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Ministers says he’ll push legislation to curb anti-vaccine fake news

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel visits a coronavirus ward at the Ziv Medical center, in the northern city of Safed, October 7, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel visits a coronavirus ward at the Ziv Medical center, in the northern city of Safed, October 7, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

With over 1.1 million eligible Israelis still choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel says his office will advance legislation regulating the battle against online fake news on the matter.

Speaking with the Ynet news site, Hendel highlights the dilemma in which authorities around the world want to fight rampant online fake news about vaccines but are wary of curbing free speech.

Hendel says he can’t pass laws against those who propagate the false information — only regulations that will force media companies to stop spreading them.

He says he has told firms to block anonymous text messages with anti-vaccine content, saying that is “one of the biggest sources of fake news” on the matter. He says the legislation will impose fines on offending companies.

“But let’s make things clear: You don’t tell a media company to check what is fake news and what isn’t, that isn’t their job. Their job is to verify that messages aren’t coming from a false source. If tomorrow someone sends out a message and calls themselves ‘Atila,’ and you get a message saying ‘Atila’ is saying don’t get the vaccine, that isn’t acceptable,” Hendel says.

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