Roar of the LOLcats: Internet Access is a Human Right, Says UN Report

By Valerie Ross | June 6, 2011 2:20 pm

What’s the News: Disconnecting people from the Internet or unduly restricting the flow of information online is a violation of human rights and goes against international law, according to a United Nations report (pdf) released Friday.

The report, written by UN special rapporteur Frank La Rue, highlights “the unique and transformative nature of the Internet not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also a range of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole,” its summary says. Furthermore, the report specifies two dimensions of Internet acces: unrestricted access to online content and the availability of sufficient technology and infrastructure “to access the Internet in the first place.”

What’s the Context:

  • The report follows in the wake of—and specifically takes to task—laws passed last year in France and the United Kingdom, which allow these countries to cut off Internet access of people illegally sharing files.
  • Several countries have severely limited Internet access during the recent political unrest in the Middle East. Egypt shut down nearly all Internet access in the country in January shortly after the revolution there began, and Internet service in Bahrain slowed in February as protests spread, likely due to government restrictions. As Wired‘s Threat Level notes, two-thirds of Syria’s Internet access went dark the same day the UN report was released, as unrest there escalated.
  • This report is not the first to recognize Internet access as a human right. Estonia, Finland, Costa Rica and—in a strange contradiction—France have all passed laws or declarations to that effect. Nearly four-fifths of adults from 26 countries in a recent BBC poll agreed that access to the Internet is a fundamental right.

What Does It Mean:

  • It’s not yet clear to what extent, much less how, the UN will defend Internet access as a human right. The report “underlines the applicability of international human rights norms and standards on the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the Internet as a communication medium,” suggesting that disconnecting people from the Internet could be treated just like other human rights violations.
  • Making sure everyone can get online won’t be easy, as the report readily admits. “Given that access to basic commodities such as electricity remains difficult in many developing States,” it says, “the Special Rapporteur is acutely aware that universal access to the Internet for all individuals worldwide cannot be achieved instantly.”
  • The report outlines general steps to ensure this right is protected, saying, “States should adopt effective and concrete policies and strategies—developed in consultation with individuals from all segments of society, including the private sector as well as relevant Government ministries—to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all.” Given this is a general, non-binding report, just what those strategies and policies should be, and who will assure they’re implemented, remains to be decided.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / United Nations

  • Pissed Citizen

    What the F???? How can the United Nations say that access to clean, clear, drinking water is NOT a fundamental human right, but then say that access to the internet is? Clean, clear water is a free product derived from Nature. Internet access is a service, provided by companies that expect to be paid for the service they provide, so they can stay in business.

    I’m so happy the United Nations have their priorities in order….

  • FreeLunch

    Good to hear. I just sent my Comcast bill to the UN.

  • Greg

    They aren’t trying to say that it’s inhumane if a country doesn’t provide internet access, just that it’s wrong to actively deny users from accessing it. I wonder what China makes of this, considering their obvious internet issues.

  • moderateGuy

    So is China a human rights violator because it restricts access to Internet? How about Cuba? Iran? Venezuela? just about any member of UN Human Rights Council?

  • Miro

    I’m just waiting to see the day they start throwing free notebooks with Wi-Fi enabled everywhere…
    And I can’t help but wonder what teens will say when their parents put parental control over porn sites, maybe cite the “unrestricted access to online content” part up there.

  • Aaron

    @Pissed Citizen:

    I don’t know where you are from, but where I live clean, clear drinking water is a product provided by companies that expect to be paid for the service they provide, so they can stay in business. Sure, there is fresh water all around in nature–it sits in lakes, flows through rivers, and even falls from the sky, but I wouldn’t drink any of it without prior treatment, not for fear of man-made pollution, mind you, but rather to avoid infections from the microorganisms that have been living in it for eons.

    Also, a quick search immediately turned up this:

    Note the date, July 28, 2010. It seems that the UN got around to this before dealing with the right to exchange information, and so, by your definition, has their priorities in the proper order. Of course, I would expect this global organization to tackle multiple issues simultaneously, but that’s just me . . .

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Good! Internet is like breathing, or education; a necessary and liberating mass commodity.

    @ PC: What difference does it make if it is ubiquitous in nature or in society, if it is liberating? Many or most freedoms have providers, which have to be payed, by taxes (democracy, legal system/police, education, …) or rates (say, private education).


    Death to the evil governments of the earth. Joy to the rise of the people!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  • video boss

    Internet is definitely our right. Cant imagine a world without internet!

  • zachary

    A douchy troll appears, he uses stupidity, it’s not effective.

  • Tony

    The Collective is the only true thought. When the U.S. is transformed into a worker’s state then there will be global peace. Communism will save America and the world. America must look to President Obama as a guide to a more natural State that will bring about global collective equality. All must have the smae and be the same. Follow your leaders who know the only truth is in a Worker’s State. If there is no Working Families Party in your State you must organize with other workers to help the WFP. If not then vote Democratic as we change America and bring hope to more of those who are out down by the rich and business. The rich are not paying their fair share. Vote for higher taxes so that the workers can share what is theirs. The worker’s labor built America, not the rich. Tax the rich and shut the large companies. We need to all work in a more Collective State. Grow your own food, make your own shoes. Shut the power plants. Stop drilling oil. Shut the banks. We must unite and Support President Obama.

  • joasnosmae

    It’s TEH LOLcats

  • Lynn

    Power to the people!

  • Man, But Sarah’s Hot

    Of course the UN’s position would naturally be that Internet access is a human right! If it was my ultimate goal to control ALL avenues of social and political communication on the planet, this would be my position as well. Does anyone actually believe these thugs are adopting this position becuase they support the downtrodden? Yeah, right!

  • LVGreen

    This makes sense when put in the context of our own first amendment and the “freedom of the press.” Being able to print and disseminate opinions and information is a protected right because that was the greatest extent with which one could do that given the technology of the time. Today in the information age, internet access is the greatest extent with which one can disseminate opinions and information, hence free societies need to adopt “freedom of the internet post,” or “freedom to post.”

  • Rocky

    To Tony. As I read your post I thought surely you were writing with tongue-in-cheek.
    If your post is serious please let us know your general location and give us a summary of your education.

  • Joyla38

    To Rocky and Tony:
    Rocky, I agree with you. This guy Tony is way out in left field. He must be working the press to turn people against Obama and the working class Americans that are suffering under a system that has nothing to do with political parties.
    DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN HIJACKED BY CAPITALISM! Our US government is owned by the Wall Street Financial Wizards that are TOO BIG TO FAIL.
    Please see these two movies: THE ONE PERCENT and recently released on DVD: INSIDE JOB.
    You will soon see that whatever you are up to with this Communist rhetoric and WFP, you are pissing in the wind.
    BTW Tony, you sound like a skin-head 8th grade educated Southern high school grad that is upset because he is out of work. (They give out HS diplomas in many Southern states but are so far behind the Federal Gov. allows them to issue them if they can pass a test geared to 8th GRADE. As a former teacher, I can attest to this.)
    That was why Rocky was wondering where you hailed from, “n’est pas Rocky?”
    And Tony, Why go Communist when you could tell the truth and say you lean more towards Neo-Nazi Fascism and crooning THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN?
    No harm, no fowl, I’m in LouseyAnna with Mr. Jingles as Governor, I can relate.

    Rocky is exactly right, you need to get your GED and hop onto one of those College Grants that are being touted all over the Internet. Or is ignorance bliss? You sound pretty angry. And dear, don’t expect things to get any better.
    You may be one of the early sprouts of the revolution of the poor masses which THE ONE PERCENT fear so badly.

    Something is rising alright and it is all over the US and the rest of the world too,


    I pay them approximately 1/4 of my monthly income for this PRIVILEGE, which I have just been informed by the UN is actually MY HUMAN RIGHT! HOW DROLL!
    Communication, The INTERNET is something I am happy to pay for as long as I have a dime left in my pocket because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! And Education is something they can’t take away from you. So Tony,
    and my advice to all those who can’t find a job is: Get on the EDUCATION GRANT Bandwagon.
    The U.S. will pay you to go to school, they will support you while you are in school,
    IF YOU CAN PASS A GED, General Education Diploma. It will not be geared to 8th Graders, so get some tutoring if you must and keep studying until you pass it.
    “The future belongs, the future belongs , the future belongs, TO US!” (words from Nazi youth song.)

  • Me

    Did you hear that Australian Government?! The UN says you have no right to filter our Internet as you plan to! Why would that stop you, though? You don’t seem to give two hoots about OUR rights or YOUR obligations with regard to UN related issues.

  • Happy Face

    I think what the UN is trying to say is that the government can’t slow down or completely shut down sites because they disagree with the current regimes point of view

  • http://google go_man

    why United Nations didnt clear about the cases of violations of human rights ? many cases like violations of human rights in many countries in the world ?


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