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Israel to introduce sweeping online censorship law

Including such things as "offensive" content.

The Israeli government has announced that it will adopt recommendations to regulate social media platforms to create a “safer” online environment. The recommendations are similar to the social media rules in the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which will take effect next year.

Outgoing Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel announced that Israel would adopt recommendations made by the committee for examining legislation on online social media platforms, which was formed in October 2021. The committee, which was led by the Communications Ministry director-general Liran Avisar Ben-Horin, was created to find solutions to tackle the regulatory and ethical questions related to social media.

“This is an unregulated space where negative and harmful social phenomena have emerged,” said Hendel, as reported by the Times of Israel. “Legal responsibility needs to be applied to digital platforms in relation to the distribution of illegal sexual content, incitement to violence and terrorism, and more.”

“The step we are taking today brings us closer to a more protected and safer online space while preserving freedom of expression.”

The committee recommended that social media companies should be obligated to immediately remove illegal and offensive content, create an online hotline for reporting offensive and illegal content, create a system where users can appeal censorship and suspension decisions, and be more transparent.

Courts will be given the power to issue content removal orders, and a social media regulator will be created. Platforms operating in Israel will be required to set up offices in Israel.

The recommended rules, which will need to be passed in parliament, will apply to social media platforms with more than 500,000 users.

Content that will require the immediate attention of platforms is intimate photos and bullying of minors. Social media platforms will also be required to monitor offensive content like the invasion of privacy, incitement to violence, threats, terrorism, racism, defamation, and sexual content.

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