Is the Internet a Human Right?

3048 Words Oct 28th, 2011 13 Pages
Is The Internet a Human Right?
A Review and Assessment of Human Rights and the Internet.
It may seem blasé, or more probably naive, in this post dot-com-bust world to still hold out that “information is power” and, moreover, that the Internet is fundamentally different than any previous information technology. Perhaps I am guilty of such sentimentalities, but allow me at least for the sake of argument to hold on to a small hope that the Internet really is something new. It would then be true that information and indeed the Internet—the phenomenon as opposed to the Internet as an enabling tool towards other rights—should be a human right in and of itself.
There is an unexplained inequality in commonly accepted formulations of human rights.
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The UN has taken an initial step in this direction when it called for universal access to basic communication and information services. Noting that “knowledge, more than ever, is power,” the declaration “embraces the objective of establishing universal access to basic communication and information services for all” (UN Administrative Committee on Coordination, 1997). The 2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), convened by the UN Secretary General and organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), created another unique opportunity to advance a strong claim for the Internet as a human right. The intended outcome of the Summit, according to its website, is to “develop and foster a clear statement of political will and a concrete plan of action for achieving the goals of the Information Society, while fully reflecting all the different interests at stake.” The opening of the WSIS Declaration of Principles, coming out of the Geneva meeting, states a “commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society” premised on “respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UN WSIS 2002). It goes on to reaffirm Article 19 of the Universal Declaration. But neither the WSIS Declaration, nor the general dialogue in Geneva, advanced the discussion beyond this simple reference to the Universal Declaration, thus missing the opportunity to bring the Information Society and

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