Man at His Best

Internet Shutdowns Are A Human Rights Violation

UN resolution condemns intentional disruption of internet access.

BY Jason S Ganesan | Jul 5, 2016 | Technology

Wikipedia Commons

Less than a month after the US Court of Appeals backed net neutrality, the UN Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution that makes internet access a basic human right. Not really, but kinda.

What the council actually did was vote to condemn intentional disruptions or preventions of citizens’ access to or dissemination of information on the internet, calling it a violation of international human rights law—specifically, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the freedom of opinion and expression.

In short, it refers to when a country deliberately shuts down the internet (or part of it) to stop its citizens from accessing the internet. Like what Erdoğan does in Turkey every year, probably after cleaning out the attic and doing his taxes.

This means that whatever rights are considered basic offline should also be protected online. The resolution also recognises that access to the internet is a vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, calls for the promotion of digital literacy, and encourages internet tools be employed to bridge the gender divide.

Almost all countries voted in favour of the resolution. Except for the usual rights-stomping suspects, like Russia and China, and suspects to a slightly lesser degree, South Africa, India, and Indonesia. Of course, Saudi Arabia--who are still sitting on the Council, by the way—opposed the resolution as well.

Of course, the UN cannot actually make member states accord to its resolutions, as shown by the number of dissenters ‘disappeared’. It can only choose to call authoritarian measures dick moves, and hope that that resonates enough to make member states draft fairer national laws, or individual supreme court judges to take it upon themselves and let resolutions inform their judgements.

It’s a step in the right direction, but don’t start assembling lawyers to take your ISP and government to the Hague for blocking porn just yet.

 


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