Israeli Internet-Censorship Bill Passes First Reading

JERUSALEM - A Shas-proposed bill aimed at censoring websites with content considered inappropriate for minors passed its first reading and will be sent back to Israel's Economic Affairs Committee before returning for its second and third readings.


The bill would force Internet service providers to install filtering software for all customers unless asked not to.


The software would be offered free, and service providers would impose the filtering system on all customers. Those who identify themselves as adults can have the system disabled by request.


The bill's initiator, Knesset Member Amnon Cohen (Shas), said the proposed law would safeguard the 60 percent of Israeli children who are in danger of encountering inappropriate material online.


Cohen has said he believes legislation is not necessarily the most appropriate tool, but failed efforts to reach a settlement with the country's Internet providers over the past three years left him little choice.


However, Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), disputed Cohen's account of the negotiations and said Shas' proposal is "backwards and extremist."


"The Internet providers were willing to distribute this software free of charge, just as it is all over the world," Erdan said. "This vote will turn us into an Iran of sorts, where it's the minister's prerogative to decide that the Shas council of Torah scholars will determine which Internet sites should be banned."


Ynetnews, an English-language Israeli news and content website, said the Likud MKs slam could be seen as an attempt to appease Shas, which has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the already weakened coalition.