The Internet is NOT a Human Right

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ICT+HRsBack in the summer, a report from the UN linked the Internet to Human Rights. This led many people to conclude that access to the Internet is a human right  -although the report did not really say this! I saw the author of the UN report in the IGF meetings in Nairobi last September and the same clarification was made. The Internet provides access to information and can promote participation, and it is in this fashion that it could be a tool for human rights. Being that as it may, “Internet Freedom” advocates use either version of the argument to promote their aims. And others then made the logical conclusion that Facebook is also a human right (and Twitter and Linkedin, etc.)

Today, Vint Cert, one of the “father’s” of the Internet along with Robert Khan, published an Op-Ed in the NY Times (http://tinyurl.com/79gz5an, short URL!) making this same distinction. Access to the Internet is not a human right but use of the Internet, as use of any other massive means of communication, can promote human (and civil) rights.  But the Internet (and I will add here mobile technologies) has created new ways in which all of us can engage with each other, network and promote international principles and goals. The transformative power of the new ICTs is what really can make a difference here.

Cerf’s piece then ends with a call to all engineers and those responsible for developing the new technologies to be more aware of the links between technology and what he calls civil rights – not exactly the same as human rights.

A missing link in this piece, and in many others that deal with this topic is that to economic, social and cultural rights as depicted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/). If the Internet can be used to promote article 19 of the UDHR, then it can surely be used to encourage all other rights included there.

Cheers, Raúl