Government Nixes Net Filter Law

The bill, proposed by Shas, would have offered clean Internet content as default package for home use. Likud minister says law reminds him of Iran.

Tags: Education
Gil Ronen ,

Torah lesson on the Internet.
Torah lesson on the Internet.
Israel news photo: (Flash 90)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted against a bill proposed by Shas MK Amnon Cohen and supported by the previous Communications Minister, Ariel Atias (also from Shas), which would have made it mandatory for internet service providers (ISPs) to offer filtered internet as a default package to home consumers.

The 17th Knesset passed the bill in its first reading in February 2008, but for the 18th Knesset to vote on it, a decision by the ministerial committee was needed.

The ministerial committee voted 7:1 against the bill. This means that the government will not sponsor the bill and it is unlikely to be approved by the Knesset.

According to the bill, ISPs would have to install site filters against violent and sexually explicit content on their servers and a home user would have to specifically request that the filter be disabled in order to be able to access such content. Another option would involve installation of filtering software on the home user’s computer.

The bill was discussed in the Knesset’s Finance Committee a year ago, and the committee decided to establish a public commission that would determine what content is improper and damaging, in order to instruct the ISPs what to filter.

Communications Minister Moshe Cachlon opposed the bill. He said that there are several problems with it, including the lack of a technological solution for ISP-level filtering. He also noted that if the law is implemented, the ISPs will have a list of the users who choose not to install the filter – and that this list constitutes an invasion of privacy. Cachlon said that he favors a solution whereby ISPs would offer their clients free filtering software.

'Like Iran and North Korea'
Minister Michael Eitan said that “we have to stand alongside the western countries that deal with the dangers posed by the internet through education and empowerment, and not through heavy-handed means of censorship that are common in countries like Iran, North Korea and China.”

The disappointed MK Cohen explained that “besides the great quantity of important knowledge that is on the Internet, it is also a tool for destruction of souls.”

“Our role is to protect the next generation of the Nation of Israel,” he added. Cohen noted a survey that found that 70 percent of youths visit sites that their parents do not know about, and estimated that many from the remaining 30 percent are ashamed to admit that they do so too.

Cohen rejected the claim that parents should be trusted to protect their children. “It’s like the seat belt law,” he said. “In that case, no one says ‘trust the parents.’ Parents know that they need to educate but the lawmaker mandates protection of children nonetheless.”