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Israel: New Law Authorizes Blocking Telephone Numbers to Prevent Offenses

(Apr. 26, 2018) On March 12, 2018, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed legislation authorizing cellular phone providers to block telephone numbers that are “publicly advertised for the purpose of committing an offense.” (Blocking a Telephone Number for Prevention of Committing Offenses Law, 5778-2018, § 2(a), SEFER HAHUKIM (BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette) 5778 No. 2711 at 444, Knesset website (in Hebrew).)

Administrative Blockage Order

According to the Law, a police officer with the rank of colonel or higher may issue an administrative order to block a telephone number for a period not exceeding thirty days. Such an order may be issued if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the number is publicly advertised for furthering offenses, including advertising prostitution services; trading and dealing in illegal drugs or other materials, the use of which may harm public order or safety. (Id. §§ 1–2.)

An administrative order issued under these circumstances should not specify the offense for which the blocking has been imposed. The subscriber or user of the number that is the subject of the order must be notified of the intent to block the number and afforded the possibility of arguing against it. The order may be appealed to the circuit court. A telephone number that was blocked in accordance with an administrative order may be subject to one additional administrative blocking order within two years from the issue of the first order or to a longer period of blockage by order of the circuit court. (Id. § 2.)

Judicial Blockage Order

The president of a circuit court may issue a blockage order if he or she has determined that it is necessary for stopping public advertising used in committing an offense for which an administrative blockage order has been previously granted. Accordingly, a judicial blockage order may generally be issued periodically upon the written request of an authorized prosecutor for an additional period not exceeding sixty days over the original administrative blockage period. (Id. § 3(a).)

Once an indictment has been filed, the court adjudicating the case may, upon the request of an authorized prosecutor, order the blockage to be extended until the completion of legal procedures or an earlier date as the court sees fit. The court may extend the blockage order for an additional period of up to five years if the trial ends with a conviction. A judicial blockage order may be appealed within thirty days following its issue. (Id. § 3(b).)

The Law requires that a request for a judicial blockage order be in writing and appended with an affidavit of an authorized police officer and, to the extent possible, copies of the public advertisements containing the telephone number. The respondent to the request for judicial blockage is defined by the Law as the subscriber or the telephone user to the extent reasonably identified. (Id. §§ 4(1-2).)

A hearing on the request for a blockage order must generally be held in the presence of the respondent. The court may, however, permit the hearing be conducted without the presence of the respondents if they were invited but refrained from appearing in court. Moreover, the court may, under special circumstances, admit confidential evidence and base its decision regarding the order on inadmissible evidence. (Id. §§ 4(3–4) & 5.)

The Law authorizes the Minister of Public Security to issue regulations for implementing the Law. It requires the Minister to provide within three years following the publication of the Law a written report to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, among others, on the number of administrative blockage orders issued and the number of extension periods authorized under the Law. (Id. § 8.)