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Author Topic: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.  (Read 3082 times)

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Online WolfyTopic starter

U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« on: June 04, 2011, 12:20:45 PM »
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/06/internet-a-human-right/

With how internet has become a very large part of basically everyone's lives, does this surprise you?

Offline Anjasa

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2011, 12:56:56 PM »
Wow, that's pretty fascinating to me! It could have much larger implications along the road.

Offline Xajow

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2011, 01:07:29 PM »
Arguing that IP laws should not be used to prevent people access to the internet is good. Not good is declaring that access to the internet is a human right.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2011, 01:08:36 PM »
Does that mean folks in NC can sue the broadband providers for trying to curtail their freedoms? North Carolina, with the pushing of the big cable and broadband providers, just put civil municipalities out of the broadband business and to make a move on co-ops that they will target next.


Offline Revolverman

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2011, 02:42:44 PM »
So... if you can't afford it... what happens then?

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2011, 03:01:15 PM »
So... if you can't afford it... what happens then?

What is providers are doing their best to deny you a suitable connection? (Such as my prior example). It's a tricky slope I'm sure but I'd use it as a way to put it to the companies who are trying to lock down everyone but themselves as providers.

I don't think it would really fly though. Be interesting to see how things go. Of course just because the UN says it is so you can't expect the member nations to respect it. i'm sure that China, Iran and other countries will continue 'regulating' their peoples access.

Offline Malefique

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2011, 04:27:51 PM »
It strikes me that the UN is trivialising human rights here.   I mean, are we going to see countries vilified in their statistics on human rights abuse because they simply haven't managed to get the internet to remote and inaccessible areas?  There are places which don't even have water or power, what the hell does the internet mean to them?  All this shows me is that the lawmakers at the UN are totally divorced from reality.   >:(

Offline Fabric

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2011, 04:39:06 PM »
I don't follow this at all. The report is calling on states not to block internet access rather than saying everyone should be given access to it.  "Human Right" is a bit misleading.

Offline Noelle

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2011, 04:55:49 PM »
Indeed, as Fabric said, the intent is right in the first line:

Quote
A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law.

I think it would be more vigilant to discuss the implications of this rather than the declaration itself. It's not just about having access to porn or chat rooms, the internet is also a massive collective of free information and a connection to the outside world, and for the uprisings in Egypt, it was a way for the outside to get in to see what was going on when it was difficult for journalists to effectively do their jobs.

As far as I can tell, this doesn't have much bearing against internet censorship a la China or an insufficient/nonexistent internet infrastructure, but rather purposely removing access during times of crisis.

Offline Fabric

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2011, 05:01:50 PM »
Indeed, as Fabric said, the intent is right in the first line:

I think it would be more vigilant to discuss the implications of this rather than the declaration itself. It's not just about having access to porn or chat rooms, the internet is also a massive collective of free information and a connection to the outside world, and for the uprisings in Egypt, it was a way for the outside to get in to see what was going on when it was difficult for journalists to effectively do their jobs.

As far as I can tell, this doesn't have much bearing against internet censorship a la China or an insufficient/nonexistent internet infrastructure, but rather purposely removing access during times of crisis.

Indeed.  It's more to do with freedom of information and access to said information than allowing every body in the world to go online- which is obviously decades away.

Offline Oniya

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2011, 05:58:21 PM »
As far as I can tell, this doesn't have much bearing against internet censorship a la China or an insufficient/nonexistent internet infrastructure, but rather purposely removing access during times of crisis.

Why would removing access via censorship (i.e., on a continual basis) not be worse than removing it 'in times of crisis' (which implies a temporary situation)?

Offline Noelle

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2011, 06:07:35 PM »
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't defend removal under arbitrary circumstances, either, but this provision doesn't really seem to address that, from what I can tell in the linked article. It mostly just seems reactionary to what's going on in the Middle East and North Africa.

Offline Oniya

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2011, 07:02:02 PM »
*nods*  More of a curiosity thing than accusing anyone of anything.  I was just thinking that in theory, it could possibly be used to nibble at those nation-wide nanny-filters - just probably not yet.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2011, 08:02:49 PM »
It was coming, and it makes sense - the web has become so much a part of our everyday lives, of access to news, opinions, education, public debate and business, that if internet access is suddenly withdrawn you're simply crippled in many places. It's not "force of habit" that matters here but plainly how the old analogue structures for bank transactions, paying your rent, looking for work and preparing an application, getting in-depth news, buying and booking anything from train journeys to books, have been rolled down. If you have to use the "old ways" now, they're often prohibitively expensive - I would have to pay an extra eight to ten bucks to even cash in a money order at the bank or post office counter, the same for paying a bill that way, and booking hotel nights or air tickets anywhere else than online is hardly even done anymore.

Would you even be able to take a decent degree at university today without having a pc and a connection at home? No matter how hard you worked, the others would outrun you before long and the professors would roll their eyes if you said "I could only sprinkle some information on the more recent developments here, you see - can't find that stuff in books and I don't have the technical means to look web information up from home". Anyone who's been a student knows a large part of the work has to be done outside of office hours, at home, there's only so much you can do at the department or at a uni library. Our parents may sometimes have been able to do it 80% on daytime, but their universities and career inroads looked completely different! So yes, it looks okay - though I agree the U.N. statement has probably been triggered by what's happening in the Middle East.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2011, 04:22:01 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2011, 09:00:56 PM »
An example in the concrete: I remember reading Eve Curie's book about her mother Marie Curie: how she arrived in Paris from backward Poland in 1892, only half literate in academic French, and how her growing aspirations in physics and chemistry soon made her slip into a routine where she spent endless hours at public libraries reading, then reading more at home from what she could pull along, subsisting on a minimum of food and sleep and having little of an existence outside of her studies. She took top degrees in both of her key subjects and a few years later went on to the legendary task of trying to isolate radium from tons of vaguely radioactive mining scrap gravel (and with very little real assistance from others except her husband).

It's an inspirational story but today it would be utterly implausible. Anyone who did that kind of thing these days, relying solely on printed books and on shutting yourself up with your notebooks and textbooks and the oil lamp of industriousness, cutting off contact with anyone else who wasn't as dedicated, and shunning any contact with what went on in your subject in the present, in the span in time not covered in the textbooks, except for what your teachers would tell you at lectures - you'd run into the wall, no matter how possessed of genius you were. It's simply not how studies are done any more, at least not until you've reached the doctoral diploma.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 09:11:39 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Xajow

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2011, 10:10:42 PM »
That still doesn't make it a human rights issue.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2011, 03:05:31 AM »
That still doesn't make it a human rights issue.

It does if you believe that "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - of making the most of your life and your gifts - is for everyone and not just for those who happen to live where the web is free and who have upper- or middle-class parents who can prepare the way, keep them connected and serviced with computers, smartphones etc until they have really made headway for themselves in the adult world. And unless you think the advantage of being born where you happen to have been born is something given by God, so that it takes no questioning.

Anyone of us could have been born in Niger, China, Burma or a Midwestern white trash family. It's not something you or I had a say in. That's why living conditions and access to good and plentiful information and education are an essential part of human rights, something everyone deserves. And these days, unlike fifty or a hundred years ago, making it through education and work is not simply about having a place in class, a library card, pen and writing pad and the dedication to read a lot. Without steady web access a student or a job applicant is simply going to be unable to give their best in a way that counts to their peers.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2011, 04:51:36 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Noelle

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2011, 08:04:52 AM »
Having a well-informed public rarely ends in disaster, and freedom of information and ability to communicate widely can make a big impact in a person's life, especially if they are low to no-income. This girl makes a point of writing about how having a laptop and wifi access at public places was a great asset while being homeless, and why sometimes you see homeless people who have a laptop or a phone. It's not that they aren't in a bad situation, it's that sometimes communication to the outside world is absolutely vital to trying to get out of where you are, especially with the rising prevalence of job applications online.

Having a public that's able to communicate when their government is threatening not just their freedoms, but their lives is vital, and bringing those who choose to act against that communication under duress to justice is also important to serve a model for others who might try and follow suit. There were leaders in...I want to say Morocco who saw what was going on in Egypt and chose to make reforms before things got bad for them, as well. Granted, last I checked there was some unrest in Rabat, but if you can persuade leaders to change peacefully, that's always a step up from a Mubarak or Gaddafi situation.

Offline RubySlippers

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2011, 10:20:47 AM »
This report means nothing to be enforceable it must be in an international convention treaty and signed (ratified in the US) by said nation to be law and on par with national ones. Even then a nation can add wording to put conditions on the signing like - we reserve the right to enforce speech that is illegal under ACME NATIONS laws.

So what is the point its not even common international law as set down by common understanding its a report on access to the internet by persons nothing more.

May I ask is Germany ready to let Neo-Nazi Site access or Denial of the Holocaust Sites as examples of the issues to allow free access to the internet means barring international crimes as recognized as such you have to allow citizens free access.

I find more compelling a right to health care we signed at least one document of principle that citizens should have adequete health care - The UN Declaration on Human Rights if I recall. So we are on record as being for this in principle and health care means death or life to the poor internet access is not as critical.

Offline Serephino

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2011, 08:39:28 PM »
The internet has become a very important tool.  A large number of people have their entire lives online.  Every single one of my utilities offers online bill pay.  I still write checks, but I'm old fashioned and like having a paper trail.  I do use it sometimes when there isn't enough time to get a check through the mail.  I remember being given homework assignments in school that required going on the internet and looking things up, and that was.... a while ago.

Some friends of ours do not have internet access, and while they are surviving, it has put them at a disadvantage.  They've been using ours when they need to.  I buy stuff online, and am a member of online religious groups too.  I find it very helpful to have live people I can ask questions than trying to find the answers in a book.   

The internet is the new form of communication.  I can see why the UN would want to keep countries from blocking access.  Supposedly Facebook played a huge role in all that happened in Egypt.  The protesters communicated with each other, as well as others from around the world. 

Offline Xajow

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2011, 09:15:12 PM »
It does if you believe that "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - of making the most of your life and your gifts - is for everyone and not just for those who happen to live where the web is free and who have upper- or middle-class parents who can prepare the way, keep them connected and serviced with computers, smartphones etc until they have really made headway for themselves in the adult world. And unless you think the advantage of being born where you happen to have been born is something given by God, so that it takes no questioning.

Anyone of us could have been born in Niger, China, Burma or a Midwestern white trash family. It's not something you or I had a say in. That's why living conditions and access to good and plentiful information and education are an essential part of human rights, something everyone deserves. And these days, unlike fifty or a hundred years ago, making it through education and work is not simply about having a place in class, a library card, pen and writing pad and the dedication to read a lot. Without steady web access a student or a job applicant is simply going to be unable to give their best in a way that counts to their peers.
No, believing that human rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness belong to everyone does not mean I have accept that internet access is a human right. And saying governments shouldn't deny people access to the internet is not the same as saying access to the internet is a human right.

Do you think people should expect to be given things that benefit others? That seems to be what you're basically arguing.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2011, 01:48:00 AM »
No, believing that human rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness belong to everyone does not mean I have accept that internet access is a human right. And saying governments shouldn't deny people access to the internet is not the same as saying access to the internet is a human right.

I'd like to get some elaboration of how the difference comes out in practice to you. Governments should not be allowed to block users' access to the internet - is it complete blocking of all the people (as happened briefly in Egypt in January) you're thinking of, or do you also oppose on principle the targeted blocking of some kinds of content (beyond stuff like child porn and instructions for making terrorist bomb belts, cause I reckon most people would be okay with bringing such sites to court and getting those pages offline) and/or for certain users? As for the internet being a human right, I suppose you mean while blocking is wrong, governments and public agencies have no obligation to help granting access to the web to people in general, no matter how much of the fabric of society comes to rely on the web? Is that what you're after?

Well, I admit I think governments, states and city councils are obliged to be proactive and to be a few steps ahead in catching the challenges of the future. Nobody takes part in the election of a parliament and a government to have them just sit and roll their thumbs, executing routine administrative business, without addressing what is happening in the country and in the wider world.

Quote
Do you think people should expect to be given things that benefit others? That seems to be what you're basically arguing.

First off, most of us pay taxes and the government has an obligation to use that money (and money it can borrow on good terms for large investments, beyond that) to keep the country abreast of what is going on. Just as most people can't set up their own fire brigade or their own waterworks and sewage network, there are severe limits to taking 100% charge of internet infrastructure for yourself.

The web, and access to it, is not a zero-sum operation, and hasn't been since it went fully public in 1991. In many ways, the internet has been growing by pulling masses of people in. And at the same time, as a mirror of this, the old "hand-to-hand" ways of carrying out a multitude of things have been taken down or have become embarrassingly expensive and slow to use. As Serephine pointed out, we are now expected to use digital checks, bills and money orders and despatch them ourselves online. Going to the bank to cash in a money order at the counter, or to transfer a hundred bucks to your cousin's account or to your electricity provider, now carries a big extra fee (it does in every bank I know of around here and probably in most major U.S. banks too) and there are few personnel to deal with this kind of thing. If you walk in you may well get to wait forty-five minutes while you watch the people behind the counter looking at their screens, typing, chatting and, very sparsely, taking on a customer at the counter. My time is too precious to waste on that, but customers have never really been asked if they wanted it that way: it's simply been changed unilaterally because home and office pc's have become such a fixture.

Many tv channels today have their news desks redirect the viewers to "our web site" all the time for more information. If you're constricted to analog tv only (no cable or satellite channels), what you get is essentially meager bare-bones information and some nice pictures; without web access you're simply not given anything like the full picture (I am not thinking of 24-hour news networks like CNN here, but national allround networks, but even CNN and BBC News rely heavily on the web to expand their range. You might feel that the idea of public service tv is socialist in itself, but many people wouldn't agree.

As I pointed out before, if you don't get a pc and a reliable connection at home within, at most, a year of starting - and have that kind of thing accessible at libraries or elsewhere before then -  then studying at college or university today is a waste of time and of a great deal of money: it would simply be impossible to keep up with what's expected. Even in many high schools and in primary education, teachers will routinely expect the kids to do their homework aided by the internet, looking for news, facts and pictures and communicating by e-mail. If you're off all that, you simply can't achieve top results, no matter how bright a student we're talking of.

Education, to many people, is the highway to becoming an active grown-up citizen with decent prospects and a say in your own future, so if education now relies heavily on web access, then it's simply not enough to say "what you need for education is just a book collection, lecture halls, energy, pen and paper and good wits - and if you can't make it on those terms, tough luck, then you didn't have what it takes". That's plainly not true anymore, and states and public agencies need to work from the standard that the web is now an inalienable part of our lives, therefore, a human right.


« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 02:20:55 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Malefique

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2011, 04:29:17 AM »
Actually, I would dispute that the internet is essential to achievement in education.  I have a very good friend who is a nurse, and she came from Africa about eight years ago.  She speaks seven languages, fluently, and is a good enough nurse to have been promoted to the highest possible rank within our local hospital, but where she came from there wasn't even mains power.  She did all her school work with old fashioned pen, paper and books.  Even when she went to college in the big town, they only had one computer between fifty students, and only two hours a day when they could use it.  The idea that you have to have this to get anywhere does not apply everywhere in the world, only in those countries privileged enough to have mains electricity 24/7, and either broadband cable (which isn't even available yet in all parts of my own country, Britain) or masts for transmitting wireless internet (again, not available even all over Britain yet).  My argument is that to treat this as a human right is to ignore that other nations are not that wealthy and privileged and yet may not be deliberately denying anyone their rights.  Also geography can impair internet access.  I would say that it is a human right to have access to basic medical aid, but I would deny that it is a right to have access to, say, fertility treatments or plastic surgery - and yet wealthy countries have those things, so should we call them a human right?  I reckon we should call it a human right to have free speech, the right to hear the views of others and express your own without politically motivated blocking, but internet access and free speech are not synonymous.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #23 on: June 06, 2011, 05:59:35 AM »
Some fair points there, Malefique. Obviously the conditions I outlined in bank errands, education, job applications etc don't exist in Kenya or Colombia, where I'm sure banks and post offices do serve their customers over the counter without a grumble - but they do prevail in many highly advanced countries, and while to many people they speed things up - because you no longer have to wait for one of a small number of cash checkouts, of physical copies of a book or a paper, etc, and you don't have to stick to office hours - to those who do not have access to a decently fast internet connection at home (and where I live you simply can't buy a stationary 120 kbit connection anymore, the lowest speed that's readily avalaible per wall exit is 500 kbit/s download speed - ISDN etc are long since effectively dead) it means they are powerfully excluded. They get multiple stumbling wires and tall roadblocks posed in their way, because these days so much is supposed to be done from home (or from the office, if you're a white-collar employee who can easily do some stuff on the job).

Things have changed fast, and this is a wave of change that's not going to be rolled back and which the customers were never properly asked about: if they were, most of them said no. In an ideal world corporations, news outlets, airlines and public agencies would have kept up parallel analog services for those who don't have home broadband, or who don't feel safe making online purchases because they fear their card details could be stolen or they have seen how companies that set up online stores disappeared without sending off what they had pledged, as happened in e.g. Russia.

In reality keeping up parallel services and media becomes a big added cost that most corporations etc can't afford in the long run. And I think we can count on that this change to "only digital online service" will become the norm in any modern information society over the next thirty years. The change won't be running at the same speed everywhere (I have a feeling it's been more pronounced in Europe than in North America, and that broadband here is overall faster and more widespread, right?) but in the long run it will become just as hard to achieve things for yourself or your kids in New Delhi or Bangkok as it is in London, Washington D.C. or Stockholm today if you don't have steady access to the web.

The U.N. has no authority or means of force in making a country invest a gazillion bucks in broadband if that country doesn't have the money, or its political leaders won't do it. That's obvious, so the idea can't be to  say broadband is more important than food or reliable hospitals for mainstream health care. What the statement seems to say is that depriving the population of the kind of internet services that a country can clearly afford, and/or which are in use by a sizable part of its population, constitutes a breach of the human rights of the people of that country, and could be a way of illegally excluding them from opportunities and from a decent life.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 06:24:27 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Noelle

Re: U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.
« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2011, 07:32:43 AM »
Quote
The U.N. has no authority or means of force in making a country invest a gazillion bucks in broadband if that country doesn't have the money, or its political leaders won't do it. That's obvious, so the idea can't be to  say broadband is more important than food or reliable hospitals for mainstream health care. What the statement seems to say is that depriving the population of the kind of internet services that a country can clearly afford, and/or which are in use by a sizable part of its population, constitutes a breach of the human rights of the people of that country, and could be a way of illegally excluding them from opportunities and from a decent life.

This quote really gets at the heart of the matter. This proposition is not forcing companies to offer internet service at such-and-such a price or that they absolutely must give all those darn freeloading poor people a hundred free internets with every bundle of food stamps. Something tells me the UN probably isn't about to get all up in the US's business and tell us where to install new lines just as they haven't forced us into universal healthcare.