The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to advance a contentious bill that seeks to limit incitement on social media by allowing content to be removed by court order.
The so-called Facebook Bill, put forth by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, was unanimously approved by the panel on Monday.
The proposal would allow individuals and organizations to petition to a district court decision which will then decide whether to remove content from social media, including advertising, that it deems possibly harmful to individual security, state security, or public safety.
Critics argue that giving a court such power over public speech may be dangerous.
“[Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett and Sa’ar… have proposed a law that will censor social networks and deprive citizens of their freedom of expression,” Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu argued.
“There is no such law in any democracy. Bennett, Sa’ar, and [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid, you are the ones that are undermining democracy.”
Netanyahu is not alone in his opposition to the bill.
According to the independent research center Israel Democracy Institute, “the law opens a door to governmental censorship and makes it possible to remove content from institutions, such as Israeli and foreign newspapers, at a level of intrusion that does not exist in any other country in the democratic world.”
“The law disproportionately violates the right to freedom of expression and opinion,” the group said in a statement.
In response to Netanyahu, Justice Minister Sa’ar argued that the former prime minister has in the past “proposed a much stricter law in terms of the authority of police officers to enter private homes.”
“Should we not protect our children from what is happening there? Should we not prevent incitement? Do we not have to fight terrorists?” Sa’ar asked.
Notwithstanding the government's latest move, the bill must still be ratified in parliament to become law.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.