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

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

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria