Net access is a ‘human right’. Really?

Just seen this story on BBC News. A survey has found that 80% of us think getting online is a ‘human right’. (I felt like pointing that out to the night porter when the advertised wifi in our rooms didn’t work this morning.) I’m suprised, and am very interested to hear from those of you who’d argue this is the case. Does net access now fall into the same category as fredom of speech and access to food?

28 Responses to “Net access is a ‘human right’. Really?”

  1. March 8, 2010 at 13:11

    Like other necessary rights ‘net access’ is really an essential ‘human right’ for all human beings irrespective of their differences of any sort.

  2. 2 @guykaks
    March 8, 2010 at 13:30

    I agree with you 100%..Soon it will be abasic need like food etc..What amazes me is in the developing nations where access to the internet is illusive and unheard off.What happens to this forgotten corners of the world?

  3. 3 Steve Skeete
    March 8, 2010 at 14:09

    The idea that “Net access is a “human right” is probably being laughed at by people experiencing real hardship across the world. Undoubtedly, the Net is important because of all the various media it incorporates, but to say that without it one is deprived of something basic and fundamental to life is ludicrous.

    But then again, what is not a “Right” these days? I heard someone say that hungry people in Chile had a “right” to ransack stores and supermarkets in search of food, and such persons should not be referred to as “looters”. So now, apparently, it is a “Right” to steal if you are hungry! What about the owners of the properties being “patronised” by the hungry? What rights do they have? The right to remain silent ?

    I can just imagine some poor family in Haiti or Ethiopia living off less than US$1.00 a day, unable to feed, house, clothe or educate their children, but who wants above all things to have access to the Net.

    Only well fed, housed, clothed and educated person with lots of leisure time on their hands could carry out reseach of this kind. I supposed they will tell me that’s their right!

  4. 4 T
    March 8, 2010 at 14:15

    Yes it is. Because consider the alternatives.

    If News Corp. or some other megacorporation can gain control, how would that improve it? China monitors their citizens online activity. The States lecture them about “freedom of speech.” Yet Obama is doing the exact same monitoring. All to protect us from the Taliban (who are responsible for 9/11).

    Besides, does WHYS want their audience to have to pay for their content?

  5. 5 gary indiana
    March 8, 2010 at 14:19

    Free communication is a human right; doing it via a particular medium isn’t.

  6. 6 Subhash C Mehta
    March 8, 2010 at 14:23

    The “Net-access” is a human right as long as the user doesn’t become the abuser, and is to be deserved by way of his/her responsibility of being discreet and mindful of the general good of all the societies in the world.

  7. 7 patti in cape coral
    March 8, 2010 at 14:25

    Wow, I never thought of net access as a human right before. I think that it is nearly essential for homework assignments nowadays, even at the elementary school level, so there should be free access to internet if it is required for homework. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but nearly all libraries here have free internet access. I’m not sure if I’m ready to place it on the same level as freedom of speech and access to food, however.

  8. March 8, 2010 at 14:38

    It’s a bit like the monumental philosophical question, “Are their natural rights?”

    It’s a lengthy argument.

    Let me just point out that to own a computer, and then to access the net costs money. If you haven’t a computer and have to use the Internet Cafes that too costs money. There are many, many poor people in our 21stC so called modern liberal democracy here in the UK who are too poor to avail themselves of this machine and its cyber connections. It’s hard for some outside the UK to realise that there are many, many Londoners here who have never used the tube, too expensive, and more people across this country who cannot afford a bus fare let alone a computer.

    Worldwide there must be even more people who are in this position with no functional access to this modern technology, and even more so, you can guarantee, where it is marginally available there are females who will be the last kind of people allowed to access it.

    When this modern cyber technology first came out it was trumpeted as democratic everyone, they said would have a computer. However it’s socially divisive, culturally divisive, gender divisive. Word wide it depends on money, class, and gender as to who gets the access to computers.

    There is no democracy with computers, it’s history is following the same pattern as access to reading, writing, paper and pencil were in during the past. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    Is it a human right? Well in practical terms of you haven’t got access to one and the ability to use it you cannot take part in your country’s democracy or take part in demolishing your country’s dictatorship, you therefore would not be able to access your human rights if you had any.

  9. 9 Ibrahim in UK
    March 8, 2010 at 15:08

    I wouldn’t have thought so at first glance. Individuals can survive and contribute to society freely and comfortably without internet, without tv, without even a computer. I hope this doesn’t spawn a new genre of international humans rights legal cases: “Jimmy vs unnamed ISP”
    (Probably) More people use mobile phones than use the internet, so is a mobile phone a human right?
    What is the criteria for something to be a human right?

  10. 10 Roy, Washington DC
    March 8, 2010 at 15:12

    Does internet access fall into the same “human rights” category as food? Please tell me you’re kidding. One is essential for survival, one isn’t.

    (In fact, there are people out there who would probably benefit from going without internet access for a while.)

  11. March 8, 2010 at 15:18

    Access to the internet should be considered as a human fundamental right when it comes to education as many fields can be taught better and faster through net sites which give the opportunity to further one’s skills and knowledge. It is rather shameful that in developed countries, schools are equipped with the internet while in poor countries, students, in many areas, have classes in open air where the chalkboard is stuck on a tree.

    As equal opportunities fundamentally come through education, there should be equal means to get it.

    At the personal level, one has the right to get and spread information without censorship, as long as the information calls for coexistence and peace and doesn’t violate the principles of human rights.

    So the threat facing the internet is censorship from governments that don’t allow free access to information. It’s a violation of human rights if a government allows net access and at the same time, it uses it to imprison its people within it by dictating to them what they should or shouldn’t know or say.

  12. 12 pendkar
    March 8, 2010 at 15:50

    Here in India (mobile) phones are just becoming accessible to the masses and that make a difference for the better. Where the mobile network goes, the internet is only a few steps behind. Are people entitled to internet access? The answer depends on the aspect of usage.

    There is a lot that can be done using the internet – make governments accountable to people, prevent corruption,create transparency. Internet based technology can empower people, hence depriving them is unjust. People have a right to ask their respective governments to provide internet based governance services.

    Internet access as a fundamental right? If the connectivity exists and people can afford the connection, then preventing access is an infringement of a fundamental right. Also, if a government or any authority wilfully tries to keep it out of reach of people, it is an infringement of a right. If a government does not care to make access affordable, that too is a kind of infringement.

  13. March 8, 2010 at 15:57

    Yes,one has a right to use the net but,I would not go so far as to call it a human right,it is not essential to living.I always thought that my rights were enshrined within the law,and the tenets of democracy.Where you will find your free speech,freedom of choice,freedom of movement and freedom of the press,which must include the internet by interpretation.

  14. 14 John in Salem
    March 8, 2010 at 16:14

    No. Human rights are things that are fundamental to life and should never be denied under any circumstance, like access to food and medical care. Freedom of speech doesn’t qualify.
    There is a tendency of Americans to think of the rights granted to us by our constitution as being “human rights” but they’re really luxuries since all can be suspended at any time by a declaration of martial law.

  15. 15 steve
    March 8, 2010 at 16:41

    I have a feeling anyone who thinks net access is a human right probably also cried last night when Avatar didn’t win best picture. Grow up people.

  16. 16 steve
    March 8, 2010 at 16:42

    Let me guess, “human right” in this context means “free”. So the poor are going to want the better off to provide their internet access for them.. More handouts..

  17. 17 John Bentrz
    March 8, 2010 at 16:45

    On an American chat show years ago, Malcolm Muggeridge made the assertion that mass transportation was a Constitutional right since without it a citizen could not find jobs in the urban sprawl. It is not as bold now as first spoken.

    The question now is whether that right evolves into a privilege.

    People should have access to jobs in the exurb, but does that mean they should have the privilege of a limousine. Personal duty to participate in society is further muddled with government mandate to regulate society to accommodate the disabled citizen. An able-bodied person does not get the door-to-door bus service that the disabled person does. Most adults have no problem with that seeming disparity of access.

    There is universal access to food (right) but everybody does not own a farm or allotment (privilege).

    There is universal access to the internet (right) but there is not universal convenience (privilege). Some people must go to the library or cybercafe because they do not have either a computer or web connection requiring a telephone or broadband connection.

    At one time you could go outside your home and shout Help! and neighbours would assist. In some neighbourhoods that is not only impossible but dangerous because it makes one appear a wounded prey, far too attractive to a criminal.

    So, is having a home telephone a right?

    Yes, everybody has a right to the internet to the same extent that everybody has a right to basic education which is a benefit to an individual but a necessity to a society.

    No, everybody does not have equal convenience. That’s a privilege requiring personal decisions and the marketplace.

    Some of the apprehension is not economic but politic because an informed society may be a less gullible society.

  18. 18 Andrew in Australia
    March 8, 2010 at 16:50

    Give me a break.

    A human right??? Freedom from crime, freedom from war, freedom from hunger, education (maybe) are things to fight for.. but internet access?

    The world survived before the mass dissemination of porn, attention seekers and bigots became omnipresent.

    We all could access information from other sources – the internet is not always going to provide valid information is it – so to say the internet denial is a denial of information is just plain exaggeration.

  19. 19 Clamdip
    March 8, 2010 at 17:06

    The question is about human expression. Should people be able to express themselves on the internet without it being used against them in the case of finding a job, being accepted into university, working in government.. Countries often tout that their citizens live in a free country but its not really the case. If you are critical and voice the truth or you want your country to truly live up to its ideals, you are shunned, obstracized and labelled a miscreant. Should people be allowed to freely express themselves or be unwitting participants in corruption? This is the essential human dilemna. If governments and politicians were better stewards then citizens wouldn’t complain about them and they wouldn’t need to shut people down. So, yes, the internet and human expression are basic human rights and should be protected.

  20. 20 Tony from Singapura
    March 8, 2010 at 17:07

    I dont recall ever a discussion on the subject of access to telephone, telegraph or postal services as a “Human Right”.

    You wont die without access to the net, it is even possible you will live longer because the flow of information into your body will slow down and your stress levels will be reduced.

    So no, network access is a service that is provided on a commercial basis and just like postal services and telephonic/telepgraphic services you pay for them if you can afford them.

  21. 21 nora
    March 8, 2010 at 17:41

    Life without the internet puts an individual in a subclass in the US. A school child without the internet is forced to book time in the LA library in advance, as there are no open terminals for walk-ins. The state budget crisis is cutting libraries, so the poor suffer the most.

    Jobs, housing and information all require internet access. Online tax filers get their returns first. Even playgroups in neighborhoods are hard to find without the internet.
    Communication is a human right, and democracy is limited if only some can play.

  22. 22 viola
    March 8, 2010 at 17:54

    It’s somewhat akin to the essential ability to read or do arithmetic. On the other hand, I remember before the current economic crisis reading an opinion that said access to credit should be a right. I doubt anyone is saying that now. Just illustrates how necessary it is to carefully examine what becomes a right.

  23. 23 teej
    March 8, 2010 at 17:58

    This is a statement in flux.
    As more and more services migrate on line, there will come a point whereby it will need to be a right. Already, many governments are moving certain procedures on line and i see in the future that those who are unable to access on line services will be at a disadvantage. Already in the poorest of countries, Cel phones are ubiquitous even where poverty is and low standards of living are rife. Travel through africa to witness this.
    So, yes, there will be a time in the foreseeable future when no access to the web will be equitable with poverty and therefore become a necessary right.

  24. 24 Tom D Ford
    March 8, 2010 at 19:30

    A right? I’ll have to think about that for awhile.

  25. 25 T
    March 9, 2010 at 02:00

    To be able to enjoy all the human rights you deserve, you need access to knowledge. Knowledge is power. If someone else controls the Net, they control your access to knowledge. And can deny you your human rights.

    I rest my case.

  26. 26 sumedh
    March 9, 2010 at 07:11

    i am amazed when we shall get internet as a right(i live in Nepal)wher almost 40 pc are illiterate and almost the same kive under untolerable poverty……in such case when we debate in a world forum we need to,,,,,make the dimensions broader i reckon,,,

  27. 27 Nate, Portland OR
    March 9, 2010 at 08:13

    The net required and requires large investments. The people who made the inventions and do the work deserve compensation. It is not the equivalent to free speech (which I would argue is a human right). Nobody has the right to free access to the infrastructure and services that make up the net, any more than they have the right to have somebody else print a flier/newspaper/etc without compensation.

    That said, it is a basic right in the sense that if you can afford the cost of admission, you should be able to get on and read and say whatever you want.

  28. 28 JanB
    March 9, 2010 at 11:28

    No, internet is not a human right on its own, but not having your access to internet obstructed is.

    So it’s not the job of the government to provide everyone with internet, but the government has no right to obstruct your access to internet.

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