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Artificial Intelligence

At a Glance

North America

Artificial Intelligence technologies are ever more present in our daily lives; they are already impacting how we do commerce, both in the act of finding and purchasing goods and in creating smarter ways to advertise and sell a product online, and increasingly protecting platforms against bad actors.

Even the smallest businesses can enjoy these latest innovations thanks to online platforms that help bring them within their reach, like eBay.

Given eBay’s vision “to be the world’s favorite destination for discovering great value and unique selection”, our derivative AI Vision is to “transform eBay into an adaptive AI-managed trusted marketplace & platform where the complex is made simple and customer experiences are fluid, natural and exceptional.” 

As an innovator and leader in the use of AI-enabled tools in e-commerce, eBay supports an open dialogue between companies, policy-makers, civil society and most importantly users to foster its vision for Accountable AI.

Issue in Detail

As a leader in commerce and technology, and the largest global commerce platform for independent small retailers and entrepreneurs, eBay’s responsible use of artificial intelligence takes into consideration important values such as trust, ethics, fairness, explainability, safety and human fundamental rights. 

At eBay we develop AI technologies and systems in respect of the principles of Accountable AI, and in coordination with government governance structures, laws and regulations.  Below we illustrate some of the concrete applications we are investing in and how they support our vision for “transforming eBay into an adaptive AI-managed trusted marketplace & platform where the complex is made simple and customer experiences are fluid, natural and exceptional.”

To Support the Small Business

eBay makes investments in technologies so that small businesses don’t have to, and can still compete in the global marketplace. Our AI tools enable small businesses to sell goods easier and to access markets around the world. As well, our AI tools help buyers to better find what they are looking for, and to make purchases with ease.  

AI can be found in our recent investments for image-based search capabilities. We aim to achieve the same level of query understanding whatever the method that the user chooses to look for an item on eBay. This is likely to help populations with difficult access to textual search (for example due to language barriers, or disabilities) feel more included into and engaged in the eBay shopping experience.

Further, as we operate in more than 190 markets, machine translation is used as a tool to process multiple languages when buyers shop internationally. A study conducted by Brynjolfsson, Hui and Liu (2018) that investigates the effect of eBay's AI-based machine translation tool on international trade has shown that the system helped achieve a 17.5% increase in exports. As a result, our machine translation system removes language barriers that can significantly hinder inclusive trade.

To Protect the Platform

eBay is a marketplace that is built on trust. It is core to our platform that we work to earn and keep that trust with our users every day. While the vast majority of our roughly 1.5 billion listings come from law-abiding sellers, there are inevitably bad actors who seek to abuse our platform. These sellers and the illegal or prohibited merchandise they look to sell are not welcome on eBay. eBay continuously seek ways to improve our efforts to fight against counterfeiters and bad actors, and we invest millions of dollars annually to fight unlawful listings, including counterfeit goods, that appear on the platform. In addition to the employees at eBay who work on anti-infringement issues, including anti-counterfeiting, we deploy sophisticated technologies and invest heavily in our partnerships with rights owners and governments across the globe in order to help protect consumers and support rights owners against bad actors.

eBay takes a comprehensive approach to prohibited items, including counterfeits, but no single policy, partnership, technology, or enforcement mechanism will adequately address bad actors. Our combination of people, policies, and tools together help ensure the safety and trustworthiness of our marketplace. eBay deploys a mix of image detection and machine learning tools alongside its filtering systems to complement the incredible work of our human reviewers - there is no one-size-fits-all answer to addressing bad actors. We fully understand the dynamic nature of our fight against bad actors and we are constantly pursuing opportunities to update our policies, technologies, and to train our teams.

eBay works to proactively remove potentially problematic listings. Before it appears on the site, every potential eBay listing is reviewed by automated filters that block problematic listings or else flag them for manual review by eBay agents. eBay’s filters are constantly being revised, and eBay is actively developing and deploying additional capabilities through image recognition and machine learning technology, to check on the veracity of information provided by users.