Internet Censorship In Israel:: Updates

As i previously noted, The Israeli Ultraorthodox Party Shas is making its steps towards passing an Internet Censorship Act in Israel. The Act, which was voted on the first vote (out of three, where between votes public hearings take place), mandates ISPs to block access to all adult content according to criteria determined by the Minister of Telecommunications (Currently Ariel Atias from Shas). The Bill, which has been noted as 892, for the bill number (an uncommon thing in Israel), allows Internet users to gain access to unfiltered Internet should the identify themselves as adults in means determined by the minister.

As I explained, these two requirements: ISP based filtering (and the consequential proxy filtering according to IP, blacklists and keywords) and Opt-Out censorship creating blacklists of adult content consumers deem this act as unconstitutional. (I wrote a detailed opinion in Hebrew explaining the unconstituality of the act, which was submitted to the Israeli Parliament). Major additional problems appear as we are disabling speech with Content Based Restrictions (which are subjected to Strict Scrutiny according to the courts). Other problems include the externalization of the ISPs filter costs on the customers (as they are not allowed to charge for filtering) and the antitrust implications of using one filter per ISP (and Israel has only three ISPs). However, there are plenty more implications on free speech and privacy and also goes against the EU Association agreement for free trade which Israel signed.

The major problem here is the Political pressure. Currently, the Ultraorthodox party is threatening to leave Ehud Olmert‘s government if peace talks continue. However, to keep Shas in the government and get its consent for peace talks, PM Olmert has agreed to allocate 475M ILS for Shas related institutions (bribe) and to vote for the Censorship act. The current situation is that we also fear that in order to engage peace talks with Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, we shall have to censor the web like they do, ironically. The real irony is that Shas opposed an act by Alex Miller, stating that ISPs shall notify clients about the possibility of installing filters and guiding children toward safer web use.

Shas’ Parliament Members are extremely against freedom of creed and expression and have went against the Gay community, abortions and other basic freedoms. The fear now is that should we have Censored Internet, criterias determined by Shas shall mean no political freedom. This is an extreme risk for the Israeli Democracy and regional stability, as well as towards the HiTech Industry, which may be directly affected.

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