Does Religious Freedom Entail the Ability to Censor the Internet Privately?

Jan. 14 2016

In 2010, the FCC issued its Open Internet Order, currently the subject of litigation in the DC circuit court. Among many other things, the regulations, often referred to as “network neutrality,” forbid Internet-service providers from blocking specific content unless it is either unlawful (like child pornography) or harmful (like computer viruses). A still-unresolved question is whether the regulations render illegal providers like Jnet, popular among Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, and its Christian equivalent True Vine Online (TVO), which block users’ access to sacrilegious and sexually explicit websites. Arielle Roth writes:

[U]nder the network-neutrality rules, Jnet and TVO’s services are impermissible—and not simply as a matter of interpretation. . . . The FCC may forbear from enforcing the rules against Jnet and TVO, preferring to avoid a religious-freedom quagmire. But inaction will not necessarily avoid litigation. It is easy to imagine that a content provider blocked by Jnet or TVO would demand that the FCC enforce the network-neutrality rules and prohibit religious-based blocking.

Fortunately, Jnet and TVO are not powerless in the face of these oppressive regulations. Thanks to the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal statute that prohibits the federal government from burdening an individual’s religious exercise, Jnet and TVO would likely be granted an exemption to the anti-blocking rule. . . .

A court finding that the network-neutrality rules harm Jnet and TVO’s religious liberty would implicitly acknowledge that these broadband providers possess editorial discretion in controlling the content over their networks. But that is precisely what the FCC denied in countering First Amendment challenges to the Open Internet Order. To escape constitutional scrutiny, the Commission declared that broadband providers were mere “dumb pipes,” charged with blindly transmitting content pursuant to the Internet user’s requests. But as is clear from the case of Jnet and TVO, this is a myopic portrayal of the speech interests at stake, and network neutrality imposes serious burdens on broadband providers’ editorial discretion.

Read more at CapX

More about: Freedom of Speech, Internet, Law, Politics & Current Affairs, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, U.S. Constitution

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship