Human Rights and the Internet
Week of 13th July 2020
In 2013, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook asked the question of whether “Connectivity is a human right”, with this connectivity inferred to be internet access although without explicitly stating so. It was then declared in 2016 by the UN that it is a human right to freedom of opinion and expression on the internet. Since then, there has been more discussion as to whether access to the internet itself ought to be a basic human right.
The father of internet, Vinton Cerf, seems not to think so, separating out clearly internet access itself vs all the things you can do because of internet. To understand his view:
Vinton G. Cerf’s “Internet Access is Not a Human Right”
The Labour party of the UK government seems to think not only is internet access a human right, but an affordable one too (with incentive to political success attached to it):
Merten Reglitz’s “Why internet access has become a human right”
And lastly, a human right that should also be monetized:
John Thornhill’s “Internet access is both a human right and a business opportunity”
From the web:
From our Chief Opinionator:
Is library access a human right?
I imagine the internet as a big library where people can check out unlimited supplies of books and materials of all sorts. Some books need to be paid to be checked out while most others are free. In the library is also a notice board for people to post all sorts of messages for all sorts of purposes. Selling or buying an item. Looking for a date or a spouse. Advertising an item. Expressing an opinion. Inviting people to a party. Etc… And one is also allowed to deposit your books or any books into the collection for others to check out.
I then ask, what kind of restrictions would there be:
Is the library available for anyone to enter and browse and check out its reading material?
Is there a cost to entering the library or is it free? If there is a cost, how high?
Once someone gains access into the library, can anyone also upload information onto the notice board, or publish any book they wish from the publishing corner?
A library full of information that does not allow anyone to enter is as good as not having a library at all. Or a library with a wealth of information that requires an expensive membership also restricts the flow of such information. Or a library whose content is controlled where one isn’t allowed to post on the notice board or deposit your books to benefit others, mean only a limited amount of information will be spread.
Now let’s translate that to the internet.
If the purpose of the internet is about the world connecting, then it is important to maximise the path of information flow, through both providing the freedom to post, express, advertise, etc… to providing unlimited access at an affordable price, and even at an affordable price, that there is such infrastructure in place for the public to gain access. It shouldn’t only be whether the freedom of expression and opinion is a human right, nor only whether access to the internet is a human right, but a combination of both. And once it’s established that they are indeed human rights, then each government who agrees with such should make internet access as cheap (or free) as possible so that the cost shouldn’t be a deterrent of anyone from exercising his/her human right.
Each government can have its own view on how the internet should be used, but when discussing whether access to the internet is a human right or not, it is important to remember that the internet is like a library. The content, as well as exchange of that content, are just as important as whether you are allowed into that library itself.