Proposes mechanisms to classify information websites according to transparency, control and dialogue with users.
The Kasher Committee, that was appointed to crystallize ethical guidelines for the dissemination of securities-related information over the Internet, submitted its findings to the Chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, Moshe Tery. Tery appointed the committee two years ago with the objective of addressing – other than through criminal prosecution— cases in which web surfers attempted to induce others to engage in securities transactions through the publication of misleading information on financial websites. "These kind of securities investments, based on misrepresentation, can cause substantial financial damage to investors on the one hand and undermine public confidence in the integrity of the market on the other. These practices has generated a need for rules of conduct regarding the publication of information attributable to web users. The array of solutions to address these cases include, among other things, legislation, enforcement and self- regulation through adopting appropriate norms and ethics." Tery recommended establishing a mechanism for self-regulation along side existing options for criminal prosecution that the Israel Securities Authority can exercise to deal with these types of violations. This mechanism includes the formulation of an ethical code, for which he appointed the committee headed by Prof. Assa Kasher.
In addition to Prof. Kasher the committee included: Eytan Avriel (Themarker.com), Att. Aviv Eilon, Prof. Shifra Baruchson-Arbib (Bar Ilan University), Dr. Aviva Geva (Open University), Menachem Dolinsky (Bar Ilan University), Baruch Hinuch (Amutat Eshnav, i.e "People for Proper Internet Use"), Dr. Naama Carmi (International Center for Ethics and Human Values), Dr. Yotam Lurie (Ben Gurion University), Ziv Segal (Globes) and Att. Haim Ravia.
"The ethical code is designed to formalize appropriate rules of conduct and set normative boundaries for the dissemination of information on websites, which enable instant messaging", Tery wrote in the letter appointing the committee, "including, forums, talk-back systems, chats and any other site through which one can easily spread information that can affect capital market activity. The primary objectives of the ethical code are: to minimize the dispersion of misleading, partial or untimely disinformation parading as real or complete information; to encourage voluntary self-regulation, particularly of financial websites and websites providing financial information; to create a deterrent to users sending instant messages to these sites with a view to affecting the behavior of the consumers of this information; to educate the user community to the need to internalize awareness and caution regarding the inherent risks of using information attained from these platforms; to promote the credibility, accuracy, integrity, reliability and transparency of these websites and the activity conducted on them; and to align Israel with global trends to create normative restrains on web behavior."
In the course of its deliberations the committee invited experts from various fields, including the capital market, academia and information technology, to express their views on this issue. At the conclusion of these deliberations the committee set forth its recommendations.
These recommendations concern all websites that regularly publish information pertaining to securities traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, to companies directly linked with these securities or to the stock exchange itself, regardless if the site deals exclusively or only partially with this content.
From the committee's standpoint, the optimal state is one in which each relevant website announces on its home page, in a clear and prominent manner the current ethical profile of the site, or at least a link to its ethical profile statement. The site's ethical profile is reflected by how it responds to a series of questions concerning how it maintains ethical conduct regarding the dissemination of securities-related information. The questions and responses will be published on the site on behalf of the site manager and duly signed by its representative, in a clear and identifiable manner.
The series of questions relate to: the identity of the site operator; its transparency (i.e. links between the owners and executives of the site operator and the content it presents); principals serving in various capacities in the site's manager; the manager's policy regarding content disseminated through the site; its liability regarding content disseminated on its site by third-party contributors; the separation of texts appearing on the site on behalf of the manager from other text; control mechanisms that block or eradicate materials from external sources that are tainted with a veritable suspicion that it carries false information (or suspicion of a securities violation); the manager's willingness to open user forums and its policy regarding requirements for participant identification; the degree to which the manager encourages public interaction to the content appearing on the site; and the manager's policy regarding a set format for publishing material on its behalf in terms of content, form and style.
Website managers will be requested to address all these question in ranked responses ranging between 1 and 5. These rankings are not merely numbered, but designed to qualitatively describe the factual status in which the site finds itself.
The committee will be permitted to forward its recommendations to various parties related to the relevant websites and will encourage them to undertake the measures that will bring to them to publishing their ethical profile, which includes the primary profile proposed by the committee as well as any secondary profile. The committee will be permitted to recommend the creation, in conjunction with the relevant websites, a list of sites that have complied with the committee's recommendation to adopt the proposed ethical profile, which includes the profile of each site.
In addition, the committee seeks to recommend to relevant non-governmental bodies to appoint a public profession task force, such as the current committee, that will undertake addition measures towards attaining the intended objective. The task force will monitor relevant websites that have not published ethical profiles or have published profiles substantially different than the proposed primary profile and will consult with the site managers in an attempt to induce them to disclose the proposed ethical profile. In addition the task force will classify ethical profiles of the relevant websites and introduce a scoring system for each component derived from responses to the questionnaire: "gold" (5), "silver" (4), "bronze"(3), as well as an overall score integrating all components. The list and classifications will be published bi-annually.