Israeli Ministers Vote to Keep Lists of Users Who Access Porn Online

Government-backed bill would filter sites deemed offensive by default. The block would only be removed at the customer's request.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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An illustrative photograph of a man looking at pornography online.
An illustrative photograph of a man looking at pornography online.Credit: AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A ministerial panel on Sunday voted to give government backing to a bill that would require internet service providers to block access to pornographic websites, as well as other sites defined as offensive, by default.

To remove the block, a customer will be required to contact the internet provider. If approved, the bill would result in the creation of lists of internet users requesting access pornographic sites.

The bill is sponsored by 26 Knesset members from parties across the political divide. Only MKs from Meretz refused to support the proposed law.

This is not the first attempt to pass such a law: Five similar bills were introduced in the past three Knessets, but none advanced. Two similar bills have been introduced in this Knesset alone. The present initiative is expected to receive a large majority in the Knesset due to widespread support from both the governing coalition and opposition parties.

The bill’s chief sponsor is MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi), along with MKs from the Zionist Union, Kulanu, Joint List, Yesh Atid, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and Likud.

The bill would require ISPs to supply a free-of-charge filter against offensive websites and content. Any customer wishing to remove the filter will be required to make a request in writing, by telephone or through the company’s website.

“The damaging influence of watching, and addiction to, pornographic and severe violence has been proven in many studies, with great harm to children. Today, it is easier for a child to consume harsh content on the internet than to buy an ice cream at the local kiosk,” said Moalem-Refaeli. “We must prevent such access by making the default of the internet provider to filter such content, unless the customer has asked to be exposed to it,” she added.

MK Miki Zohar (Likud), who sponsored a similar bill, attacked Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is the chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, after members rejected his bill in favor of Moalem-Refaeli’s. Zohar said on Sunday that Shaked – also a member of Habayit Hayehudi – acted hypocritically to steal the credit from Likud.

Attorney Jonathan Klinger from the Digital Rights Movement warns against such a bill. "The Ministerial Committee for Legislation today added the State of Israel to a list of countries that censor the internet, joining China, Iran, Turkey and other non-democratic countries," he said on Sunday. "Under the guise of protecting children, the state promotes invasion of privacy by creating a database of blacklists of those interested in full-access internet, while creating expensive and inefficient filters that will harm the population."

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