Israel advances online censorship bill

Authorities believe the bill will prevent 'incitement'

TEL AVIV - Israel's parliament advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow a court to order internet sites such as Facebook to remove material considered "incitement", which authorities say contributes to Palestinian violence.
Government watchdogs have expressed concern that the law could be abused and harm free speech.
The bill was passed in its first reading and requires two more before becoming law, said a statement from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, one of its sponsors.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who also sponsored the legislation, called it "essential to provide the tools to act immediately to remove content that can lead to terrorist acts and murder".
The legislation, known as the "Facebook bill" in Israel, would allow the government to petition a court to have online material it considers incitement removed.
It would also apply to major sites such as YouTube and Google.
Material would be removed in cases where it poses "a real risk to the security of a person, the public or the state", Shaked has said.
Israel has previously held discussions with Facebook officials to stop what it calls online incitement.
In September, Shaked said that the social network giant had removed 95 percent of the posts Israel had referred to it.
However, she has said that it was "important this cooperation will be obligatory".
But the possibility for error was seen in September, when Facebook apologised after temporarily disabling accounts linked to two Palestinian news sites critical of Israel.
The move drew concern over the potential for online censorship.
The Israel Democracy Institute think tank said the bill was "unprecedented" in its current form when compared to similar legislation in other countries.
It said it would be difficult to enforce and would "facilitate a disproportionate amount of censorship".
In addition to the bill, Israeli and American victims of Palestinian attacks filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Facebook in July over allegations it was used by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas to organise violence.