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Web sites could be absolved of all responsibility for content published on their message boards, or talkbacks, if they agree to reveal the details of people posting on their sites, according to a bill approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The bill, which was drafted by MK Yisrael Hasson (Israel Beiteinu) would effectively define Web sites as newspapers to those who wish to press libel charges against statements made in various forums. While the owners, or editors, of a Web site would be legally responsible for the content on their site, they could be absolved of liability if they provide details of the users and posters.
The bill would provide an extension to the current law, which allows courts to order a Web site to reveal users' technical information, such as their IP address.
A clause in the bill, however, mandates that Web sites with more than 50,000 'hits', or entries by Internet surfers per day, would be accountable for all contents published on their pages.
As of Monday, sources in Israel Beiteinu said it was unclear whether that clause would make it into the bill's final draft.
Also, the future of the 'adding-removing' procedure currently in force, whereby site managers can delete comments reported by users as being offensive, without entering into legal trouble, so long as this is done 'in a reasonable amount of time,' is unclear. Last year, a ruling on the subject did not go into detail regarding the amount of time considered 'reasonable.'
While the bill needs to pass through three readings in the Knesset, receiving the support of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation gives it a much higher chance of passing into law.
MKs have recently proposed several laws to govern the content published on Web sites by public users. According to Hasson, the anonymous nature of the Internet allows users to publish libelous comments without feeling remorse or fearing reprisal for their actions.
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