Is Internet Access a Basic Human Right?

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Speaking after January's Google-China standoff, Hillary Clinton declared the "freedom to connect" to be among the basic human freedoms. This week, 27,000 participants in a BBC poll affirmed her declaration. Four out of five respondents to a BBC survey agreed that Internet access is a fundamental right. However, the study also revealed that opinions on Internet regulation varied from country to country, with nations like South Korea and Nigeria representing the most libertarian while China and European countries came down in favor of necessary government regulations.

Countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Turkey most strongly support the idea of net access as a right, the survey found... More than 90% of those surveyed in Turkey, for example, stated that internet access is a fundamental right - more than those in any other European Country. South Korea - the most wired country on Earth - had the greatest majority of people (96%) who believed that net access was a fundamental right. Nearly all of the country's citizens already enjoy high-speed net access. ...

However, many web users also expressed concerns. The dangers of fraud, the ease of access to violent and explicit content and worries over privacy were the most concerning aspects for those questioned. A majority of users in Japan, South Korea and Germany felt that they could not express their opinions safely online, although in Nigeria, India and Ghana there was much more confidence about speaking out.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air offers a snarling retort to the concept of Internet access as a "right":

I would agree that free speech is a fundamental right. I would also agree that health care is a critical concern for every human being, and that each should plan accordingly for it. But to call Internet access a fundamental human right is not just wrong, but completely absurd. What did we do before broadband -- live in complete isolation and tyranny? Do parents who restrict Internet access from their children commit some sort of abuse for being safe? The only point proven in this study is that 80% of adults in the West have no real concept of what rights are or from where they originate.

Finland and Estonia have already ruled that Web access is a human right for their citizens. The UN and other international bodies are pushing for universal net access. Is the freedom to surf a fundamental right, and if so, how much regulation is too much?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.