The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Human rights: Will access to the internet become a fundamental human right?

The internet age has been upon us for some time and, as computers get smaller, more portable and less expensive, many are asking whether access to the internet should be a fundamental human right.

As more and more of our lives are played out online, could denying access to the internet eventually become such a restriction of civil liberty as to constitute a breach of human rights?

A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council looked at exactly this question.

The report's conclusions are a little ambiguous, but the Special Rapporteur was clear on one thing: that denying access to the internet will always be a breach of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, namely the right to freedom of expression.

However, believing that access to Google, Facebook and FindLaw is as fundamental as the right to family and freedom of association is by no means a unanimous opinion.

Vint Cerf, vice-president at internet search powerhouse Google is not convinced.

"The best way to characterise a human right is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure, such as freedom of speech or freedom of access to information - and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time. Indeed, even the United Nations report acknowledged that the internet was valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself," he wrote.

Amnesty International USA responded however, criticising Mr Cerf's views on the internet as a means not an end.

"Access to your local town square is not a human right in its isolation but no one can deny that it is almost inseparable from the right to association and expression," they blogged.

In the end, some might ask whether it matters at all. JD Rucker, another blogger thinks that it does.

"Elevating the internet to the status of an inalienable right will result in increased opportunity, improved education and an end to hostilities based on ignorance," he said.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Human rights (FindLaw)

Find local human rights solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)