Monsey man invents filter for Tesla browser, but it requires tampering with the hardware too

The $1,500 service disables the browser and “all other things that are not permitted”

Screengrab from Lighko website

Aug 28, 2023 8:15 AM


Many Haredi rabbis discourage using the internet, making exceptions only when users install filtering software programmed according to their moral standards. But now that the internet can be browsed from many different types of devices, leaders face a challenge in enforcing content restrictions.

Tesla cars and their internet-connected features, too, have encountered opposition from some Haredi leaders. In April, for example, Haredi media outlets reported that Ger Hasidic rabbis had banned their followers from purchasing or using Tesla cars. Now, some Haredim are being offered another choice. Businessman Pinchas Werzberger of a new Monsey-based company called Lighko designed a filter that will disable certain functions of Tesla cars, according to his interview with Yiddish-language Haredi broadcaster Kol Mevaser.

The filter disables features that Haredim may consider potentially damaging or immodest, such as a web browser or social media. "Instead of going through the software, we went to the hardware and disabled the connection to the Internet, that basically you can't use it, only the maps still work and the app can still connect, so you can still unlock the car and things like that,” Werzberger said. "You can't use the browser and all other things that are not permitted." 

According to Tesla user support groups, disabling the internet connection would keep the maps from updating, make it so that navigation and full self-driving mode don’t work, and break the function that helps drivers find available charging stations. According to Tesla’s website, damage or malfunction caused by “any repair, alteration or modification of the vehicle” will not be covered by the product’s warranty.

Werzberger declined an interview request from Shtetl, but told Kol Mevaser he has been working on the filter for over half a year. Installation takes a day, so owners will have to drop off their vehicles. According to Lighko’s website, the filter works for Tesla Model 3 and Model Y and costs $1,500.

The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y both have a 15-inch touchscreen through which users can access apps like YouTube, Netflix, TikTok and more. With Standard Connectivity, which comes with all Tesla cars, users can access most features over Wi-Fi. For $9.99 per month, users can install Premium Connectivity and access features using a cellular network. Purchasers of Model S, Model X, Model Y and Model 3 receive a Premium Connectivity trial at delivery, according to Tesla’s website.

Tesla use may be increasingly common among Haredim, according to Tesla owner David Wieder, who grew up in the Satmar community and still travels once or twice a week to Kiryas Joel.

“It’s getting more and more common now that it’s easier to get one and you don’t need to wait that long to get one,” Wieder said. “I would say, in Kiryas Joel, I’ve seen at least 10 or 15.”

Haredi leaders have long worked to shield their followers from accessing information that they fear might lead them astray, and Haredim who are caught breaking rabbis’ rules can face serious consequences. Some Haredi yeshivas make students’ parents agree not to use cell phones without web filters, or else risk their children’s expulsion. 

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