Is Internet access and online freedom of expression a basic human right? The United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously backed that notion in a resolution passed Thursday.
The resolution says that all people should be allowed to connect to and express themselves freely on the Internet. All 47 members of the Human Rights Council, including notoriously censorship-prone countries such as China and Cuba, signed the resolution.
China’s support for the resolution came with the stipulation that the “free flow of information on the Internet and the safe flow of information on the Internet are mutually dependent,” as Chinese delegate Xia Jingge told the Council in a sign that the country isn’t about to tear down the so-called “Great Firewall of China.”
The concept was first affirmed by a U.N. agency, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in 2003. The ITU has recently come under fire after rumors arose that member states were preparing proposals to give the United Nations more control over the Internet ahead of a December conference. The ITU has rejected many of those claims.
Internet access as a human right has since been supported by several of the Internet’s most well-known proponents, including Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.
“[It's] an empowering thing for humanity to be connected at high speed and without borders,” Berners-Lee told the BBC in April of last year while reflecting on the Internet’s role in the Arab Spring uprisings.
The Human Rights Council is a United Nations body that monitors human rights progress and violations across all member countries. It has previously called the right to freedom and expression “one of the essential foundations of a democratic society” and has recognized the Internet’s importance in the “promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
A separate United Nations report called Internet access a human right in June of last year.
Is Internet access a basic human right? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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