On 3 January 2022, the Knesset’s Constitution Committee held a special discussion on Zulat’s report “Fake News and the Violation of Human Rights: Challenges and Responses.” Representing Zulat in the discussion were: Einat Ovadia, Zulat’s executive director; Dr. Michal Evron Yaniv, the author of the report; Prof. Amit Schechter, a member of the report’s steering team; and Attorney Eitai Mack, who drafted the legislative proposals contained in the report.
Also present in the meeting were MKs from various factions of the House. MK Gilad Kariv, the committee’s chairman, said in his opening remarks that “there is government support for legislation on the issues that we will be discussing today.”
Watch executive director Ovadia’s remarks on how fake news violates the right to health and the right to free elections:
Here are excerpts of what the other speakers on our behalf said at the meeting:
Prof. Amit Schechter: “Freedom of expression is the engine of the democratic system. In the absence of freedom of expression, no other rights can exist. Freedom of expression derives in several other ancillary rights. Figuratively speaking, freedom of expression consists of a set of rights that only if complied with is this freedom said to be realized. This is particularly true at the point we are today in terms of the development of the technological means we use to express ourselves. On the face of it, the situation would appear to be wonderful given that freedom of expression is flourishing. However, it can actually be compared to, say, democratizing driving. If we compare freedom of expression to the engine of the democratic system, then we should remember that on the road, which everybody is free to drive and has the right to use, there are those whose driving endangers the lives of other persons, and the question is how we deal with this danger. If we are to use the same metaphor, here too we propose to restrict freedom of movement on the road of freedom of expression of those who utter falsehoods that are intended to harm others.”
Dr. Michal Yaniv Evron: “Democracy is based on the option of electing representatives based on reliable information. The introduction of digital platforms into political campaigns has created a great many problems. Without any transparency, profiles are used to target information at voters and maliciously manipulate them.” Referring to the right to health, Dr. Yaniv Evron said: “Only two days ago we were told about an unvaccinated pregnant woman who had contracted corona and was in mortal danger. The virality of fake news is dangerous. Most anti-vaxxers feed on disinformation. Our right to health is sabotaged under the shield of freedom of expression.”
Attorney Itay Mack: “Our proposed legislative amendments are designed to strengthen and upgrade the toolbox in existing laws, to deal with extreme cases where an organization, group, or individual disseminates fake news with a real potential to endanger the public and the elections.”
For additional reading: