Israel's Justice Ministry is drafting legislation that would allow the police to block access to child pornography and gambling websites without a court order.
The state is currently awaiting a related Supreme Court ruling on the same issue. The government is appealing a district court ruling concluding that a police power to bar access to physical locations without a court order can be extended to
The ministry's bill would allow an authorized police officer to order an ISP to block access to any gambling or pedophilia site. A website could be blocked even if it also conducts legal activity, as long as the illegal activity
constitutes more than a marginal portion of its total activity. The police order would be in effect only for a limited time period.
Attorney Jonathan Klinger, an expert in the intersection of law and technology, said that, as written, he didn't think the law could survive a court challenge:
But above all, this is a bill that seeks to bring us down to the level of countries like Qatar, Pakistan, Iran, China and others. We have yet to see any country in the world that has censorship but doesn't use it for political purposes.
Israel's Ministerial Committee for Legislation has unanimously approved a bill forcing Israeli ISPs to censor pornography by default.
Under the terms of the bill, users who want to opt in for adult content would be required to notify their service providers either in writing, by phone, or via the ISP's website.
The bill will now head to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to start the process of legislative approval.
Critics say that aside from limiting freedom of information, the attempt to censor inappropriate content would likely lasso similar but unrelated content such information on breast cancer and other educational material. In addition, critics said,
the need for users to notify providers in order to gain access to pornography is arguably a violation of privacy.
The bill was sponsored by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who noted that similar default blocking of adult content has been introduced in other Western countries, notably Britain.
Moalem said that ensuring non-pornographic states are not filtered by accident would be a challenge to overcome as the bill is fine-tuned before approval by the Knesset. She noted that sites which contain both adult-oriented and family-suitable
material also present difficulties to censoring systems.
A bill allowing Israeli courts to force social media companies to remove content defined as incitement has passed its first reading in parliament.
The Facebook bill sponsored by ministers Gilad Erdan and Ayelet Shaked would allow Israeli courts to immediately order content taken down if it is deemed to pose a public, personal or state security risk and constitutes a criminal offense.
Facebook adheres to its own removal policy when it comes to online content and freedom of speech issues and has generally not removed as much as state censors would like.
Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler of the Israel Democracy Institute has criticized the Facebook bill as too broad. She commented that the bill will not solve the problem and will hurt freedom of expression for all.