[Updated] Is the Internet a Basic Human Right?

Update: If you thought democracies didn’t need to answer this question, check out this post on the “Protect Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” introduced in our own Congress.  And, Egypt is back online.

With the turmoil in Egypt leading to a near complete shut-down of the nation’s internet by the government, the internet is ablaze with protest of over the denial of the right to tweet.  While most people would not consider internet access a human right in itself, the Washington Post notes that it may be worth considering it in the context of free expression and association.

If the citizens of Egypt can’t get online, they can’t blog.  They can’t let the world know what is happening, and the citizens of Egypt are left to rely on official news and information.  When protests erupted in Iran, we all saw the power of the tweet as an associational tool.  It is much easier for an oppressive government to crack down on multiple disorganized protests scattered throughout Cairo than it would be to quell an uprising organized and initiated through Twitter.  As the internet has become an indispensable tool of free expression, it may itself have become an inalienable human right.

Written by

Noah Kaplan is the Senior Executive Editor for Online Content. He is a 3L at Harvard Law School focusing on constitutional law and criminal procedure. He has interned at the Boston United States Attorney's Office and the Colorado Attorney's General's Office. Before law school, Noah taught 4th grade as a Teach for America corps member in Phoenix, Arizona.

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  • Net Neutrality is critical here.
    from an end user point, we as citizens within each country have to have accessible communication, part of democracy
    for civil societies.
    Freedom to communicate & accessible communication is end user right.