quarter of $11.5 million compared with a profit of $67.6 million in the same period a year ago. 

 

Yahoo has insisted that its offerings were not new and that it only acted as an intermediary for various shopping sites. Yahoo gets a sales commission from merchants each time they make a sale through a Yahoo link.  

 

"While Yahoo has offered controlled access to adult products available via the Internet since launching our commerce services more than two years ago, many of our users voiced concerns this week about some of the products sold by merchants on Yahoo Shopping," Yahoo President Jeff Mallett said. "We heard them and swiftly responded." 

 

Other major, mainstream online firms have been reluctant to associate themselves with pornography, which is easily accessible through most mainstream Web portals. 

 

The computer police in Saudi Arabia blocked access to all clubs hosted by Yahoo! last August because it was unable to control their pornographic and political content. 

 

The kingdom, which practices a strict form of Islam, has 570,000 Internet users, giving Saudi nationals a meeting point and a window on the world. 

 

Access to many Web sites, and particularly pornography, are blocked in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states by proxy servers implemented by government-owned Internet service providers (ISPs). — (AFP, Riyadh) 

 

© Agence France Presse 2001

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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