Lawmaker targets social media terror rumors

Lawmaker targets social media terror rumors

Bill calls for hefty fine, threat of disconnecting phone for revealing names of terror victims before families are notified

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky during a party meeting at the Knesset, October 19, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky during a party meeting at the Knesset, October 19, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A new bill would make it illegal to publish the names of terror victims via social media or mobile phone messaging before official announcements are made — a phenomenon that can result in families finding out that their loved ones have died from online rumors, or of incorrect reports of fatalities.

Jewish Home party MK Nissan Slomiansky, who chairs the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, is behind the move that would impose a NIS 14,000 ($3,670) fine on offenders, and carry the threat of permanently disconnecting their cell phone line, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

The bill aims to classify social media as a form of news media, which would thereby be bound by victim protection laws that prohibit publication of terror victims’ identities before families are officially informed.

Channel 2 noted that the most recent incident that led to the introduction of the bill came in the aftermath of the November 19 stabbing attack at the Panorama office building in Tel Aviv, when family members of Reuven Aviram, 51, from Ramle, found out that he had been killed after they were sent a video clip via social media of the aftermath of the attack. Rabbi Aharon Yesiab, 32, from Tel Aviv was also killed in the terror attack.

Also recently, a rumor spread on social media websites, which turned out to be false, claimed that the son of opposition head and Zionist Union party leader MK Isaac Herzog was injured in a terror attack.

Enforcing such a law may be difficult, as rescue services, security forces, and members of the media all use certain mobile chat apps to coordinate rescue efforts following attacks. In addition, the bill may be challenged on free-speech grounds.

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