January Internet Ban By Moetzes of Agudah Called for Approved Filters and 3rd Party Monitors (Corrected 10:15 pm)
On March 1 I shared the news that there was a new internet ban (kol koreh) in the making in my posting, The Internet Kol Koreh to Silence all Voices: The Mother of All Bans. At the time I learned of discussion in Lakewood to regulate internet sites to:
- Ban all internet talkbacks, comments and forums
- Ban any news that is negative about any Jewish individual or group, by name or by hint
- Require every website to name its rabbinic advisor (i.e., censor)
- Require every website to name all authors and owners
In part they were responding to criticism about banning Vos Iz Neias (VIN) while ignoring other sites with similar practices. So they decided to rectify the imbalance by extending censorship to all sites and ending the dreadful concept of the hamon am (lay masses) sharing their thoughts.
Just before Purim I shared my thought that they should hold off until Purim or else everyone would think it was a joke.
Well they seem to have taken my advice and it was released this weekend. I got hold of a copy from an acquaintance who spotted on the bulletin board of a mikvah in Brooklyn. I thought this was the Moetzes’ idea of an April Fools joke.
Added 10:15 pm – It turns out that the document posted on the bulletin board on Friday, first was approved in January according to Guard Your Eyes, an Internet site for folks trying to cure themselves of Internet sex addiction and related sins. They posted the text and said it was printed in Hamodia on page c 17.
The Moderator of the forum who goes by the moniker, Kedusha, writes there:
While Internet use continues to be strongly discouraged, the Gedolei Yisrael have recognized that forbidding it completely is a Gezeira She’ein Rov HaTzibbur Yecholim La’amod Ba (the Novominsker Rebbe said this in a recent Hamodia Magazine interview). In hindsight (which is always 20-20), completely banning the Internet had an unintended effect: countless people, from the most frum circles, not only did not abide by the ban, but they had no incentive to install filters or other safeguards, because they were in violation of the ban in any event. Not anymore. Today, having Internet access, while not recommended, is permissible for those who need it, provided that an effective filter is used; without a filter, it is assur.
The Gedolim spent many hours, over a period of almost six months, working on the text of this Statement. Their goal, as I understand it, was to get the message across, but without having to spell out all the details. For example, the reason an “effective filter” is required is to ensure that a third party holds the password – otherwise, it’s quite ineffective. An effective filter futher requires that the settings be strong enough to block as much inappropriate material as possible, while still allowing necessary use of the Internet.
2.) For those who must use Internet, it is now clearly required al pi Halacha to install an effectivefilter, with monitoring software strongly recommended as well. END UPDATE
Well it seems that decided that they did not want to talk about regulating the internet because they implies that there can be a kosher internet. So instead they followed the pattern of Israeli rabbonim and just said it is all bad. They recognized some unavoidable situations like livelihood and other unspecified needs. But they made up for the flexibility with some new demands.
They expect those who need to use the internet to install filters and “It is strongly recommended that users install software that reports their internet usage to a third party.” Yep they have gone from censoring media to have spies on individuals. Now I suppose they will also mandate not shopping in supermarkets where there are non-kosher products unless you submit all your reciepts to a kashrut auditor.
This is unprecedented snooping. I live in fear of a vaad hatznius (modesty patrol or modesty committee) snooping on individuals by seeing all their internet traffic. I wonder how much truth will be screened by the filters. At this point it is impossible to find reporting about sex abuse issues anywere in the ultra orthodox media, with the interesting exception of halachic journals which take the position that most pedophiles should be reported to the criminal justice system.
Unlike the VIN ban this was strictly a Moetzes document and it was signed by all of the members of the Moetzes including the conspicuous Moetzes holdouts on the last ban, R. Dovid Feinstein and R. Aharon Feldman of Baltimore’s Ner Israel Rabbinical College. Which raises the question, why was Vos Iz Neias banned in isolation from the other sites?
I am guessing this earlier unanimity came at a price. It still allowed invidual rabbonim to exercise their discretion about internet usage. It was really an advisory document. So it reiterated that the internet poses grave risks. It spoke in an advisory tone so, it, “Should by all means be avoided.” The only prohibition that was explicit was the insistence on filters. Naturally, the next frontier will be rabbinic debates about hechsherim (certifications) for filters. Finally, again in an advisory tone it urges “users to install software that reports their internet usage to a third party. The other frontier will be deciding who gets to snoop on those who do use the internet.
Folks, Big Brother has arrived all in the name of tznius! The jury is still out on whether they will also move to ban comments on web sites, or if they will content themselves with making the VIN ban a lesson that will terrify all other web sites into compliance. I think they prefer leaving comments in so there is an appearance of openess, but only if they fall into a narrow prescribed range.
Other posts of interest: