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Internet Censorship Law Proposal in Israel

Internet censorship could slowly and surely find its way to Israel. Now that a new proposal “that is supposedly meant to protect kids from the dangers of pornography, violence and gambling sites” has passed the primary voting stage in the Israeli Knesset, bloggers writing in Hebrew are asking: What is next?

From Gadi Shimshon's post “say nicely goodbye to your internet“:

עברה בקריאה טרומית בכנסת (משהו שכיום הוא בעיקר הצהרתי) הצעת חוק של ח”כ אמנון כהן מש”ס שמיועדת, לכאורה, להגן על קטינים מסכנות של אתרי פורנוגרפיה, אלימות והימורים. למען הסר ספק, אין בהצעה הזו דבר שיגן על ילדי מדינת ישראל. כל כולה שילוב של בערות טכנולוגית, צדקנות שמנונית ומשחקי כוח פוליטיים. מצד שני, עד כמה שהצעת החוק מטומטמת לעילא וכמעט בלתי ישימה כלכלית וטכנולוגית, יש בה משהו מעורר חלחלה. הבעיה היא לא ש”ס – הבעיה היא הח”כים שסביר מאוד שרובכם בחרתם. התהליך בו זורמת ומתקדמת ההצעה בכנסת – הוא בדיוק התהליך שהייתם מדמיינים. זה מצחיק בטירוף, וזה מייאש עוד יותר.
A law proposal by politician Amnon Cohen (from the ultra-orthodox political party shas) that is supposedly meant to protect kids from the dangers of pornography, violence and gambling sites has passed the primary voting stage in the Israeli Knesset . There is nothing in this law proposal that will protect the children of Israel. It is a combination of technological ignorance, over-righteousness and a political power play. While this law proposal is utterly stupid and almost impossible economically and technologically, it has something that makes me shudder. The problem is not Shas – it is our political leaders whom most of you have chosen. The process in which this proposal is going forward is like you'd imagine; it is hilarious, and frustrating even more.

The proposed law requires from the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block adult content-based sites (sexual, gambling and violence) from children. The ISPs will require some biometric means of identification for adults, in addition to a personal password, as a means to verify one's age. The current law proposal does not state who claims which sites will be blocked, and technology will be used by the ISPs for this sort of identification. In one of their meetings, it was suggested that for an additional monthly fee, ISPs would offer their customers means to block “harmful” content, when and if requested. There are so many problems that come up. For instance, how and who decides which content is violent or sexual. How problematic it is if all the ISP's in Israel hold a white list of every user's personal information. If this content can be censored, what is the next stage? Perhaps blocking all sites that deal with evolution?

In his post “Amnon Cohen interests the tip of my finger“, blogger Jonathan Klinger describes the many problems which come up when claiming what the “main nature” of a site is:

אולם, השאלה האמיתית תהיה מי יקבע מהי אותה תועבה ומהם אותם אתרים החסומים בפני משתמשים. האם אתר NRG הוא אתר שמכיל אלימות ומין כיוון שהוא מחזיק את מדור NRG-סקסי מצד אחד, ופה ושם ניתן למצוא פטמה או שתיים באחת מהכתבות, או שמא הוא אתר שעיסוקו העיקרי הוא באלימות כיוון שזה מדווח על מלחמות, פצועים, חיסולים בעולם התחתון ו“סתם” דקירות. החברה שלנו אלימה, אין מה לעשות, וכל אתר חדשות עוסק באלימות.
The real question will be who decides what is an abomination and which websites should be blocked. Is NRG (a popular Israeli news website) a site that has sexual content because it hosts the NRG sexy column, where one can possibly spot a nipple or two? Or rather does it mainly deal with violence because there are articles reporting on war, casualties, deaths and “random” knife stabs. Our society is violent, we cannot do anything about that. And every news website deals with violence.

Too many parents nowadays are unaware of what their children are up to (not only relevant to the internet). The basic argument claims that it is the parent's responsibility and not the country or government, to educate. A simple yet effective solution is placing the computer in the living room. If the government will start dictating what we can or cannot view, there's no promise that in the near future they will not censure other “topics”. The general notions are that this law will probably not be able to get a majority of votes in the Knesset. But that people should react, and think thoroughly about how utterly important it is to protect the freedom of content. Various banners like the one below have been spreading through the Israeli blogosphere, as well as an encouragement to email all those leaders who supported this law proposal in its initial voting stages. There is less than two weeks before the government takes the proposal to the next stage.

ach sheli
The translated text from a banner depicting Amnon Cohen as Israel's ‘big brother': “my brother, your big brother has come… come and meet your new educator”

link to the law proposal in Hebrew

11 comments

  • s

    i think its a good thing to be thinking of ways to stop the widespread advertising of porn and gambling. it should be something you have to search for if interested, not forced into mailboxes and poping up on every site that wants to make a quick shekel. maybe .sex and .porn will help and will content filters activated by parents and deactivated by credit card.but if parents want to protect their children they have a responsibility to learn about the threat and act accordingly.

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