Ministers approve bill to block internet porn


The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday unanimously approved a bill forcing Israeli internet providers to censor pornography by default — a move the bill’s proponents claim aims to clamp down on rampant underage access to adult content online.

Under the terms of the bill, users who want to opt out of the censorship in order to access pornography online would be required to notify their service providers either in writing, by phone, or via the service provider’s website.

The committee’s vote to green-light the measure means the bill will now head to the Knesset to start the process of legislative approval.

Israeli internet service providers are currently required by law to provide content-filtering systems, which customers can request to use without charge. Though current regulations say providers must notify their customers of the availability of such services, legislators claim many parents remain unaware of the option.

For nearly a decade, various lawmakers have been trying to advance legislation to prevent children from viewing pornography on the internet. Previous bills have failed to make headway.

Detractors 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 nonetheless maintained that she is aware people have the right to view whatever legal content they desire online.

“This isn’t Iran,” Moalem told Channel 2 News.

The bill places responsibility upon the communication minister — a position currently held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to set out censorship guidelines for service providers.

“As parliamentarians and public leaders, we must put up road signs that say ‘this is how we think society should behave,’” Moalem said. “The average age that children are exposed to pornographic sites is 8. I don’t think it is right for us to leave things like that.”

She noted that a similar default filter on 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.

“I am not interested in blocking a campaign for breast cancer awareness, as a woman and a survivor of breast cancer,” she said. “That is not what we are talking about. But during the process of legislation it will become clear what we are talking about.”

Sites that contain both adult-oriented and family-suitable material also present difficulties to censoring systems, and while Israeli law could require local websites to clearly tag content in a manner that assists the filters, Moalem conceded that “as an Israeli lawmaker I have no influence on a site that isn’t Israeli.”

“In the balance between the private individual and society we take a wide view. We are calling to create a society that protects itself from things for which we pay a heavy price. A person who is interested in these sites needs to understand that at the moment Israel is in a process, that he is an individual but part of a whole society.”

Source: www.timesofisrael.com

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