Knesset, Web Sites to Negotiate Rules Regulating Talkbacks

Yisrael Beiteinu MK Yisrael Hasson sponsored bill requiring Web sites to apply libel laws on talkback content.

The Knesset's Science and Technology Committee agreed Tuesday to freeze legislation over a proposed "Talkback Law" in order to allow internet Web sites to adopt regulations designed to limit incendiary responses from Web surfers.

The bill, which is sponsored by MK Yoel Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu), passed a preliminary reading, but the legislation process will be frozen so as to allow for negotiations between lawmakers and Web sites.

During Tuesday's committee hearings, the editor of ynet, Yedioth Ahronoth's flagship internet operation, warned that the law's passage would lead to the censorship of content provided by Web visitors, including talkbacks, forums, chat rooms, and other.

"Talkbacks are a means of expression for the average John Q. Public, who has no other way to express himself," the editor, Yon Feder, said. "There are much more talkback writers than there are talkback readers."

Hasson's proposal calls for internet Web sites to be subject to libel restrictions which apply to other forms of media, a move which would require Web editors to assume responsibility for the content of the talkbacks submitted by Web surfers.

During the hearing, the Yisrael Beiteinu MK said talkbacks have in some instances cost people their jobs and their families. Hasson said editors failed to appear before the committee during the previous hearing, thus forcing him to begin the legislation process.