The United Nations counts internet access as a basic human right in a report that bears implications both to on-going events in the Arab Spring and to the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers. Acting as special rapporteur, a human rights watchdog role appointed by the UN Secretary General, Frank La Rue takes a hard line on the importance of the internet as "an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress." Presented to the General Assembly on Friday, La Rue's report comes as the capstone of a year's worth of meetings held between La Rue and local human rights organizations around the world, from Cairo to Bangkok. The report's introduction points to the impact of online collaboration in the Arab Spring and says that "facilitating access to the Internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States."
The UN report overwhelmingly supports the internet as a communication platform, a boon to all democratic societies, but it also warns how the internet's unique architecture threatens power brokers in those societies:
The vast potential and benefits of the Internet are rooted in its unique characteristics, such as its speed, worldwide reach and relative anonymity. At the same time, these distinctive features of the Internet that enable individuals to disseminate information in "real time" and to mobilize people has also created fear amongst Governments and the powerful. This has led to increased restrictions on the Internet through the use of increasingly sophisticated technologies to block content, monitor and identify activists and critics, criminalization of legitimate expression, and adoption of restrictive legislation to justify such measures.