The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, put forward a report to the UN Human Rights Council stating that internet access is a human right. Several current issues are addressed in the report. Emphasising the growing importance of internet in today’s society, the Special Rapporteur writes:
“Unlike any other medium, the Internet enables individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders. By vastly expanding the capacity of individuals to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is an “enabler” of other human rights, the Internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole.”
Some interesting parts of the report:
Speaking of restrictions that may be permitted in exceptional circumstances, he lays down a 3 part test consisting of (a) Principles of predictability and transparency, (b) Principles of legitimacy (ie, protect national security, public health, etc) and (c) Principles of necessity and proportionality.
With regards to blocked/filtered sites, he expressed concern over arbitrariness and recommended that states maintain a list of every site blocked/filtered along with the reasons for each site.
He specifies that States should not delegate censorship measures to private parties (ie intermediaries), nor hold them accountable for refusing to take actions which infringe on individuals’ human rights except in special limited circumstances.
In clear terms, the report concludes that disconnecting users from the internet completely (as opposed to content blocking and filtering) for any reason including IPR infringement to be a violation of the ICCPR.
It also emphasises that States should ensure Internet access is maintained even at times of Political unrest.
This part is referring to firstly, France and UK’s 3 strike rule
(3 violations of IP lead to the internet being disconnected for that user), and secondly to the important role that the internet played in giving people in oppressed regions a voice during the recent uprisings in the middle east.
The full report is available here
for those interested.