04/05/2012 : It's taken almost two years, but an Israeli court has ruled against police bans
Almost two years ago, in what was criticised as a high-handed and legally questionable initiative, Israeli police officers visited the country's main Internet Service Providers and served them with a demand that they block a list of websites allegedly involved in illegal online gambling activity.
This week that situation was addressed by a Tel Aviv court presided over by Judge Michal Rubinstein, who found that the orders were unlawful after hearing an appeal by the Israeli Internet Association (IIA).
According to reports on Ynet, the judge found that the police action was tantamount to restricting freedom of speech, and that the directive was therefore invalid and unlawful, and is lifted with immediate effect.
The police interference in the Internet was first reported in mid-July 2010, when the newspaper Haaretz reported on the sudden imposition of the police bans on ISPs, preventing them from channeling international internet gambling websites
Israel Police representatives visited every Israeli ISP to personally deliver the directive, which included a black list of overseas gambling sites and the IP (Internet protocol) addresses to be blocked. According to the police order, the sites "provide a place for illegal gaming for lotteries or gambling, as defined in Section 224 of the Penal Code."
The order was signed off by Central District police commander Maj. Gen. Bentzi Sau under the order: "It is my intention to order your company not to provide users with access to these sites."
ISP owners at the time protested that the order was senseless. Any block on specific IP addresses can easily be circumvented by the websites, by the simple means of creating new websites, they explained. And they questioned whether the police had the legal authority to issue such draconian orders.
This week's ruling clearly shows that the local constabulary overestimated its authority.