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Friday, August 10, 2001 | return to: international


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Will loss of Israel porn channels be Net gain for cybersex sites?

by NINA GILBERT and GWEN ACKERMAN, Jerusalem Post Service

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JERUSALEM -- Although the Knesset last week passed an amendment to a telecommunications law, banning the broadcasting of sex channels on cable and satellite TV, some Israelis believe it won't have a significant impact on the viewing of pornography by youth.

Nielsen/NetRatings, which examined local surfing of sex sites in June, reported that at least a quarter of online Israelis who visit pornographic sites monthly are between the ages of 12 and 17. In addition, none of them would be the least surprised at what is broadcast on even the hard-core programs offered by the cables and satellite.

If they really want to protect the nation's youth, the sponsors of the amendment to ban porn from TV face the difficult task of dealing with the Internet, which can offer free and continuous access.

Sponsored by National Religious Party member Yigal Bibi and Deputy Communications Minister Yitzhak Vaknin of Shas, the measure amended a law opening the Israeli telecommunications market to extensive competition, ending Bezeq's monopoly.

The legislation passed easily by 53-10 on Aug. 1, after an unanticipated wide majority for the amendment to the bill banning pornographic channels was approved. The measure will not affect pay-per-view pornography.

Nor will it affect surfing. Nielsen found that 132,337 Israelis, or 13.2 percent of all local surfers, visited sex sites on the Web from home in June, with local sites -- sex4free.co.il and peep.co.il -- rating the most popular.

Each site's home page sets an age limit for its visitors; sex4free says it is for 21 and up, while peep for the over-18 set. Each home page informs visitors that by entering the site they are confirming they are adults, that the content does not insult them and that they are entering of their own free will.

There is nothing, of course, to stop the preteen and high school set from actually entering, and the 12-to-17 crowd made up 30 percent of all the June visitors to peep and 26 percent of the surfers to sex4free.

Parents concerned about the phenomenon can buy software to filter out Internet porn on home PCs, but the software is not foolproof, especially when dealing with computer-savvy youth.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were quick to point out that the new amendment has a loophole, since it only bans channels whose programming is primarily of a sexual nature.

In addition, Avraham Poraz of the Shinui Party, the chairman of the Economics Committee, expressed "regret that the Bezeq Law on which I spent so much time and effort and whose goal was to open the telecom market to competition for the benefit of the public has been turned into a law used by the haredim to hurt the right of freedom of speech and interfere in broadcast content. This is a dangerous precedent that I hope will not be exploited."


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