People may joke that others spend too much time on the internet, but this intricate series of tubes has become an important part of everyday life — so much so that it’s become a human rights violation to take it away.
That’s according to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which passed a non-binding resolution in June that condemns countries that intentionally take away or disrupt its citizens’ internet access.
The resolution was passed last Friday, but was opposed by countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and India. The issue was with the passage that “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our dissemination of information online.” More than 70 states supported the resolutions, according to a statement released by Article 19, a British organisation that works to promote freedom of expression and information. Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, wrote:
We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia, and India voted in favour of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online…A human rights based approach to providing and expanding Internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down.
The resolution notes what many of us already know: It’s important to increase access to the internet, as it “facilitates vast opportunities for affordable and inclusive education globally”, or provides other resources for education, especially across the digital divide. In accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the organisation also recognised that the spread of technology has the “great potential to accelerate human progress”.
It’s all here: your news organisations, your job-hunting resources, and your credit card statements. It’s become impossible to live without basic internet access.
Other countries have already stressed the importance of open access, including US President Barack Obama, who in 2015 said that “today, high speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity”.
The resolution also highlights a number of issues that need to be addressed, including that the issue of freedom of expression on the internet. Also among the points presented were statements:
- Calling upon all states to address security concerns in “a way that ensures freedom and security on the Internet”,
- Ensuring accountability for all human rights violations and abuses committed against persons for exercising their human rights,
- Recognising that privacy online is important,
- Stressing the importance of education for women and girls in relevant technology fields.
The UN can’t enforce resolutions legally. Rather, they’re issued to provide guidelines for participating nations and to put pressure on any that may have dissenting views. These are just general statements on how governments should shape laws when it comes to the internet. It’s nice to see, even if it does little beyond filling a few pieces of digital paper.
The next step is for those countries to start actively addressing problems, including laws pertaining to freedom of expression and how those rights can be abused to spread violence, terrorist ideals and harassment. The more we discuss the problems that come along with the free reign of the internet, the closer we’ll get to Valhalla (or so I’ve heard).