Activity of the Cyber Unit to Remove Web Content
ACRI and Adalah petitioned the High Court in November 2019 against inquiries by the State Attorney’s Cyber Unit to content providers requesting the removal of various content. The mechanism, known by the State Attorney’s Office as “alternative enforcement via a voluntary route,” includes an inquiry to content providers, such as Google and Facebook, requesting they remove content or limit access to it, and at times even ban and remove users. This censorship of content is done without the right to a hearing or legal proceeding, and at times without even informing the publisher.
The petition was filed after the State Attorney’s Office argued that the “alternative enforcement” mechanism is not an exercise of governmental authority. The petition argued that this mechanism severely violates the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and due process, without being authorized by law nor in compliance with the conditions of the limitation clause.
In the petition, we emphasized that since the establishment of the Cyber Unit, there has been a significant rise in the use of this enforcement mechanism. According to the 2018 State Attorney’s Report, in 2018 the Cyber Unit submitted over 14,000 removal requests, compared to only 2,200 in 2016. The response of content providers to the overwhelming majority of requests was affirmative.
On 12.4.2021, the High Court rejected the petition. The Court ruled that the Cyber Unit’s inquiries for content providers to remove certain content is within constitutional limitations, even if only narrowly at times.
For further information (Hebrew)