The United Nations Human Rights Council has repeatedly introduced to the General Assembly of the United Nations for discussion the question of whether access to internet is or is not a human right to be protected by the UN. After several discussions held in past years, on July 1, 2016 the UN made a big step in „online rights“ development and qualified access to internet as a fundamental basic human right!
So can we now run to our governments and demand a brand new optic cable with the best internet connection? Not so fast. The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution whereby it “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.” This basically means that the states should refrain from hindering the access to internet, but they are not obliged to provide connection or infrastructure.
The resolution further supports the long-term view of UN that same human rights and freedoms should apply to online world as they do offline. If people worldwide only applied the same manners online as they do offline, internet would become a much better place.
Which human rights should be observed online specifically then? Logically, internet has become one of the main means of communication worldwide, therefore the major focus is on freedom of opinion and expression, the right to receive and share information and the right to education. Technically speaking, the resolution presents an extension of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The resolution was passed in reaction to recent events of the internet or parts thereof being completely shut down or censored by certain governments in attempts to maintain control over the citizens and their communication. Some of these countries therefore immediately opposed to the wording of the resolution, namely Russia and China.
The UN’s resolution is not binding, but it may be enforced by means of political and economical pressure as well as presenting a useful tool in arguing potential cases on national levels. Given the recent and growing level of dependency of citizens and their business on internet connection, the resolution is more than welcome and will hopefully serve better protection of human rights and freedoms in general.