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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Israel to go after bloggers?

A bill introduced in the Israeli Knesset would make bloggers responsible for all content on their sites, including the comments:
Web site owners or editors will be legally responsible for any content on their site, including comments made in talkbacks and message boards, a bill passed on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation states.

According to the bill, which was drafted by MK Israel Hasson (Israel Beiteinu) web sites could be absolved of liability if they agree to reveal the details of posters.

While the bill still needs to be approved in three readings in the Knesset plenum, receiving the support of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation gives it a much higher chance of passing into law.
I'm sorry to tell you folks, but if this goes through, I will have to seriously consider shutting off the comments (which is probably exactly what our fascist government wants).

Update 9:35 PM

Consider that two months ago an Israeli court forced Google's blogspot (my host) to disclose the identity of a blogger who committed the 'crime' of 'slandering' a member of a local council. This is not good folks. Can anyone say "chilling effect"?

37 Comments:

At 9:25 PM, Blogger NY Nana said...

Carl,

Why am I not surprised? Apparently the truth hurts.

I hope that someone will come to their senses.

'Fascist government' seems to be spot on.

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Stupid idea but you're right, it might pass. I wonder if it would even be actionable though ... for instance, your blog actually lives on a server in California I'd assume. And my sites definitely do. So can Israel have any control over them?

(Oh, in case this isn't obvious ... my knowledge of the law is infinitesimal, so I await correction.)

 
At 9:37 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Andy,

Go read the update I just posted.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I have no fear of what I write.

All one can say is the branja are worried about the new technology.

The Internet is truly mightier than the sword.

 
At 10:11 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Carl, something has puzzled me about the internet all along.....and I do learn slowly, so i am asking this innocently:

How did it get started, that people could say things on the internet without using their real names?

Being that the internet is a public place, how is it not like going out on a street corner and professing one's views?

sincerely, Ma Sands

 
At 10:34 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Mary,

People just started using names that weren't their own. And people wanted to be able to say things anonymously, so they did.

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger ProfessorPelotard said...

Very bad, and Israel certainly needs a new government and new politicians. (For a lot of reasons.) However, the whole Internet thing is very difficult for the lawmakers to handle.

Assume that Carl shuts off his comments, but somebody else, living in another country, and on a server not in Israel starts the blog "Comment IsraelMatzav". So, after reading Carl's blogs one clicks on a bookmarked link and goes to another site and comments the story. What then?

 
At 10:48 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Professor Pelotard,

My guess is that if it related to Israel and the government wanted to find out who said it, they would take the host to court here and demand that the IP address be disclosed. That's what they did to Google.

 
At 10:57 PM, Blogger ProfessorPelotard said...

Carl,

I really guess that depends on which privacy laws are enforced in that particular country.

Switzerland may make a comeback now when the banking privacy has been slightly affected by the post -911 laws.

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger Batya said...

This is bad news. Sometimes I wonder if they have discovered my blog.

Considering the "tracing" capabilities, we can't keep our identities secret, even if we tried.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger SJ Reidhead said...

Carl;

My first and only comment and question: Why are they doing this?

SJR
The Pink Flamingo

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

SJR,

They are doing this because the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta does not want us to be free to tell you what's really going on here. Late last night, I did a post on how the government is getting the media to write positive things about Olmert. Now they're trying to make sure that those of us who write negative things are silenced.

 
At 12:20 AM, Blogger heroyalwhyness said...

Carl, what would stop Israeli pundits/bloggers from preparing their blog entries and submiting them to ghostbloggers in the US via e-mail to bypass this ridiculous law?

 
At 1:54 AM, Blogger Long Lost Memories of Freedom said...

What's the difference between a comment on a blog and a comment in say, "Talkback" on Haaretz ? While it's true, Haaretz has their thought police sifting through the comments, I guess it must not be viewed as a threat by Israeli politicians. During the Rabin Regime, I remember watching Israeli Police (Yasmnikim) beat the crap out of Zu Artzeinu protesters (mainlyt women and children) who intentionally tied their hands above their heads as a sign of non-violence. Let's hope this bill never passes and at least freedom of speach can survive in Israel.

 
At 1:59 AM, Blogger Steven said...

Is there a petition or/and an email address we can contact so we can lobby the people who are making this decision?

 
At 2:22 AM, Blogger Don said...

As someone else wrote here, how could it be enforced if the hosting company is outside of Israel? Israel has no jurisdiction over companies in foreign countries, so I wonder how they possibly could have forced Google to do anything, except maybe to threaten to block the entire domain from entering the country (which would not go well with Israelis, and would look bad to the rest of the free world.)

What's more, how can a blogger have any assurance that the poster is using a real name?

And requiring a blogger to take responsibility for everything written in comments seems like an impossible burden to bear. So, then end-result, it seems, will be the end of comments.

 
At 2:52 AM, Blogger Yehudit said...

Gee, sounds like Canada ....

 
At 5:23 AM, Blogger Keli Ata said...

It's happening all over the world.

If you're a blogger and could possibly face any retailiation by all means keep the email address and phone number of the Committee to Protect Journalists on hand.

www.cpj.org

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Keli Ata said...

Basically what this is doing is instituting unreasonable demands to squelch thought and freedom of speech.

Big Brother has arrived.

 
At 5:48 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Her Royal Highness,

Nothing would stop them (hopefully). But will it have the same impact coming from someone in the US that it has coming directly from an Israeli? Will it be up as quickly?

Long Lost,

Haaretz would be subject to it as well. But they won't mind vetting their comments to exclude politically incorrect commenters as much as I would. And most of my posts are politically incorrect.

Steven,

Not yet.

Don,

See the Google story to which I leaked in the update. Look how Google has behaved in China. If the Israeli government were to decide I was slandering Olmert, do you really think Google is going to risk its business connections in Israel to keep me from being arrested?

 
At 6:09 AM, Blogger Russel Harris said...

In 1993 I was the assistant editor of the Zionist Record, a South African community newspaper. On the eve of the Oslo peace accord I published an editorial, the basis of which stated how Arafat intended to destroy the Jewish state; by signing a peace accord with the Jews and then, over time, destroy the country "as easily as twisitng the head off a chicken".

Following its publication, Alon Liel, Israel's Ambassador to SA, promptly lost the plot and warned me, via the Zionist Federation, that I was jeapordising the peace process. How dare I... etc.

And the same tactics are applied today. Criticism of Olmert, striking out at free speech "in the only democracy in the Middle East" is nothing new.

 
At 6:37 AM, Blogger Don said...

Carl,

O.k., so it sounds like they didn't actually have any jurisdiction over Google, but rather Google chose to volunteer the information, having concluded that something illegal was being done (in which case, I presume that's a part of Google's terms of the agreement for blogging accounts -- that they reserve the right to expose account holders to authorities, if something illegal is being done). And so likewise, that would be done with other non-Israeli companies: they'd only hand over information, if they chose to do so. And then once Israeli authorities had the IP numbers, they then can find the local Israeli ISP that the blogger is signed up with, and then force them to hand over identity info on the individual.

For the incident in China, as I remember it, China basically said that unless you filter results as we want you to, or else Google doesn't get into China. Whether Israel would do such a thing, I question. Have Israeli authorities blocked any domains to date? I think they'd be unlike to try it, especially with such a big fish like Google. It would make Israel look bad. Blocking domains is stuff that totalitarian governments do.

 
At 6:43 AM, Blogger Don said...

I should add, that Google (and other blogging companies) have a business interest in protecting private information too. If word gets out that bloggers' information is being handed over for unjust reasons, then they're going to lose a lot of good bloggers, and that's bad for business.

 
At 8:05 AM, Blogger FASTAC_6 said...

The only spot on the planet where free speech is (still!) a right is the U.S.A.
All y'all elsewhere are on your own.

My personal feeling is that Olmert, et al, misplaced their beitzim somewhere, and are hell-bent on helping the moslem world finish off Medinat Yisrael.

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Don,

Google didn't turn over the name of a blogger who had threatened to murder someone or who was giving out bomb-making information on his blog. They turned over a blogger who had 'slandered' a city councilor. Is that a crime that justifies handing someone over?

Has Israel blocked domains? Not yet. But I doubt we are very far away from an effort to do so.

Russell Harris,

That does sound just like what goes on here. And Alon Liel is a notorious leftist who is now trying to give the Golan to Syria (search his name on my blog - it's come up several times).

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger Russel Harris said...

Don

Sorry to say this but alongside Yahoo, "Google Do Evil". It all depends on the size of the wallet.

In Israel we call it "protectsia".

Obviously going after the bloggers means anyone who comments on an article in Ynet, Jpost, etc are also going to be reviewed.

Let's see what that does for revenues at those publications.

In the long run it means the government is out to squelch dissent so that it can carry out the Final Solution Disengagement.

 
At 8:21 AM, Blogger Russel Harris said...

Carl

The SA Jewish community always supports the position of the Israeli Government of the day. The stink Alon caused eventually led to all advertising for the paper drying up and the paper went under after an 85-year history.

 
At 12:58 PM, Blogger Akiva said...

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/22/26831719_c460336d8d_o.jpg

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger Mr Bagel said...

I can't decide which is the worst e this pending legislations impact on an Israeli's right to free speech or the obvious telegraphing of Olmert's methodology and intentions when it comes to silencing critics such as bloggers with the pending sell out of Jerusalem.
In essence he is warning newspapers not to allow their readers response columns to contain opposing points of view. It's the most vile form of censorship one could imagine, the threat to media companies not to carry dissenting opinion. Is this Israel or Saudi Arabia?

 
At 5:47 PM, Blogger jdpeiper said...

Why is it any more Fascist the Communistic?

Everyone seems to love the word. Fascist. It's sure used a lot.

It doesn't much matter in the end which ism you tack on to this awful proposal. It's wrong headed and surely Israel should be the last place to inforce such a ruling.

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger B'nai Elim Blogmaster said...

As the owner of a Jewish Blog whose primary focus is Israel's leadership, politics, and current events, I am concerned about the proposed draconian anti-blogging measures in this respect: Someone previously commented that if we are blogging from servers located outside of Israel and indeed we live outside of Israel than we have little to be concerned about. This may be true if we Never Plan To Visit or Return to Israel. If this measure passes, it is entirely probable that those of us who are critical of the Government and tend to hold accountable the Officials in that Government, will be placed at the very least on a “personae non grate” list and will be denied entry to Israel. Or worse, the next time we disembark from El Al at Ben Gurion, we will be arrested by the "thought police" for insulting some inept public servant by telling the truth about his lack of talent, etc. I believe that there is real concern in some governmental circles about the thus far “untouchable” off-shore bloggers who have become a great deal more than just an irritant or a thorn in the touches. Food for thought…

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Cosmic X said...

From http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/139687 (the emphasis is mine):

(IsraelNN.com) The government committee for legislation approved a bill presented by MK Yisrael Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu) which would make large internet websites legally responsible for the content of reader talkbacks. A website with more than 50,000 daily visitors could be held liable for the content of reader talkbacks in libel suits as well as in criminal cases.

The only way a website could remove its civil and criminal responsibility would be to reveal the identity of the person who sent the talkback.

Hasson explained that internet websites are no less popular than other media and should therefore be made to identify the people who use them to publish their views. This, he explained, would make it necessary for people to behave in a more cultured manner and make them responsible for their utterances.

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Cosmic X,

I saw that - it just came out today and was not in last night's reports. But who knows if 50,000 will really be the number or when any blog might reach 50,000 (I am nowhere near that number, but I write comments on several blogs that are near that number and I aspire to have 50,000 readers a day - it would convince my wife that not all of you know me personally :-).

The point is that the entire censorship idea is wrong, regardless of how big or small the blog is. If someone is threatening physical harm that's one thing, but to try to disclose the identity of an anonymous blogger who makes a nasty comment about a public figure is absurd.

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger Devorah said...

I look forward to the day when fake kabbalists will be held accountable for their Torah lies on the internet.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Devorah,

They are accountable to a Higher Authority.

 
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At 8:20 AM, Blogger Mary said...

__________________________
Carl....who's your new friend....I got two of the above, in my inbox, just now (11/20/08)..... : ) --it looks like Chinese characters to me....are they? -- I was just reading about that language : ) ....... http://www.icr.org/article/4153/

Miss ya,
Ma Sands

 

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