U.N. Report: Internet is a basic human right

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A United Nations report for the Human Rights Council has declared the Internet is a basic human right, and that any censorship and attempts to disconnect users from it is in a human rights violation and is illegal in international law.

The report is against countries that have disconnected users on violations of intellectual properties, especially on the UK’s Digital Economy Act 2010 and France’s “three-strikes law”; with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression “alarmed by proposals to disconnect users”.

On filtering, the report notes that it is indeed a violation of international law:

While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on
the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely.
The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of
the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property
rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

He does admit, however, that blocking child pornography is the only clear exception where blocking is justified. However does note that states should instead focus their efforts in prosecuting those responsible for the production and dissemination of child pornography, just not only block it.

The UN report does also have serious implications at home and even to our neighbours in New Zealand. The Australian Government plans to still introduce a national wide-scale filter for “Refused Classification” rather than targeting at specific areas, such as child pornography. Across the Tasman, however, sees a plan to cut internet access to users for six months as punishment for intellectual property violations.

The Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression also notes that the Internet is guaranteed protection under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as it:

(a) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference;

(b) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice;

(c) The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(d) for respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(e) for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

The report also reasons the Internet is a human right because of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, noting that it was drafted with the foresight to include and to accommodate future technological developments.

You can read the full report below: