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UN affirms internet freedom as a right

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a landmark resolution last week, affirming freedom of expression on the internet as a right.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

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.

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