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Israel: Law Authorizes Preventing Harassment of Emergency Centers

(July 21, 2016) On March 30, 2016, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Prevention of Harassment of Emergency Centers Law, 5776-2016.  (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette] 5776 No. 2552, p. 878, Knesset website  (last visited July 19, 2016) (in Hebrew).)

The Law authorizes emergency centers to block the access of a telephone number from which a call containing “harassment conversation” was made. (Id. §2.) The Law defines “harassment conversation” as

A conversation, including a call without a message or a statement, to an emergency center, which may harm, scare, tease, curse, mock, bother, create anxiety, or annoy, including a false call for help and unnecessary contact to the emergency center which may disturb the center’s work. (Id. §1.)

An officer authorized under the Law may order the temporary blockage of a telephone number from which harassment conversations were made in accordance with procedures established by the Minister of Public Security in consultation with the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee (Id. §§2 & 11.) A telephone number from which three or more additional harassment conversations were made after being previously blocked may be blocked for four days. Two weeks of blockage may be further imposed on a phone number from which at least two conversations were made after the lifting of the additional blockage. (Id. §3.) A permanent blockage of a telephone number may be ordered when additional harassment conversations are made from that number. (Id. §4.)

The Law requires that prior to implementing phone blockage, a phone number’s subscriber or possessor must be notified and given the opportunity to object in a place and time as specified in the notice. (Id. §5(a).)

Under exceptional circumstances and according to procedures to be determined by the Israel Police Chief of the Operations Unit, an order may be issued to a provider of telecommunication services to prevent the ability of a phone used in connection with harassment conversations to receive telecommunications services. (Id. §6.)

The Minister of Public Security must report to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on the number of orders issued for blockage of telephones and for disabling telecommunications services. The report must be submitted annually, in writing, and include the total number of incoming conversations received by emergency centers. (Id. §12.)

According to the explanatory notes for the bill, the Law was designed to address the increasing number of false calls directed at emergency centers, which result in a waste of resources. (Telecommunications (Communications and Broadcasts) (Amendment No. 62) (Disturbing Emergency Center) Draft Bill 5776-2015, HATSAOT HOK [DRAFT BILLS], the Knesset, No. 603 p. 6, Knesset website (last visited July 20, 2016) (in Hebrew).)