Israel takes a hard stance on internet censorship

By Caroline Watson
The Israeli government has approved a law that allows the court-ordered blocking or removal of internet sites promoting criminal or terrorist activity online.

The move marks the first introduction of laws that poses a number of restrictions on the internet in Israel. The law targets illegal gambling websites, prostitution and child pornography advertisements, online dealing of hard drugs and the websites of terror groups.

“We are closing an enforcement gap of many years during which the existing law was disconnected from the migration of crime to the internet,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose office oversees the Israel Police.

“The new law will give the police the necessary tools to fight criminals, felons, and inciters who have moved their activities online.”

Any operators found to be failing to comply with the court order will be imprisoned for two years, according to the new piece of legislation.

Furthermore, the courts may also order search engines to remove the websites from their search results and may rely on classified government testimony to make their decision. All affected parties must be present in court, the law said, unless they were summoned and failed to appear.

Many have claimed that this piece of legislation is the start of a very slippery slope toward additional censorship. Nonetheless, the final version of the legislation dictates that groups under scrutiny have the right to appeal the decisions.

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