UN affirms internet freedom as a right

UN affirms internet freedom as a right

Summary: The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a landmark resolution last week, affirming freedom of expression on the internet as a right.

TOPICS: Government

The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a non-binding resolution affirming that rights online should be the same as rights offline.

The resolution (PDF), signed by 72 countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, affirms that "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular, freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one's choice".

The resolution also calls on countries to promote and facilitate access to the internet and to consider how best to protect human rights, such as freedom of expression, online.

Even China, which is arguably the strongest internet censor, has signed onto the resolution. Due to its non-binding nature, however, the country will not have to make any changes to how it polices the internet. Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth told the New York Times that non-binding resolutions, such as these, are generally used to publicly shame the countries that don't uphold those resolutions.

What that freedom of expression is, exactly, is open to the interpretation of the individual signing nation, however. The UK, for example, has recently forced a number of internet service providers (ISPs) to block their customers from accessing The Pirate Bay. The Australian government has currently shelved its own internet filtering plans, but still remains committed to the proposal.

Topic: Government


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • How about publicly shaming the UN into doing

    something useful for a change like stopping the genocide in Syria or shutting down Iran's nuclear weapons programs or north Koreas nuclear proliferation. They've got seriously messed up priorities if they're more worried about what somebody types.
    Johnny Vegas
    • This is a tech blog, Johnny

      If you want politics, go to the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report.

  • Huh...

    I don't remember voting for any UN members, nor do I remember any of my representatives ceding power over the laws of the United States to the United Nations.
    Tony Burzio
  • It does so matter

    Your Ministry of Truth reminds you that the UN is the world government, and that all your unalienable rights flow from the UN.
    Robert Hahn
  • Freedom within limits

    The UN is on the right track with this. People should be able to express their opinions and concerns online without worrying about what Big Brother would think of it. Have an opinion on a political debate? Go ahead and have your say. Have a problem with a company or product? Let them know. Tell the world. Whatever.

    But there are limits to how "free" this freedom is. People who actively engage in criminal or terrorist activity (online or not) should be brought to justice ASAP. While these people might cite "freedom of expression", if that freedom is going to be used to caused real harm to people (financially, physically or emotionally), then that is not so much freedom as anarchy.