Should Access to the Internet be declared a Fundamental Human Right?
About 30 years ago, the internet was non-existent. People knew that they should always carry out communication with friends, family members, business associates, and clients. However, there were only two ways to do so: write a letter or use the landline telephone. At that moment, research was left to top-notch tertiary academic institutions such as the Universities. The introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW) revolutionized how everything works. The Internet bubble brought its reforms in communication, transport, entertainment, education, and commerce. It has only been around for about two decades but has become an indispensable asset to adults and teenagers. The web has turned to be crucial in the diversification of learning, dissemination of information in commerce. Currently, it is the most widely used resource on earth. Things in life without which people can live are referred to fundamental rights. These rights include equal treatment, quality education and healthcare, security, due process of the law, expression and opinion, religion, and assembly among others. The Internet is a part of the human life, which people can hardly ignore.
Various media articles have been published citing the importance of the Internet in enhancing connectivity, efficiency, knowledge, business, and research. The vast amounts of information published about it since its conception, prove its advantages and worth over the disadvantages with which it comes. The pertinent question is whether its access should be declared a fundamental human right or not.
Article 1: Unlimited Internet Access, Human Right?
David Rothkopf, the editor of the FP Group (Rothkopf, 2015), thinks that the internet has rendered the constitutions of most countries a relic. He asks whether Internet access is a modern human right (Rothkopf, 2015). In this article, he has already proposed an opinion that the power of the internet is unimaginable, and, hence, should be added to the list of the things human beings of this age need for survival. National constitutions safeguard everyone‘s right to the fundamental rights and, by extension, the generations to come. Amendments exist to alter the law to fit human requirements of the time. The US constitution had 27 amendments. The first ten amendments pertain to the Bill of Rights. The needs of the people in the changing times have often resulted in constitutional amendments to fit their situation. A great example he cites is the abolition of slave trade and the introduction of suffrage.
Due to the rapid technological shifts foreseen by the founding fathers, the Constitution was left in a malleable form that welcomed to technology. The people who crafted and ratified the constitution included the rights to protected innovation (Copyright protection), in section 8 of the federal constitution. The kind of technology and equipment mentioned within the context of the initial law included things with which human beings interacted: money, government, and the military. With regards to the Bill of Rights, the Constitution discusses the freedom of the press and the right to possess firearms. The constitution did not specify the kind of gun one owns. The law since then allows people to own guns and use them appropriately. In the recent years, the Internet, according to many people’s opinion, is the 21st century tool that is comparable to the ancient technologies. As a result, the constitution ought to include its provisions within the bill of rights. The U.N special rapporteur believes that disconnecting people from the internet denies them the freedom to information and, thus, should be categorized as a violation of human rights. Countries such as Estonia, Finland, Costa Rica, Spain, Greece, and France have defined some rights to access information and the internet constitutionally, via the judicial rulings.
Vint Cerf, the Internet co-inventor stresses on the value of its openness. It is hard for one to operate without access to open Internet. This statement moves closer to the truth every day as people interact on a more frequent basis with it. The healthcare system, job market, and financial services are becoming more accessible on the web. An important point to note is that the right to the internet comes bundled with the right of access to uninterrupted electricity worldwide. The current world needs to operate under new rules that favor more progressive lives of today and the future.
Article 2: Internet Access Is Not a ‘Basic Human Right.'
Michael O’Reilly, a member of the FCC, says that the comparison between the internet and fundamental human rights is ridiculous. According to him, the human rights should have a need within every human being’s life, thus, necessitating its grant. Such liberties include the freedom of expression, speech, due process among the others that are ratified by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The Internet is not even a necessity. Billions of people live every day without reading the news or transacting through online banking.
O’Reilly termed the comparison of exaggeration of the Internet’s relevance and disservice by overstating its attachment to humanity. According to him, necessities are things without which an individual cannot live. A survey indicated that a third of Americans have no broadband Internet in their homes which is caused by a class issue. 15% of the population did not use the internet at all, 3% of whom cited financial constraint as their reason. One-third lacked access utterly because they were not interested (Takala, 2015). These reports backed the claims that the Internet can hardly be qualified as a human right.
The two articles above bear different opinions on the relevance of the Internet. Rothkopf’s editorial is a proposition that the Internet should be declared as a fundamental human right. He states various reasons why such a proposal is logical, comparing it to the various laws passed to regulate the use of certain utilities such as money, guns, and the military, which people needed at different times through history. He even brings into perspective the abolition of slavery, freedom of the press, and birth of suffrage as a call for equality for all. According to him, times have changed and so have human needs. For this reason, the Internet is today’s necessity and should, thus, be declared a human right.
O’Reilly, on the other hand, in Takala’s story, finds Rothkopf‘s idea ridiculous since it falls short of the definition of what a primary need is. According to him, any item categorized in such a way should be essential to human survival. Takala presents statistics to back the notion that the Internet is a mere luxury, and not everyone needs or wants to use it.
The internet is proved to be beneficial to the world in all aspects. However, it falls short of being a must-have for homes and communities. The reality is that while some people debate about the possibility of the internet’s declaration as a fundamental human right, many media sources present stories of deaths as a result of the lack of food and water. Statistics from World Hunger Organization offers these statistics of the malnourished people from around the world (WHES, 2015). The declaration of a factor as a fundamental right means that every human being on the planet has to get it. There are more pressing matters that require greater attention than the Internet’s declaration as a necessity. These statistics bring to focus the fact that the Internet cannot be qualified as a fundamental human right.
David Rothkopf‘s editorial was published on the Foreign Policy Group’s website. This group is a news hub that talks about global and local news from a critical perspective. The author seems polarized to matters of technological advancement instead of focusing on the idea from a globalized point of view. The article hardly recognizes that there are more pressing issues such as food, water crises/ and the lack of quality of education not only in the US but also around the world.
Takala is a news reporter for the CNS news, which is an acronym for Cybercast News. It is a commercial news channel whose primary target is the American people. Media Research Center owns the company. Takala’s article is closer to the reality on the ground based on research opposed to opinion.