Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Sears Holdings Corp  on Monday banned sales of products bearing the image of the Confederate battle flag.
The "Stars and Bars" has become a lightning rod for outrage over the killing of nine black men and women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston last Wednesday. Accused gunman Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, is seen posing with the flag in photos posted on a website reported to be his.
South Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday voted to open debate on removing the flag from the State House grounds, after state Governor Nikki Haley and others called for it to be taken down.
"We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group," a Google representative said in an emailed statement.
A Google search for Confederate flags pulled up several listings and sponsored ads promoting the flags. A similar search on Amazon's website found tens of thousands of Confederate flags and merchandise such as T-shirts and knives bearing the flag's image.
Most of the flags and related products on Amazon, eBay and Google ranged in price from $5 to $50. Clicking on some of the Confederate flags and related items on Amazon's website took users to an error page.
"Is this a big sacrifice for retailers? No. But, symbolically, it's a good step," said David Satterfield, an executive vice president of G.F. Bunting and Co, a strategic communications firm in California.
"A significant percentage of your consumer base is completely offended by what the flag stands for, and it doesn't make sense carrying it," he said.