If Israel Hason‘s latest proposal will pass, and it mostly likely will, being a governmental proposal, most large Israeli websites will have to shut down their commenting features. The latest suggestion by Hason states that, in principal, the operators of Internet Websites will be personally liable, both in criminal and civil liability for defamatory comments and comments which breach one’s privacy. This stands directly in contrast to the current draft of the Electronic Commerce Act proposal which implements the cease and desist function as to Websites’ Liability.. Hason’s proposal, contrary to logic, sentences Websites to warm death.
Notwithstanding all said in the past regarding Hason’s proposal in cultural and legal aspects, I think that two main issues are to e discussed:the death of discussion on the web on one side, and the coercion of Internet Websites to report their traffic on the other. It is quite obvious that content moderation and restriction leads to censorship; It is obvious that holding websites liable will deter them from publishing comments and lead discussions to plain censored content; Hason’s claim that “We had progressed today in a substantial manner towards civilised conversations and mutual respect in Israel” is a complete mistake.
The only progress made today, following the confirmation of the draft in the ministerial committee for legislation, is a progress towards a state where censorship is applied by private entities for the government. The coercive apparatus was detached and move to the hands of the wealthy website operators which until now enjoyed the fruits of the common conversational skank and now will have to censor them in order to remain immune from liability. This price for censorship will be on any and all of us.
The real problem is with breaching Websites’ right for property: Those will have to report to the apparatus as to their browsing statistics in a registry. This is a major blow for the right of expression (and not freedom, here in Israeli) where a person will not be able to open a website to operate as a political stage without being subjected to this website registry. The only line between Israel and Iran will be erased, as both countries shall force bloggers and website operators to register or face the consequences.
How will Hason, by the way, block access to websites who will not play by his rule? how will he be able to deal with foreign websites? Will a potential victim be able to sue any website abroad, any blogging platform, any forum operator, just because he was slandered? No. Hason brings disharmonic-destruction on Israel and prevents us from trading with the world’s nations. Let’s take a mail operator, for example, in an Ironic and Extreme manner. According to Hason’s proposal, any email sent and received by that website, and published on that mailing system will cause the operator of the website with direct liability for defamatory statements, as this is a website with more than 50,000 page views and has an owner.
Is this decision reasonable? No. But Hason’s proposal which is drafted in a negligent manner prevents the opportunity to allow Immunity and forces liability on the service provider even if he didn’t know and didn’t have to know about that statement.
As a result of this law coming to force, any email operator, for example, will have to hold a content filter in order to remove liability claims. Those filters will breach users’ privacy, and all in order to immune it from liability, websites will deter from approving comments unless those are crucial, the quality of internet conversations will allegedly be better, the number of participants? zero.
(Originally published in Hebrew, sorry for all hebrew links)