In a highly surprising decision, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the anonymity of people who are posting “talk backs” to articles on the internet should be protected.
In the absense of any legislation defining when will a court be allowed to order an ISP to provide the details of a person using a specific computer, the court will not create a rule by itself, an will not provide such an order.
The Internet, so rules the Supreme Court, is an important democratic instrument which prevents governmental intervention in the freedom of speech. Anonymity s one of the fundmental factors of what makes the Internet what it is. It is also an important part of the freedom of speech by itself.
Various courts in Israel gave different decisions. Some ruled that such an order should be given when there is a risk that a criminal offence was performed. Other sufficed for a risk that a tort was committed. None went as far as the Supreme court – and ruled that no order should be given.
My personal opinion is that there is no doubt that at some point, the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, will have to address the issue and define the boundaries. This ruling will, therefore, not survive. This was also stated very clear by the judges themselves. However, the very recognition of the importance of freedom of speech, and the court reluctance to step in and limit it without an explicit authorisation by the legislator is a very, very, good sign that our “new” Supreme Court now understand that there is a limit to what it can do.
In the meantime, we will probably have the most liberal law in this respect everywhere in the world. This is also a good thing.
Zeev Fisher, on Request for Appeal 4447/07 Rami Mor V. Barak E.T.C.