Israeli lawmakers approve bill to filter online pornography

picture for illustration

After some 10 years of various lawmakers’ efforts to protect children from pornography on the web, Israeli ministers have finally approved a bill mandating that internet providers must automatically censor online pornography that would be accessible through their service.

If the bill becomes law, clients will have to specifically request that their provider remove the block if they want access to pornography. This initiative is not a new concept: Britain has had such a law since 2013. Opposition to the proposed law is expected.

Believers in Israel say the law is a necessary step in the right direction.

“In the current situation, where pornography ‘pops up’ and teases teens to see images that they wouldn’t have deliberately sought to see, it’s time to build protective barriers,” Sandy Shoshani, national director of Be’ad Chaim, a pro-life organization in Israel, told KNI. “Obviously, in a democratic society, there will be those who will choose to order and view pornography, but it is the responsibility of a moral society to guard against uninvited exposure.”

Under current Israeli legislation, internet service providers must give their customers access to content-filtering systems free of charge. However, law makers are concerned that although providers are required to inform their clients of this service, many people are not aware of it.

Ynet News reported last year that, according to a study conducted by Similar Web, an Israeli-founded digital market intelligence company, “about 4.16 percent of the Internet traffic of adult Web surfers in Israel is to pornographic sites – less than news websites, shopping sites, social networks and search engines.”

The study showed that in Israel pornography sites were more popular than sports, science and health sites, among others. Many worry about the long term effects on society of pornography consumption.

“Pornography is not just nudity or sex … 90 percent of porn includes different kinds of violence, which affects all viewers and consequently society,” Melech HaMelachim (King of Kings) Pastor Oded Shoshani told KNI. “Two thirds of divorce cases are directly linked to pornography. Pornography degrades intimacy to only sex. Once consumed in early age its effects will be etched in the young viewers mind for the rest of their lives.”

Similar Web places Israel’s 4.16 percent at around the middle compared to the global average of 4.21 percent of internet traffic being directed to pornography. The highest use was found to be in Iraq (10.27 percent), with the lowest in Kuwait (2.55 percent).

The new Israeli bill was brought to the Ministerial Committee by Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli. In its proposal the bill states: “It is easier for a child to consume inappropriate content on the internet than it is to buy a popsicle at the neighborhood kiosk.”

“As parliamentarians and public leaders, we must put up road signs that say ‘this is how we think society should behave,'” Moalem-Refaeli told the Times of Israel. “The average age that children are exposed to pornographic sites is 8. I don’t think it is right for us to leave things like that.”

The bill, which was passed unanimously by the Ministerial Committee, will now pass to the Knesset for the reading stages. Each reading of a bill is rejected or accepted by the votes of Knesset members who are present in the plenum at the time of the reading. After each reading, the bill is debated by Knesset committees and, when it passes its third reading, it becomes law.