(photo credit: Jpost.com)
A Justice Ministry memorandum released for public consultation this week
proposes a new law that would give courts the power to order Internet service
providers (ISPs) to disclose the identities of anonymous Internet writers
accused of publishing defamatory comments.
RELATED:'Jerusalem Post' launches new interactive talkback system
If the law is passed, a person
who claims someone has made defamatory remarks anonymously on the Internet may
request that the court order an ISP to disclose information about the alleged
According to the Justice Ministry, the proposed law
would also allow, within certain restrictions, an anonymous commentator the
right to file an objection to the court’s request to expose his
Attorney Tony Greenman, an expert in Internet and copyright
law, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that the proposed law would fill a
legal vacuum that currently gives authors of defamatory talk-backs carte blanche
to hide behind anonymity.
According to Greenman, until last year, the
district courts used their discretion to order the disclosure of details about
authors of allegedly defamatory comments on the Web. That ended when the Supreme
Court ruled that there was no provision under Israeli law for courts to order a
third party to disclose the identity of an anonymous Internet user who had
published allegedly defamatory comments.
“The Supreme Court ruled that
because there is not a specific law that allows courts to do this, the courts
don’t have the authority,” said Greenman.
“So for the last year, there
has been no way for anyone who was defamed on the Internet by an anonymous
commentator to get details of that person’s identity. It’s a vacuum in
In proposing the law, the Justice Ministry emphasized the
importance of anonymous speech, which combines both the right to freedom of
expression and the right to privacy.
According to Greenman, if the law is
passed, judges will have to strike a balance between protecting people’s rights
to anonymous speech with the rights of those claiming they have been
“Anonymous speech is very important, but on the other hand,
Israel’s talk-back culture is sometimes, quite frankly, defamatory,” Greenman
“There is a concern that the law will have a chilling effect on
freedom of speech. The courts will need to apply caution, but this is a law that
is greatly needed in Israel.”
The proposed law is also welcomed by those
fighting Internet piracy.
Currently, Israeli copyright holders cannot ask
the courts to order ISPs to disclose the identities of Internet pirates who
distribute stolen content via anonymous file-sharing sites, rendering them
helpless to fight against theft of their intellectual property.
proposed legislation, the courts will also be able to order ISPs to provide the
identity of those accused of Internet copyright infringement.