Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Internet Access Is A Human Right But Is It Useful?

Civil liberties are essential for the sustainable growth of human beings. A country that does not respect civil liberties cannot be a democratic and civilised nation. This is the reason why we have human rights that are protected by United Nations and respective country.

However, civil liberties protections in cyberspace are still ignored for unknown reasons. It may be due to lack of knowledge and expertise regarding cyberspace or because nations do not wish to extend the human rights protection to the same.

Fortunately some good steps in this regard have been taken by international community especially the European Council. The European Council is stressing upon protecting human rights in cyberspace and civil liberties protection in cyberspace. The European Council has also issued a resolution in this regard that deals with prohibition of abuse of state secrecy and national security for violating civil liberties. It has also expressed concerns regarding cyber attacks and political pressures upon cyber dissidents.

The United Nations must also work in the direction of defending human rights in cyberspace. Recently, UN declared that access to Internet is a basic human right. This is a good step in right direction. However, the efforts of United Nations regarding cyber laws and human rights in cyberspace need to be further expedited as they are slow in nature. An international cyber law treaty must be formulated by UN that must address the issues like freedom of speech and expression, Internet censorship, websites blocking, Internet kill switch, access to Internet, etc.

At the national level, India is desperate to control information technology. It has been forcing Internet intermediaries like Google and Facebook to pre screen and censor users contents. Blogs are manipulated in India to suppress critical issues that have been reported by few. The mainstream media is already not covering sensitive and controversial topics and even if some bold bloggers dare to do so they face censorship and penalties by various social media platforms like Google and Facebook. Manual action censorship by Google is very common regarding controversial posts and blogs that disappear instantly. Similarly, blocking of accounts by Facebook is also very common.

If access to Internet has been declared a human right by UN there is no sense in limiting it to mere access. What is the purpose of such Internet access if Internet censorship and websites blocking are deployed by states? If a citizen has access to Internet but her posts are deleted or censored the whole purpose is defeated. It seems UN has failed to consider this aspect of Internet access that has defeated the protection it has extended.