Knesset approves first reading of bill to curb children’s access to porn
search

Knesset approves first reading of bill to curb children’s access to porn

Legislation will require internet service providers to push offer of non-compulsory filtering service to all customers

Illustrative of a child using a computer (Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Illustrative of a child using a computer (Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

The Knesset approved at a first reading Tuesday a bill that will require internet service providers to offer their customers censorship of pornographic sites and ensure that a choice is made on the extent to which they wish to block pornographic content, if at all.

The legislation, sponsored by Likud MK Miki Zohar and Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, passed with 18 votes in favor and 12 against.

The bill has in the past faced heavy criticism from lawmakers over privacy concerns, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An earlier version of the bill that was unanimously approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in late October required internet service providers to block pornographic content by default, and only lift site filtering at users’ request.

Moalem-Refaeli explained it was important the bill pass a first reading even though parliament has been dissolved ahead of April elections, as it can now smoothly continue on to a second and third reading in the Knesset after the national vote.

“The situation in which it is easier for a kid to get hold of porn than it is to buy candies in a shop will end with the beginning of the first session of the coming Knesset — with a second and third reading,” Moalem-Refaeli said in a statement.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli, during a Knesset Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on December 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Critics say that in addition to limiting freedom of information, censoring pornographic content would likely block access to unrelated content, such as information on breast cancer and other educational material. In addition, requiring users to specify they want to maintain access to pornography could be a violation of privacy.

Under the terms of the current bill, internet providers will send an electronic notification to the person identified as paying for the service, offering three options: A full filter on pornographic content, a filter which can be by-passed with a password, or no censorship at all.

If after sending three notifications no response is received, the service provider will default to the option of a filter with an overriding password, Hadashot television news reported.

The filter will be applied on the users’ own devices rather than on the internet service provider’s computers and will require downloading and installing special software sent by the internet service provider.

Those who choose not to apply the filters will receive a notification every three months asking if they wish to change their minds.

Likud MK Miki Zohar speaks during an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, February 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The bill, which seeks to minimize the exposure of minors to potentially harmful internet content, will incentivize internet companies to actively market existing website blocking software to families.

It also proposes imposing upon internet service providers — as well as anyone acting on their behalf — a confidentiality obligation concerning any information obtained as a result of implementing the terms of the legislation.

Earlier this month Netanyahu told a gathering of lawmakers from his Likud party that “We do not want children to be exposed to offensive content, but my concern is that the internet, a space where there is [currently] no government regulation, will become regulated.”

Currently, Israeli internet service providers are required to offer their users content-filtering systems free of charge. Though current regulations stipulate the providers advertise their filtering services, lawmakers 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 inappropriate content on the internet. Previous bills have failed to make headway.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

read more:
comments