Knesset committee advances bill to block porn websites
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Knesset committee advances bill to block porn websites

View of the assembly hall of the Knesset, during the opening of the winter session, Oct. 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

View of the assembly hall of the Knesset, during the opening of the winter session, Oct. 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee advanced a bill that would require internet service providers in Israel to block pornographic and other websites deemed offensive by the country’s communications minister — currently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — unless otherwise instructed by a customer.

The bill, which was unanimously approved Sunday, moves to the Knesset for amendments and approval.

It was authored by Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the Jewish Home party and is co-sponsored by 26 Knesset members from all the parties in the ruling coalition and the opposition except the left-wing Meretz.

Under the measure, the default of internet service providers would be a free-of-charge filter on pornographic sites and other sites deemed offensive by the country’s communications minister. Customers could request that the filter be removed.

Internet providers currently provide such filters free of charge when requested by a customer, which is required under law.

Critics say the bill amounts to censorship and an attempt to limit freedom of information.

Several similar bills have been submitted in recent years.

“The damaging influence of watching, and addiction to, pornography and severe violence has been proven in many studies to be of great harm to children,” Moalem-Refaeli said, according to Haaretz. “Today it is easier for a child to consume harsh content on the internet than to buy an ice cream at the local kiosk. We must prevent such access by making the default of the internet provider to filter such content, unless the customer has asked to be exposed to it.”