A Pornographic Bill

Israel’s new anti-pornography legislation severely undermines the values of privacy and freedom of expression

Miki Zohar and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli at a Knesset meeting, November 26, 2018.

In an expedited process, Knesset members Miki Zohar (Likud) and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) are introducing a bill to block websites. The new version of the legislation greatly expands the definition of “pornographic” content that should be blocked, and the cost in terms of damage to privacy is very high. Also, it’s technically unfeasible. The proposal contributes nothing to protecting children but severely undermines the values of privacy and freedom of expression.

The bill doesn’t suffice with a prohibition against a display of “sexual relations characterized by violence, abuse, contempt, humiliation or exploitation.” It will also prohibit the display of “sexual relations of any kind” and even “nudity or a human sex organ.”

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Justice Ministry attorney Gael Azriel rightly noted that “there is a very great expansion of what is currently interpreted as pornographic content based on the Communications Law.” Under the new criteria, even content on popular news websites falls under the definition “pornographic.” There’s a reason why MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) wondered at the most recent discussion, “How will you censor Walla and Ynet?”

When technology experts tried to explain to Moalem-Refaeli the difficulties in implementing such a law, she said: “There are people here who talk about values, and there are people here who have to translate the values into methods of implementation.” She added: “The value that we want to provide is to prevent children and teenagers from surfing pornographic websites” – as if everyone else supported letting children and teens view such sites.

Moalem-Refaeli and Zohar present themselves as the purveyors of mitzvot and values, while opposite them is a broken-down bandwagon of secular people devoid of values and loaded with lecherous children and adults.

The problems with the new version transcend the overly broad definition of pornography. According to the bill, the first time someone wants to reach a porn site, a window will require him to provide his age and Israeli ID number, which will be checked against the Population Registry. From the moment someone does this, the gate will be open for somewhere between three and six months.

In other words, all parents who key in the code will have removed the fence that protected their children. In addition, the proposed solution requires transferring the Population Registry database to internet companies, and would inevitably lead to the creation of lists of “porn users” that could be misused to harm citizens.

Moalem-Refaeli and Zohar refuse to understand that those who oppose their proposal want to protect the value of privacy and freedom of expression. Their bill is harmful, useless and would undermine the privacy of adults. It should be rejected, while we should continue to provide sex education and take steps to enforce the law against websites that provide illegal content, based on the existing legislation.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.