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The Knesset plenum passed in a first reading Wednesday a bill that would absolve Web sites of liability for comments published in talkbacks, on condition that the Web site agree to make the poster's details available upon request.

Courts are already able to order Web sites and internet service providers to reveal posters' technical details (such as their IP address).

The bill was authored by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Yisrael Hasson and seeks to determine Web sites tort and criminal responsibility for libel in talkbacks. According to the bill, internet Web sites would be defined as a newspaper, and all those who wish to respond would be exposed to law suits and even criminal prosecution.

While the Web site's editor and owners would also be legally responsible, they would be absolved of liability if they agree to provide the poster's details to authorities, as well as to plaintiffs in civil suits.

Hasson said the bill is designed to act as a moderating force due to the vitriolic nature of talkbacks.

The ministerial panel's approval assures the bill of majority support in the coalition. The Knesset plenum is expected to vote on the bill in a preliminary reading in the coming days.

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