Websites sued for slander or intellectual property violations because of talkbacks – online comments – will be required to reveal the identity of the offending author, according to a government bill that passed its first Knesset reading on Wednesday.

Nine voted in favor of the “Talkbacker Bill,” and two opposed.

The bill allows citizens to petition Magistrates’ Courts to instruct a site owner to give information about a third party who anonymously posted harmful content online.

The explanatory section of the bill, proposed by the Justice Ministry, points out that “one of the characteristics of the Internet is the possibility to express oneself anonymously – which has advantages and disadvantages.”

On the one hand, the bill explains, anonymous posting is backed by the right to free speech and the right to privacy.

However, the Internet cannot be an arena where people are free to do injustices or violate others’ rights without any accounting, the legislation concludes.

The bill was authorized by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in late June, and will have to undergo review by the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee as well as its second and third plenum readings before becoming law.

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