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QuickQuip: Vint Cerf “Internet Access Is Not a Human Right” < Agreed...

Wow, what a doozy of an OpEd!

Vint Cerf wrote an article for the NY Times with the title “Internet Access Is Not a Human Right.” wherein he suggests that Internet access and the technology that provides it is “…an enabler of rights, not a right itself” and “…it is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category [human right,] since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.”

This article is so rich in very interesting points that I could spend hours both highlighting points to both agree with as well as squint sternly at many of them.

It made me think and in conclusion, I find myself in overall agreement.  This topic inflames passionate debate — some really interesting debate — such as that from Rob Graham (@erratarob) here [although I’m not sure how a discussion on Human rights became anchored on U.S. centric constitutional elements which don’t, by definition, apply to all humans…only Americans…]

This ends up being much more of a complex moral issue than I expected in reviewing others’ arguments.

I’ve positioned this point for discussion in many forums without stating my position and have generally become fascinated by the results.

What do you think — is Internet access (not the Internet itself) a basic human right?


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  1. Tadd Axon
    January 10th, 2012 at 10:12 | #1

    Enabling element for many of the articles set out here: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    Especially, but not limited to:
    Article 18
    Article 19
    Article 20
    Article 21
    Article 23
    Article 26
    Article 27

  2. Kevin
    January 10th, 2012 at 16:56 | #2

    Hoff, you know that I spent a major portion of my life defending rights. I do however, agree with Cerf. There is a right to speak against oppression and in political discourse. The forum however is not guranteed. With the Internet, as with much of the technology developed to exploit it, has progressed much faster than the policy, law, and doctrine on it use.

  3. cloudtoad
    January 10th, 2012 at 19:37 | #3

    I wonder if it should be generalized. A forum for mass communication is a fundamental right? Rather than just the internet? When should that right be revoked?

    Having the right to speak against oppression means nothing if you are talking to the end of a gun in a clandestine prison.

  4. Donny
    January 12th, 2012 at 09:24 | #4

    Hence we return to right vs. privilege. Rights are those things which government/law recognizes but does not grant nor remove. privileges are those things given or taken by authoritative powers.

    The internet is a tool for communication, but by no means a right. It can be given and taken away.

    What I find more disturbing is the infantile dependence of coming generations upon technology. How weak and constrained we are becoming…

    • PM
      January 25th, 2012 at 14:45 | #5

      If you sincerely believe the Internet can be taken away, maybe I should take away the food on your table, the clothes you wear, the very air you breathe. All of those are enablers of your ability to live. I am not suggesting that the Internet would determine your ability to live or die but it provides a medium or platform for communication, expression, etc. That right of communicating, expressing, etc is being infringed. Again WHY is the government allowing corporations (and the people behind them) to get away with murder. I agree that we are becoming dependent on technology but by no means does this mean that the government, corporations, etc should decide whether I, you, everyone have the inability to express what we think, what we say, what we do.

  5. PM
    January 25th, 2012 at 14:39 | #6

    Okay unless I am missing the entire point, can someone explain or elaborate “…an enabler of rights, not a right itself”. If the Internet is the enabler of rights, why is there a discussion to restrict that very right? Think the subject is being sidetracked to whether it a right or not. The discussion should be WHY is the government bowing to the demands of corporations and not taking account the very human rights they are infringing on i.e. playing the parent who attempts to control what their child does or not and frankly I doubt any of us would attest us being children.

  1. January 12th, 2012 at 04:39 | #1
  2. January 24th, 2012 at 11:40 | #2
  3. January 25th, 2012 at 15:06 | #3