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article imageShould Internet access become a human right?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 21, 2016 in Internet
Is the Internet so embedded in the lives of so many people, acting as the main way for information exchange, that to deny access to everyone in the world is a breach of human rights? The United Nations thinks so.
In formal terms, the Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP.) This enables billions of devices to be connected worldwide. Through this network, the Internet delivers a range of services, including inter-linked hypertext documents; the World Wide Web; electronic mail; telephony; and file sharing networks. The origins of the Internet can be traced back to the 1960s, although its popularity as a social network arguably began with British scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, when the foundations of the web were laid down.
Over the past three decades the global use of the Internet has risen exponentially, with billions connected and sharing images, posts, mails and stories (with Digital Journal being a prime example of the rapid dissemination of key news stories.)
Despite the billions of people accessing the Internet there remain pockets of the world that do not have access, including many people in the developing world; and there are several countries that attempt to restrict or control the content that users have access to — such as in China.
The number of Internet users at any one time can be seen via the website Internet Live Stats (a phenomenal 3,417, 209, 810 at the time this article was penned.) Despite such a number, it is estimated, according to Digital Trends, that 60 percent of the world’s population does not have access to the Internet. This equates to around 7.2 billion people. In the Least Developed Countries only one in every 10 individuals has regular access to the Internet — there is also more access achieved by men than women, and by the wealthier members of society.
Due to the lack of access and suppressive tactics by certain governments, the United Nations (U.N.) has declared that “online freedom” is a “human right”, and one that must be protected. This was in the form of resolution A/HRC/32/L.20.
In July 2016 the U.N. issued a declaration, cementing this view. The resolution indicates the importance of "applying a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the internet and for the internet to be open, accessible and nurtured".
The resolution did not receive universal backing, with several countries rejecting the resolution. Notably these were Russia, China and South Africa.
Speaking with Wired, Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of civil liberties group Article 19 said of the U.N. resolution: “The resolution is a much-needed response to increased pressure on freedom of expression online in all parts of the world.”
He further added: “From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalizing legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online.”
More about Internet access, Human Rights, Freedom, Computers