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Israel: Law Authorizes Court to Restrict Access to Internet Sites in Order to Prevent Criminal Activity

(Oct. 10, 2017) On July 17, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Law on Authorities for the Prevention of Committing Crimes Through Use of an Internet Site, 5777-2017 (Law on Authorities) (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette, SH] 5777 No. 2650 p. 1040, available at KNESSET NATIONAL LEGISLATION DATABASE (in Hebrew).) The Law entered into effect two months after its July 26, 2017, publication. (Id.)

The Law authorizes a district court judge, selected for this purpose by the president of the district court, upon a request by a prosecutor, to issue a decree to fully or partially restrict access to an Internet site based on a determination that the restriction is necessary to prevent any of the following acts:

(1) continued commission of an offense through use of the website;
(2) exposure of a user in Israel to activity that would have constituted an offense if carried out in Israel, when the website has a connection to Israel;
(3) furthering of an activity by a terrorist organization as defined in the Law on the Fight Against Terrorism,-2 . (Id. § 2, Combatting Terrorism Law, 5776-2016, SH 5776 No. 2556, p. 898 (in Hebrew); see also Ruth Levush, Israel: New Comprehensive Counterterrorism Legislation Adopted, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (July 15, 2016).)

Facilitation, by using the Internet, of drug-related offenses and of the offenses of publication of pedophilia, human trafficking, advertisement for prostitution, and gambling may qualify for the imposition of restrictions under the Law. (Law on Authorities, §§ 1-2.)

The court may issue limited restrictions on an Internet website or part of it, in order to prevent the listed crimes. In the alternative, when the server on which the website is loaded is located in Israel or under the control of a person or a corporation located or registered in Israel, the court may order the removal of the Internet site from the server under conditions determined by the court. (Id. §§ 3-4.)

When determining whether to issue a restriction order under the Law, the court should consider, among other factors, the level of harm:

(1) to the Israeli public caused by continuation of the activity on the Internet website and the website’s connection to Israel;
(2) to the public’s ability to access information via the Internet, including by blocking content that is not connected to the offense available on the same website or on another;
(3) to the Internet access providers; and
(4) to the privacy of Internet users. (Id. § 5(a).)

An order issued under the Law may be limited to the part of the Internet website that is used for commission of the offense. (Id. § 5(b).) The order must be limited so as not to exceed what is required under the circumstances. (Id. § 5(c).)

The Law lists procedures that must be followed for the issue of restriction orders, including conditions for the use of confidential information in certain hearings. The Law allows a review of restriction orders for the purpose of cancelling or changing their conditions. (Id. §§ 8-11.)

A decision on the issuance of a restriction order under the Law must be published on the Internet websites of the Ministry of Justice, the Israel Police, and the Internet access provider. (Id. § 12.) Non- compliance with restriction orders is a criminal offense punishable on conviction by two years of imprisonment. (Id. § 13.)

The Law imposes a duty on the Minister of Justice to report to the Knesset on an annual basis the number of requests and orders issued or amended in accordance with its provisions. (Id. § 15.)