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eBay’s new recruit to battle weird, wacky and illegal sales

March 23, 2022

eBay’s new recruit to battle weird, wacky and illegal sales

More than five million Australians purchased goods online in January and sales are expected to keep growing, but the rise of digital commerce has also enabled dodgy operators to hock their wares.

More than five million Australians purchased goods online in January and sales are expected to keep growing, but the rise of digital commerce has also enabled dodgy operators to hock their wares.

The boom in online shopping triggered by the pandemic continues to gather pace, with data from Australia Post showing year-on-year growth of 16.6% in January, while separate research suggests the sector is on track to hit $70.7 billion in transactions by 2025.

For eBay – Australia’s most popular e-commerce site, with more than 68 million monthly visits – not all of these sales are good news, however. The digital auction house had to block almost 390,000 items from sale in 2021.

In a recent interview with Yahoo News, the company’s regulatory director Mike Carson said unscrupulous sellers try to sell everything from ivory (which eBay banned from sale in 2008) to live animals.

In a bid to stamp out these sales, eBay has dedicated teams trawling through listings to weed out anything that shouldn’t be there – but with the enormity of the task in front of them, the company is now upping the ante with a new recruit to battle bad listings: Artificial intelligence. 

These AI systems are being deployed to not only flag potentially dodgy deals, but to analyse data and identify techniques bad actors use to circumvent eBay’s automated filters and even interpret what’s in the images uploaded by sellers.

Training the AI to look for these things will be no mean feat, given the bizarre range of items that find their way onto the platform, which in the past has included everything from celebrities’ restaurant leftovers, to the entire country of New Zealand.

In 2006, an enterprising Australian seller tried to (fraudulently) sell New Zealand, with bidding starting at one cent and rising to $3000 before eBay’s crack team of reviewers shut the shenanigans down.

That same year, another group of Aussies tried to sell a weekend of friendship for one lucky bidder – which eventually sold for $1300.

Perhaps one of the more interesting sales to pass through the platform came in 2004, when a sea urchin sold on the site turned out to be an undiscovered species.

Its purchaser, Dr Simon Coppard of London’s Natural History Museum’s International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, ultimately got to give the creature its scientific name, Coelopleurus exquisitus.

Sources


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