TechNation: Israel Uses Web-blocking Law for First Time

VerbIT raises $11 million just one year after founding

An illuminated wall displays a stream of binary coding as a man is seen profiled in silhouette whilst working on a laptop computer in this arranged photograph in London, on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2016.
Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

Israel uses web-blocking law for first time

In the first ever use of the new law empowering the government to take down websites whose content promotes terrorism or criminal activity, the state prosecutor’s cyber unit has asked a court to block all sites that deal in prostitution or human trafficking. The government asked a three-judge panel to issue 10 orders to internet service providers, six of them directed at all the country’s ISPs and four of them to Cellcom Israel alone. The law, which went into effect in September, requires local ISPs to block access to gambling and pedophilia sites, those that advertise prostitution or drugs, or support acts of terror. It allows the courts to order the offending site to be taken down if it is based in Israel, and to delete the results from search engines if overseas. Among the sites named are Sex777 and oligarchescorts which, among other things, post addresses of bordellos. (Refaella Goichman)

VerbIT raises $11 million just one year after founding

VerbIT, an Israeli startup that has developed smart transcription software, said last week it secured it first outside funding, with an $11 million investment from a group of investors by Germany’s HV Holtzbrinck Ventures and Israel’s Vertex Ventures. Orzyn Capital, another Israeli fund, joined in the round. Founded just a year ago, the company employs artificial intelligence and speech recognition technology, together with human editors, that it claims can creates transcription or subtitles with more than 99% accuracy, compared with 70% using traditional methods. “Any corrections made by the [human] transcribers improve our algorithm by using machine learning,” explained CEO Tom Livne, who cofounded the company with Chief Technology Officer Eric Shellef and  Kobi Ben-Tzvi, vice president for engineering. Livne said the startup was already generating “millions of dollars” in revenue and counts among its more than 50 customers the London Business School and edtech firms Coursera and Udacity. VerbIT counds 36 staff, all in Tel Aviv. (Eliran Rubin)