A bill aimed at censoring internet sites with content deemed 'inappropriate' for minors was passed in its first reading by the Knesset plenum on Wednesday. The bill was passed by a 42-20 majority and will be sent back to the Economic Affairs Committee before returning for its second and third readings.
The proposal demands internet service providers automatically include filtering software for all new clients unless specifically asked not to.
That same software must also be offered free of charge to all clients and service providers may impose the filtering system on all clients, each individual client would then have to identify himself as an adult and submit a personal request to disable the system.
The bill's initiator, Knesset Member Amnon Cohen (Shas), claims the new law will protect the 60% of Israeli children who come into contact with offensive materials. Cohen said that while he does not deem legislation to be the most appropriate tool to achieve this foal – stagnated efforts to reach a settlement with the country's internet providers over the past three years have left him with no other choice.
'Israel will become Iran'
But MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), who is also chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, discredited Cohen's account of the negotiations. "The internet providers were willing to distribute this software free of charge, just as it is all over the world," he said, calling Shas' proposal backwards and extremist.
"This vote will turn us into an Iran of sorts, where it within the minister's prerogative to decide that the Shas council of Torah scholars will determine which internet sites should be banned," said Erdan.
Passing the bill would largely serve to appease Shas, which has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the already weakened coalition.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that while Cohen was free to educate his children according to his beliefs, he had no right to force his lifestyle on others.
Niv Lillian and Ehud Kenan contributed to this report