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  • Gerrit Eicker 11:36 on 6. January 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Internet Access, , , , , , , , Restrictions, , , , , , UN, Universal Service, Universal Service Policy,   

    Internet Access: a Human Right? 

    A UN report declared Internet access a human right last summer: Cerf argues why it’s not; http://eicker.at/InternetHumanRight

     
    • Gerrit Eicker 11:36 on 6. January 2012 Permalink | Reply

      UN: “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression – This report explores key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet. The Special Rapporteur underscores the unique and transformative nature of the Internet not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also a range of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole. Chapter III of the report underlines the applicability of international human rights norms and standards on the right to freedom of opinion and expression to the Internet as a communication medium, and sets out the exceptional circumstances under which the dissemination of certain types of information may be restricted. Chapters IV and V address two dimensions of Internet access respectively: (a) access to content; and (b) access to the physical and technical infrastructure required to access the Internet in the first place. More specifically, chapter IV outlines some of the ways in which States are increasingly censoring information online, namely through: arbitrary blocking or filtering of content; criminalization of legitimate expression; imposition of intermediary liability; disconnecting users from Internet access, including on the basis of intellectual property rights law; cyber-attacks; and inadequate protection of the right to privacy and data protection. Chapter V addresses the issue of universal access to the Internet. The Special Rapporteur intends to explore this topic further in his future report to the General Assembly. Chapter VI contains the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions and recommendations concerning the main subjects of the report.”

      Wired: “U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right – A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law. – The report railed against France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws to remove accused copyright scofflaws from the internet. It also protested blocking internet access to quell political unrest… The report, by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, comes the same day an internet-monitoring firm detected that two thirds of Syria’s internet access has abruptly gone dark, in what is likely a government response to unrest in that country.”

      Cerf, NYT: “Internet Access Is Not a Human Right – It is no surprise, then, that the protests have raised questions about whether Internet access is or should be a civil or human right. … In June, citing the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, a report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur went so far as to declare that the Internet had ‘become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights.’ … But that argument, however well meaning, misses a larger point: technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things. … Indeed, even the United Nations report, which was widely hailed as declaring Internet access a human right, acknowledged that the Internet was valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. … While the United States has never decreed that everyone has a ‘right’ to a telephone, we have come close to this with the notion of ‘universal service’… Improving the Internet is just one means, albeit an important one, by which to improve the human condition. It must be done with an appreciation for the civil and human rights that deserve protection – without pretending that access itself is such a right.

      GigaOM: “Cerf’s position is somewhat surprising because, as even he acknowledges in his piece for the NYT, the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011… Cerf is also the ‘chief Internet evangelist’ at Google, so it seems a little odd he would be downplaying the need for widespread internet access and the benefits that it brings to society. … In a nutshell, Cerf’s argument seems to be that if we define Internet access itself as a right, we are placing the focus on the wrong thing. The ‘Net, he says, is just a technological tool that enables us to exercise other fundamental rights, such as the right to free speech or access to information – and rights should not be awarded to tools, but to the ends that they enable us to reach. … The Internet is a fundamental method of communication and connection, and is becoming more fundamental all the time, as we’ve seen in the Middle East and elsewhere. Seeing it as a right is an important step towards making it available to as many people as possible.

      TL: “As I noted in my earlier essay, the best universal service policy is marketplace competition. When we get the basic framework right – low taxes, property rights, contractual enforcement, anti-fraud standards, etc. – competition generally takes care of the rest. But competition often doesn’t develop – or is sometimes prohibited outright – in sectors or for networks that are declared ‘essential’ facilities or technological entitlements. … So, while I appreciate and agree with Cerf’s humorous point that ‘Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it,’ the more interesting question is this: If government would have decreed long ago that everyone had a right to a horse, would that have meant everyone actually got one? … These are the sort of questions rarely asked initially in discussions about proposals to convert technologies or networks into birthright entitlements. Eventually, however, they become inescapable problems that every entitlement system must grapple with. When we discuss the wisdom of classifying the Internet or broadband as a birthright entitlement, we should require advocates to provide us with some answers to such questions. Kudos to Vint Cerf for helping us get that conversation going in a serious way.

      TC: “So, is the internet a human right? It is our best and most effective way of achieving a universal freedom of expression, and it should be treated as such. But to enshrine it, as others have said, as a human right when it is in fact merely a powerful enabler thereof, is an unnecessary step. Laws and regulations, and things like UN guidelines, should be aimed at enshrining rights in their pure and timeless forms, not in derivative forms, however widespread and important those derivatives may be.

      TR: “It might be argued that internet access was a civil right, since it is something that people look to governments to provide as a matter of course. But even this argument is shaky, he warns. Instead we should look not to the technology, but to the technology industry, to protect human rights, and it is up to engineers to ensure universal, safe internet access. … Cerf, whose current day job is being an internet evangelist for Google, may well have a point. But based on current evidence, there’s a mixed record from the technology industry thus far, not least from Silicon Valley itself. … From a technical perspective, El Reg suspects that Cerf has it right: the internet is no more a human right than a road or telephone. But looking to a relatively amoral industry like technology to act as a human rights guardian is asking for trouble.

  • Gerrit Eicker 09:50 on 11. December 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Checks and Balances, Counter-democracy, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Restrictions, , , , , State, , , , ,   

    WikiLeaks: Pros and Cons II. 

    Shirky: Wikileaks should not be able to operate as a law unto itself [but] we need to keep [it] alive today; http://eicker.at/WL

     
    • Gerrit Eicker 09:50 on 11. December 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Shirky: “Like a lot of people, I am conflicted about Wikileaks.Citizens of a functioning democracy must be able to know what the state is saying and doing in our name, to engage in what Pierre Rosanvallon calls ‘counter-democracy’, the democracy of citizens distrusting rather than legitimizing the actions of the state. Wikileaks plainly improves those abilities. – On the other hand, human systems can’t stand pure transparency. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness. People trying to come to consensus must be able to privately voice opinions they would publicly abjure, and may later abandon. … In the US, however, the government has a ‘heavy burden’, in the words of the Supreme Court, for engaging in prior restraint of even secret documents, an established principle since New York Times Co. vs. The United States, when the Times published the Pentagon Papers. If we want a different answer for Wikileaks, we need a different legal framework first.Over the long haul, we will need new checks and balances for newly increased transparency – Wikileaks shouldn’t be able to operate as a law unto itself anymore than the US should be able to. In the short haul, though, Wikileaks is our Amsterdam. Whatever restrictions we eventually end up enacting, we need to keep Wikileaks alive today, while we work through the process democracies always go through to react to change. If it’s OK for a democracy to just decide to run someone off the internet for doing something they wouldn’t prosecute a newspaper for doing, the idea of an internet that further democratizes the public sphere will have taken a mortal blow.”

      Gillmor: “Of course, the New York Times, Washington Post and many other news organizations in the U.S. and other nations have published classified information themselves in the past – many, many times – without any help from WikiLeaks. Bob Woodward has practically made a career of publishing leaked information. By the same logic that the censors and their media acolytes are using against WikiLeaks, those organizations and lots of others could and should be subject to censorship as well. … Media organizations with even half a clue need to recognize what is at stake at this point. It’s more than immediate self-interest, namely their own ability to do their jobs.Like Clay Shirky, I’m deeply ambivalent about some of what WikiLeaks does, and what this affair portends. Governments need to keep some secrets, and laws matter. So does the First Amendment, and right now it’s under an attack that could shred it.”

      Sauter/Zittrain: “Everything You Need to Know About WikileaksWho is responsible for redacting the documents? What actions did Wikileaks take to ensure that individuals were not put in danger by publication of the documents? – According to the Associated Press and statements released by Wikileaks and Julian Assange, Wikileaks is currently relying on the expertise of the five news organizations to redact the cables as they are released, and it is following their redactions as it releases the documents on its website. (This cannot be verified without examining the original documents, which we have not done – nor are we linking to them here.) According to the BBC, Julian Assange approached the U.S. State Department for guidance on redacting the documents prior to their release. One can imagine the State Department’s dilemma there: assist and risk legitimating the enterprise; don’t assist and risk poor redaction. In a public letter, Harold Koh, legal adviser to the Department of State, declined to assist the organization and demanded the return of the documents.”

      Madrigal: “How to Think About WikiLeaks – In the days since WikiLeaks began releasing a small percentage of its cache of 250,000 cables sent by State Department officials, many people have tried to think through the event’s implications for politics, media, and national security. – Writers pulling at the knot of press freedom, liberty, nationalism, secrecy and security that sits at the center of the debate have produced dozens of fantastic pieces. We’re collecting the very best here. This page will be updated often. New links will be floated near the top of this list.

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