Israel’s Tel Aviv District Court has overturned a June prohibition after ruling that the nation’s police and Internet service providers do not have the right to block customers’ access to offshore gambling websites.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought in August by the Israel Internet Association against the Israel Police after law enforcement officials issued an order requiring the nation’s Internet service providers to obstruct access to a list of gambling sites located abroad including StanJames.com and VictorChandler.com.
According to a report from The Times of Israel newspaper, Tel Aviv District Court judge Michal Rubinstein ruled that current laws allow Israelis to fully access information of any type via the Internet even if this could be used for illicit or illegal activities.
“Even if the information on a site is wholly negative and serves no positive social role such as on a site that promotes racism or drug use, it is still information and is covered by laws dealing with freedom of expression,” ruled Rubinstein.
“Clearly, gambling not approved by the state is a negative social phenomenon but that in itself is not a reason to restrict that information. By blocking the gambling sites, the freedom of Israelis to access information was damaged since they could not access the site to get the information stored there.”
Rubinstein declared that while she agreed that there was information on the Internet that ‘deserved’ to be banned, ‘the damage that this information can cause does not make it eligible for protection’.
In addition to annulling the injunction, Rubinstein also ordered the Israel Police to the plaintiff’s court costs of around £3,348.
“Our aim is to prevent restriction of access to information and undue damage to freedom of expression and speech,” said Rimon Levy from the Israel Internet Association.
“Our petition was not directed at encouraging online gambling but to prevent the police from imposing limits on access to information. The idea that the police would decide what is protected speech is simply chilling.”