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Internet censorship in Israel will start in about a year. The law, proposed by Amnon Cohen of Shas and unanimously approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, will now be brought to the Knesset floor.

Senior officials in the Communications Ministry forecast that it will take seven to ten months to prepare for implementing the provisions once the law passes.

The proposed law would require Internet Service Providers (ISP) to only allow access to Internet sites featuring pornography, gambling and violence to those over 18 who specifically sign up for such access and identify themselves as adults.

The cost of implementing the bill is estimated at about NIS 10 million, based on figures provided by networking giant Cisco to the ministry at its request, TheMarker has learned.

The ISPs are committed to providing Internet packages at the same price, regardless of whether customers have access to pornographic sites or not. The companies will also not be allowed to pass on the costs directly to the consumer.

The proposed law is intended to protect children from viewing violent and pornographic content on the Internet. Access will only be granted if a customer specifically requests it, and identifies himself as an adult - with a valid means of identification. Otherwise, filtering will be the default option for all packages.

The new law would apply also to content on cellular phones.

The bill will now go to the Knesset Economics Committee to be prepared for its first reading.

A number of requirements in Cohen's original bill have been dropped, among them biometric identification such as by fingerprints. Also, violation of the new bill would not be considered a criminal offense, though it will carry a heavy fine.

The filtering can take place at the ISP or on the customer's own computer.

The interesting question is who will decide what is pornographic or violent enough to be censored and, moreover, where to draw the line between soft and hard core pornography.

The law states that the rules will be set by a committee composed of representatives of the education, justice and communications ministries, as well as representatives from the National Council for the Child.

The rules will match European standards, which are based on a similar move in Australia.

The Communications Ministry has vehemently denied that Atias will broaden the criteria for filtering because he is ultra-Orthodox. The ministry said that Atias, as every minister who comes after him, will have no influence on the committee's decisions over what content to ban.

The ministry is preparing for a barrage of criticism over freedom of speech and privacy infringements. Officials are aware that such steps have been taken in only a few countries, most of which Israel is not interested in being mentioned with in the same breath. They are also aware that it is impossible to effectively block 100 percent of pornography, violence, pedophilia, Nazism or other problematic Internet content.

At the Communications Ministry's request, criminal responsibility was removed from the law. What remains is fines for ISPs who violate the law.

As to the question of the size of the fines, the ministry is bandying around low figures in order not to harm the industry. Figures in the NIS 300,000 range seem likely for each violation. This is much less than the sanctions placed on cellular companies for not blocking pornographic content, where fines have been in the millions.

The requirement to identify yourself is not considered to be a problem of privacy, according to the ministry. They emphasize that the ministry will not collect any lists or information about subscribers who take the open packages, and such information will only exist at the ISPs. Even today, in theory, the ISPs could identify and keep track of who views what, the ministry explains.

Atias knows that he will be in direct conflict over the law with liberal organizations, which will raise issues of basic rights.

However, Atias is firm in his conviction of the importance of the law. The ministry sees it necessary to strike a balance between freedom of expression and privacy, and between the need to limit access of minors to harmful content.