Discussion on anonymous internet comments in Israel
Helpful or Hurtful?
Zehava Gilon, a well-known Israeli politician, checked the reader comments on one of the biggest news websites. Only a day before, she had given an interview about an important issue: What should be said in the national memorial for slain Israeli soldiers - "The Israeli people remember our soldiers" or "God remembers our soldiers"? In the interview, Gilon had favored the first version. As she started to read the comments, she was surprised by all the hate that was released against her: "You don't deserve living in our country!", "I can't believe I voted for you in the last elections" and even "I wish you weren't here anymore".
It doesn't matter where you live, how old you are or what your gender is- you probably visit many websites on the internet during your day. Most of us enjoy reading an interesting article and then take a look at at the bottom of the page - the reader comments space. Then you start to write about something you liked or something that irritated you while reading.
Until now it sounds like a thing that most of us do. However, some people use these platforms in order to slander a specific person or a group of people. Slandering is against the law in most countries. The aim of the law is to protect the person's dignity and good name. But when it comes to internet comments the legal situation is difficult. Many sites don't require people to log in to the site or to display their real name. In this situation, even if someone is slandered by a reader comment- there is nothing they can do.
Politicians like Zehava Gilon, journalists and other influential people think this situation needs to change. Ben Caspit, a journalist, said: "As I sign my name under the articles I write, I think people who comment should do the same. As I believe in what I write, they should stand behind their comments. If people don’t sign their name, it means they don't believe in what they write. So why write?"
As with every single issue, there are implications to revealing one's identity. Opponents believe anonymous comments are the only way to test the limits of freedom of speech. In addition, people can write whatever they really think, without being afraid of getting hurt. Ben (alias), a 27-year-old copywriter from Tel Aviv, Israel, lost his job as a result of a comment he wrote. "I was reading an article about the kidnapped Israeli solder, Gilad Shalit, and I wrote a comment with my feelings about this isuue." he says. "In order to leave a comment I had to log in with my name, so I did". Ten minutes later, Ben was called to his boss's office. He knew he had an extremely different opinion about the topic. "The boss told me that I was fired. That's it- with no reason. As I was leaving I looked at his computer and saw the very same article I had just commented on."
Currently, the Supreme Court of Israel is dealing with each prosecution individually. But this settlement can't be for long, and the question is: What is more important, one's dignity or one's privacy?