Israel Moves to Restrict Internet Porn

Michael Hayes
JERSELUM — Members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require Internet service providers to restrict access to websites with adult content.

The bill, which calls on ISPs to block minors from accessing adult websites that contain sex, violence or gambling, moved through the Knesset with unanimous support. Only one lawmaker from the 25-member body abstained.

According to the language of the bill, access to adult websites would require physical or biometric age verification in addition to a password.

The bill’s sponsor, Amnon Cohen, said newer computers have the capability to institute his proposal.

Cohen said he proposed the bill because of national studies concluding that 60 percent of Israeli children between the ages of 9 and 18 have seen porn online.

The legislation also calls for a fine of nearly $5,000 for ISPs that fail to comply.

Absent from the bill is a definition of how sites would be classified as adult. Nor does the bill contemplate the technical or financial feasibility of its requirements.

“The bill's definitions are flawed and it constitutes a violation of the right for privacy and freedom of speech,” said Dr. Michael Birnhack of Haifa University's Faculty of Law. “The bill does not define what is a site that deals with sex, and so it would appear that it is also meant to block access to sites explaining about human sexuality, open sex, gay and lesbian sites, or sites explaining about martial arts because they deal with violence.”

Birnhack said there is no practical way to develop a working definition to determine which sites should be blocked under the law.

Birnhack also said he was troubled by privacy issues raised by the bill.

“Constitutional rights enable us to surf to any site we please, and it's nobody's business where we surf to,” he said.