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Free speech matters say Steiners as they sue eBay and ex employees

By Chris Dawson July 21, 2021 - 9:35 pm

In a press conference today, outside Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston MA, Ina and David Steiner stated that they were sending a message to corporate America that it’s not ok to weaponise a corporations security team in an attempt to stifle someone’s right to free speech. Pictured above at the press conference, alongside their lawyer Rosemary Scapicchio, the Steiners reminded everyone that free speech in America is of course protected under the First Amendment.

The lawsuit, that had just been filed, names eBay, Devin Wenig, then Chief Executive Officer of eBay, and Defendant Steven Wymer, then Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of eBay and about a dozen others as defendants for orchestrating a systemetic campaign to silence them and shut down Ina and David’s Ecommercebytes blog.

Ina and David have been blogging for over twenty years and reported on eBay and other ecommerce platforms. Under the Wenig tenure at eBay they weren’t particularly complimentary. That is their right and plenty of their readers, sellers and ex-sellers on eBay, largely agreed with their coverage. That didn’t give eBay’s top executives the right to lose their rag and issue a call to their security team to “burn them to the ground”.

All this happened two years ago, just before Wenig abruptly left eBay with little explanation until the extent of the vicious campaign against the Stieners was made public. In 2020, six of the sacked employees were criminally charged. Devin Wenig has not faced criminal prosecution having distanced himself with eBay acknowledging his unprofessional language but saying there was no evidence he knew what steps were being taken in an attempt to silence the bloggers.

“The Company noted that the internal investigation also examined what role, if any, the Company’s CEO at the time of the incident, Devin Wenig, may have had in this matter. The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband. However, as the Company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the Company.”
– eBay comment, 2020

In their press conference today, the Steiners insisted that no one should be able to walk away.

“I want everyone who was involved to be held responsible.”
– Ina Steiner, press conference, 21st July 2021

It should be noted that the people named in the lawsuit largely worked for eBay’s global security team – that’s not eBay Trust & Safety but the team responsible for personal protection for executives and physical security for eBay’s offices around the world. Some might be wary that this could happen to them, but this appears to have been personal with Wenig unable to take criticism which led to him venting and his security team taking his orders literally. Those involved are no longer with eBay and every other eBay employee was truly horrified and shocked that something like this could take place at the company they love and work for.

  • Annmarie O'Toole
    5 months ago

    I’d like to read exactly what the Steiners wrote about eBay. I can’t seem to find those details anywhere.

  • Simon E
    4 months ago

    Wow, thanks for the story Chris.
    I had not heard of this story, but, if it’s all true, it’s nice to think that some people can stand up to the bully big boys and girls, and hopefully face the music.

  • Jonty
    4 months ago

    I always thought eBay to be a bastion of free speech. After all buyers can leave any type of feedback and state what they they want to whereas sellers can leave,,,,,,,, erm,,,,,,,,, positive feedback

  • bft
    4 months ago

    And it’s not like they remove unfavourable feedback from their own packaging store, which we are forced to buy from through the paid-for voucher con.

  • 4 months ago

    The Steiners’ site where they have created and posted content for many years is named eCommerceBytes, formerly known as AuctionBytes (and that’s now a subset of their overall content). You can see it here: https://www.ecommercebytes.com/

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