New bill seeks to criminalize defamation in digital world

Current law, which was established well before the advent of the internet, applies only to libel in the printed press, radio and on television.

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April 2, 2015 16:44
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MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) announced on Thursday a bill that would allow people to file police complaints against insulting or defamatory content written online or on social media networks. The bill, which was submitted to the speaker of the Knesset on Tuesday, aims to update the 1965 Defamation (Prohibition) Law so that it would apply to the digital world as well.

Currently the law, which was established well before the advent of the Internet, applies only to libel in the printed press, radio, and on television.

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“We live in an era where the virtual world and social networks are the primary arena and are meaningful in the lives of adults and adolescents. The online public discourse is violent and abusive. It is our duty to limit cyberbullying and set a line between critical discourse and bullying discourse,” Swid said on Thursday.

The bill seeks to legally identify the Internet and social media networks as a “communications tool” and thus any defamatory comments made in this arena would be subject to the defamation law.

“The law must be adapted from the outdated version in order to fit our modern reality,” she said. “We condemn the phenomenon of the ‘ugly Israeli,’ though we do not consider that cyberbullying legitimizes verbal violence that shapes the character of the young generation.”

Swid, one of the new MKs of the 20th Knesset, is a 47-yearold Ra’anana resident and mother of four. She was a successful lawyer for 23 years before deciding to enter politics. She was elected as No. 14 on the Zionist Union list.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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