UN declares internet a human right

By Alex Veeneman on July 6, 2012

The UN declared the internet a human right, in a resolution passed July 5.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user transcam)

The United Nations has declared that internet is a human right. In a unanimous resolution passed by the body’s Human Rights Council July 5, it signifies that the internet and the freedom of expression online is a basic human right worldwide.

Eileen Donahoe, the Ambassador of the United States to the Human Rights Council, told NPR that it needed to be protected. “And to the same extent that you have to protect and promote traditional freedom of expression in the offline world, you have to protect freedom of expression in the online space,” Donahoe said. “People feel that regardless of their level of economic development, there’s this sense all over the world that the Internet is really the engine of economic growth and job creation, etcetera.”

According to a report from Mashable, support came also from China and Cuba, two countries that have been known internationally for censorship. The Mashable report adds that the claim was originally in place since 2003, originating from the International Telecommunications Union, an agency within the UN.

But Donahoe adds that there is a specific reason for the importance of the resolution. “The reason that resolution outcome today was so important is that it almost established the human rights principals as the foundation for all other conversations in international fora on the Internet,” Donahoe said.

The concept of the internet as a human right has received support from many, including the founder of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He told the BBC earlier this year that the internet was “an empowering thing for humanity to be connected at high speed and without borders”. Berners-Lee added however that there was a threat to neutrality on the internet. “You might want to go to a site, but it’s not politically correct, religiously correct, or… commercially correct,” Berners-Lee said.

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