Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Technology Your Rights Online

Vint Cerf On Human Rights: Internet Access Isn't On the List 398

Posted by timothy
from the coffee-ice-cream-narrowly-beat-it-out dept.
Gallenod writes "In an op-ed for the New York Times, Vint Cerf writes that civil protests around the world, sparked by Internet communications, 'have raised questions about whether Internet access is or should be a civil or human right.' Cerf argues that 'technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself,' and contends that for something to be considered a human right, it 'must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Vint Cerf On Human Rights: Internet Access Isn't On the List

Comments Filter:
  • by DCTech (2545590) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:42PM (#38601200)
    Well that's funny, cos my country just said it is human right for everyone to get internet access and also access to free information. U.S., what a backwards country.
    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:45PM (#38601252) Journal

      The 1st amendment already covers this. There is no need to further clutter up our founding documents with some "right" to access the internet. The Constitution is vaguely silent on your "right" to access the library yet I don't hear you calling us backwards for that.

      Brevity is your friend when you are drafting a Constitution. For much the same reason I think the equal rights amendment is a waste of time and ink. The 14th amendment's equal protection clause already covers it.

      • The only reason no US government ever bothered to fight the first amendment is that it's the freedom to speak.

        Nobody said anything about getting heard when speaking.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by forkfail (228161)

          Sure they did. That's why freedom of the press is also guaranteed.

          • by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:03PM (#38601592) Journal

            Print all the leaflets you want, we'll throw you in jail for littering.

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            That's because press and mass media in question is owned by people who are "in" with higher ups.

            If you want to see what happens when you're not "in", look at Al-Jazeera's long fight to get a foothold in US, in spite of its phenomenal popularity as an alternative news source. There is a myriad of way to prevent or even shut down a media outlet when it's necessary, ranging from permits to "proper" corporation buyouts.

          • by Fjandr (66656) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @06:37PM (#38604066) Homepage Journal

            There's a huge difference between preventing access and providing access. The government cannot prevent access to the internet, as it would be an infringement of your rights to freely publish material. However, they are under absolutely zero obligation to provide you with access.

            Too many people conflate the right to access something at whatever cost is required with a right to access something at whatever cost they desire.

            • In some cases they are required to provide Internet access even if it's not necessarily in your home or using your own personal device. There are several countries that only have Internet access to some government services and they do provide public computers for access to those services, and probably subsidize Internet connections in general to make it even easier to access those services.

              Much like the government is required to provide public access to courts, polling places, and other city, state, and
              • by Fjandr (66656)

                If they require it in order to engage in other protected activities, then that falls under protection of those other rights. The technical details of that access are irrelevant so long as access is available.

                Adding "on the Internet" just leads to the sort of stupid arguments currently filling up the comment section of this story. The Internet is a means to an end, and should be treated exactly the same as paper, pencils, typewriters, printing presses, and other similar things. Not to be prohibited, but not

        • by Millennium (2451) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:04PM (#38601602) Homepage

          Nobody said anything about getting heard when speaking.

          People were being heard for hundreds of years before the Internet was invented. Have you forgotten that so quickly? Besides, while you have the right to speak, a "right to be heard" would infringe on others' rights to ignore you.

          • by forkfail (228161)

            So, what. You have a right to run a Gutenberg press, but not to publish a blog?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by tangelogee (1486597)

              So, what. You have a right to run a Gutenberg press, but not to publish a blog?

              You have the right to publish a blog, yes, but the ability to get to the internet to publish said blog is not a given, just as publishing a book is a right, but having access to a press to print said book is not a given.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by narcc (412956)

            while you have the right to speak, a "right to be heard" would infringe on others' rights to ignore you.

            It's this sort of twisted thinking that leads to tyranny.

            • by Fjandr (66656)

              There's not a single thing twisted about it. I have a right to ignore anyone, as does everyone else. A "right to be heard" requires that others be prevented from ignoring the speaker (or whatever term fits the form of transmission."

              A right to speak does not require coercing anyone else. A right to be heard does require coercion.

      • ho ho ho (Score:2, Insightful)

        by unity100 (970058)
        first amendment covers this. and, you have the rights to your free speech. nice. where ?

        in your house, among your friends, in your neighborhood, or in a public park which you can put a stool and step on it to give a speech .... oh wait - that last bit turned out not to be a right.

        so, you have a right, but the means to exercise it are not your rights. so basically, whomever has the most money can publish newspapers, run tvs or appear in tvs, and all the rest 95% people like you just end up 'free speech
      • The [US] 1st amendment already covers this. There is no need to further clutter up our founding documents with some "right" to access the internet. The Constitution is vaguely silent on your "right" to access the library yet I don't hear you calling us backwards for that.

        That's the one, freedom of expression — unsuppressed communication with local and global communities.

        We've seen social media sites act as catalysts to revolutions in places that restrict other forms of expression. This is largely because it is very difficult to suppress "the internet" as a whole, or even specific popular general interest sites.

        The printing press and books aren't "human rights" either, just a means by which to achieve communication (expression). What we need is to draw a firm lin

        • by bws111 (1216812) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @06:51PM (#38604276)

          "Free press" does not, and never has, meant that any and everyone has access to a press. "Free press" does not, and never has, meant that any and everybody has access to the materials printed. "Free press" means that IF you have a press the government does not control what you print.

          • by Khopesh (112447)

            "Free press" does not, and never has, meant that any and everyone has access to a press. "Free press" does not, and never has, meant that any and everybody has access to the materials printed. "Free press" means that IF you have a press the government does not control what you print.

            I never said it does. I agree that it does not mean the government must buy its people newspaper subscriptions, books, and therefore computers and internet connections, but it does mean that those with such things should not be restricted from using them.

            "Free press" ensures that if somebody wants to write something, he or she can. It also ensures that that writer can distribute his or her works (publish). The web is bidirectional; it would lack content if there were nobody writing anything. POSTING t

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Brevity is your friend when you are drafting a Constitution.

        No, it's really not. You just move the mile long discussions somewhere else, to say the courts that try using related texts to divine exactly what the meaning of that one or two sentences was. Not to mention a proper definition of the terms used. To take one of the classics:

        A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

        Does the right to bear arms exist to form a well regulated militia or is the militia just an example? No, I'm not looking to take that discussion again. I'm just pointing out that if they'd taken one or two more sentences to precisely de

        • by radish (98371) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @05:36PM (#38603146) Homepage

          I'm just pointing out that if they'd taken one or two more sentences to precisely describe it, nobody would be in any doubt. So instead of looking at the law, they're looking at federalist papers and such that only represents the opinions of some of the founders, not something actually agreed on and passed as law.

          I agree with your points - but it raises further questions for me.

          Why are the founders' opinions so important? Why do we spend so much time, effort and money arguing about what some people thought about something in the past rather than deciding what is the correct decision for today, in our society?

          As someone who moved to the US from a country without a formal written constitution I find the obsession with it's minutiae somewhat baffling - it's treated the same way as the Bible, as some kind of holy truth handed down from a divine being. In fact it's just a bunch of opinions of some people who happened to be in charge of the country a bunch of years ago. Those opinions could be irrelevant to today's USA, they could even be wrong (*gasp*) and might even have been wrong back then! Why we give those opinions more weight than our own (and those of the leaders we actually elected) is a bit of a mystery to me.

          This isn't to say I disagree with having an enshrined set of rights and principles for government, I actually think it's a good thing. But if something in it is ambiguous or unclear (or simply outdated) it seems to me far more sensible to just decide how it should be rewritten (starting from a clean slate) than try to guess what the person who originally wrote it meant - it really doesn't matter.

          • The founders' opinions are important because they inform us as to the meaning of the Constitution. And the Constitution is important because it defines the federal government. It has an amendment process that has been used 27 times, so it has been re-written to some degree.

            For the most part, the Constitution is not ambiguous. For example, the famous controversies in interpretation of the 2nd amendment and the privileges or immunities clause of the 14th amendment arose because certain people did not like
        • The problem is that it was unambiguous at the time it was written, but American English has evolved a little since that time. For example in the language of the era 'well-regulated' meant exhibiting good discipline. The fact that language is not forever static makes expository corroborating texts from the amendment's authors valuable.

          However, some of the ambiguity is manufactured by political opponents. There is no need for distinctions about concealed or unconcealed. It says 'the right of the people to b
    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:51PM (#38601356)

      Your country? Which one is it?

      The UN declared it a human right.

      http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/06/united-nations-wikileaks-internet-human-rights/38526/ [theatlanticwire.com]

      • Yeah and look how well it respects the rights it has previously declared.
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        The UN declared it a human right.

        The UN is a country now?

        ....damn, I must be really out of it.

      • by Sez Zero (586611)

        Your country? Which one is it?

        The UN declared it a human right.

        It must be Kosovo, Taiwan or Vatican City-- the only three that aren't part of the UN [about.com].

      • by Toonol (1057698)
        The UN declared it a human right.

        It's nonsensical to declare something which didn't exist thirty years ago a human right. What other trendy things can we make human rights for a couple decades? Disco?
    • The Internet shouldn't be a right, but it is tempting to declare it one as without it many peoples would be stuck under misinformation/oppression they would not have other ways of fighting.

      I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you. You can feed yourself through farming, fishing, trapping, etc. Both can enable rights and be used to remove them.

      • I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you.

        Uh, yeah. About that [google.com]...

        And let's not forget about this recent incident [yahoo.com].

      • The Internet shouldn't be a right, but it is tempting to declare it one as without it many peoples would be stuck under misinformation/oppression they would not have other ways of fighting.

        I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you. You can feed yourself through farming, fishing, trapping, etc. Both can enable rights and be used to remove them.

        Nobody is arguing that you can't wear tank tops.

        That aside, if you want to expand the second amendment to include anything that might help an individual overthrow the Federal government, then more power to you. I'd like my electricity, water, cell phone, Internet access, food and hunting licenses provided for me.

        The whole point about TFArgument is that fundamental rights, those enshrined in the Constitution, are those needed to live in a just society (as we define it). Those rights are inalienable and giv

      • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:17PM (#38601872) Homepage Journal
        You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you.

        I'm sure that there are some Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis and North Koreans that might take issue with your statements. Oh, and Jews. And Tibetans. And Bosnians. And Cambodians. And Chinese. And like, Half of Africa. But those are just the few I could rattle off in 30 seconds, there might be more.
    • by j-pimp (177072) <zippy1981.gmail@com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:54PM (#38601416) Homepage Journal

      You have a natural right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property and Happiness (I'll argue real-estate, material possessions, and non-material happiness in this comment). You don't have an intrinsic right to property and happiness, just a right to be allowed to earn them. So the government doesn't have to provide you with a job, housing, food, healthcare or internet access for free. They just have to make sure a system is in place to allow you to make those things happen.

      Individual societies can decide the implementation details. Maybe that means a social safety net of the government providing all that. Maybe it means an extreme of a true command economy where needs are provided for regardless of ones contribution to society. Maybe it means something extremely libertarian where the only government is civil courts and the only public lands are roads and markets. However, a society is not intrinsically backwards because they decide that internet access is not free, if your free to get a job to pay for an internet connection.

      • by inviolet (797804)

        You have a natural right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property and Happiness (I'll argue real-estate, material possessions, and non-material happiness in this comment). You don't have an intrinsic right to property and happiness, just a right to be allowed to earn them. So the government doesn't have to provide you with a job, housing, food, healthcare or internet access for free. They just have to make sure a system is in place to allow you to make those things happen.

        Very good. Now tell us *why* all humans possess those rights.

        The definition doesn't help, either... a political right is defined as "A behavior which you may practice, and anyone who tries to stop you is automatically wrong." No information there about where the right springs from.

        The answer, that most people will not agree with, is: rights are the those behaviors that humans must practice if they seek to establish a pro-human society, where 'pro-human' means a society whose primary goal is the long-ter

        • by tmosley (996283)
          Life and liberty fall under the axiomatic concept of self-ownership. Think about the consequences if you do not own yourself. Further, think of the way other people think--if you try to carve a ham out of someone's behind, will they let you do it? Will everyone else? No? That person clearly has a right to the ownership of their own meat then, and that right is widely recognized.

          Property is a bit more complex, but can simply be stated as axiomatic as well. People have a right to posses property, bec
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jafiwam (310805)

          Huh? Only a philosophical weakling would bring that up at this point.

          Yes, there is a little bit of hand-waving in ethics as far as the metaphysical question of where rights come from, however, if you undermine it you'll find that pretty much every system and scope pre-supposes it, if you take it away in all forms, you have anarchy.

          Unless you shot the person in front of you in line in the back of the head this morning, because they were there, you aren't the type of anarchist that actually believes that,

        • by roman_mir (125474)

          I answered this question long ago - people have rights that they are willing to fight for, that's all. So if a bunch of people are willing to kill in order to secure their rights, then they have these rights.

          The next logical step is to outsource the killing part to an entity (or entities), call those 'governments' and then give governments certain rights and deny all other rights to the government.

          Why is it important to deny all rights to governments except for the ones that are explicitly allowed? Because

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          The old faithful answer is that rights grant you those freedoms that you can possess without forcing anybody else into servitude as a consequence. I.E., the government can't stop you from using the internet, or coming to free agreement with anybody else about accessing the internet with their help, but cannot force anybody to give you internet access without their consent.

          I have been toying with another definition of rights: That set of limitations on interpersonal dealings which maximizes individual f
    • Well chineses have access to "the internet", so their human rights are "respected", same in Bolivia you have access to the internet, but of course hosting a site at a resonable price in Bolivia so that local people have a decent access to your ideas, no way...

      So Vint Cerf is right, putting the internet on the list of "human rights" is a way to pretend to give "a right" so that you do not grumble to much about "less important things" like the right to express your opinions even if it's "gasp" blasphemy or "h

      • Vint Cerf is both right and wrong. He is correct that the government isn't trampling on your rights if it does not provide Internet access and a computer for it's population. But on the flip side, if it expressly denies you access to a communications medium it is denying you a basic human right.

        To cast it in another light: Would it be acceptable for a government to outlaw Jewish people from driving on public freeways? Of course not. But nobody expects the government to buy everybody a car and a tank full
    • by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:09PM (#38601716) Homepage

      Free Speech is a human right. It's still a human right when that speech is conveyed over the Internet. To the extent that a government obstructs Internet access by its citizens, it is obstructing a human right.

      In a capitalist society, human rights are about obstruction, not compulsion. The right to life does not compel a government to provide you with medical care; it merely prevents the government from obstructing your ability to otherwise obtain treatment. Likewise, the
      right to free speech does not compel a government to provide you with an Internet account.

      Socialist societies have a different point of view. A socialist government has a compulsion to provide its citizens at least minimalist and at most egalitarian facilities for the exercise of their human rights.

      But guess what? Neither socialism nor capitalism are human rights.

    • by Spazmania (174582)

      In Soviet Russia, the Internet has a right to access you.

  • Reword it then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:45PM (#38601250)

    It's the right to communicate with the world community.

    • The right to communicate is a more general version of "free speech and free press", and needs to be an absolute right. Man cannot exist above subsistence except as a society, and a society cannot operate if you cannot communicate. By "cannot exist", I mean even the most determined backwoods survivalist uses tools and knowledge they got from someone else, and at a minimum has to be able to communicate "get off my land". Since we cannot tell in advance what kinds of communication are needed, or what techni

    • by dokebi (624663)

      This. Please mod parent up.

      I think the right to communicate is the superset of right to speech, right to press, right to internet.

      It is the ability to communicate with others (as enabled by internet as well as cell phones) that brought forth the "Arab Spring". In countries like North Korea, where communication is severely restricted (no cell phones except for the ruling class, no unrestricted travel, no phones to outside of North korea, etc) it becomes extremely easy to oppress the people.

  • Agreed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:47PM (#38601288)

    Anyone who feels that the Internet is a "human right" should read Bastiat's The Law. (http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html)

  • Running water? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grahamsaa (1287732) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:47PM (#38601290)
    Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.
    • Yeah, how ever did people live in 1950. And 2000 B.C. - don't even get me started!
    • Re:Running water? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zerosomething (1353609) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:55PM (#38601452) Homepage
      Exactly! Rights are not something that requires work by another party for you t have them. The right to free speech doesn't require anyone to do anything. You can talk all you want and publish your own paper, if you can pay for it. But you don't have any right to be published by someone else. It requires them to do something they may not want to do which would violate their rights. Christian news site foo has absolutely no obligation to publish articles from Muslim news outlet bar.
    • by DesScorp (410532)

      Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.

      And I think advocates for things such as universal access to the Net would be taken more seriously if they used your reasoning. Argue for the importance of a cause, but realize that if you try to argue that everything you work for is a "right", then people roll their eyes and just tune you out.

    • Re:Running water? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:56PM (#38601464) Journal

      Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.

      I think his point is that the technology by which you obtain such things should not be considered a right. For example, While having ready availability of water is important, the way it is delivered may not be -- having water delivered through pipes by your local water company is not really necessary -- you could have a well instead. The Internet is a delivery mechanism and what it delivers is vitally important, but other delivery mechanisms may make the Internet obsolete in the future.

      • Yes, Internet presents a technology for transmission of information and connecting people. But that's not the only thing that makes the Internet. It's not just the technology behind it. It's a phenomena, which encompasses the Internet community. While the technology isn't a human right, what it brings should be.

        Just like the press. The press isn't a technology that refers to the printing press, it's a phenomena.

      • by tmosley (996283)
        No, more important is that you have a right to not have someone interrupt your legitimate access to water that you own. Same with the internet--you have a right to not be blocked from using it, provided you have your own means of accessing it.
    • Re:Running water? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bobcat7677 (561727) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:56PM (#38601472) Homepage
      The point Vint Cerf is trying to make, and is immensely important in this discussion, is that there is a big difference between a civil right and a basic human right. There is nothing wrong with making internet access a civil right if the government/people agree that that is justified in the given culture. But to exalt something as unnecessary to human existence as internet access to the status of a "basic human right" is a grave mistake and should be carefully avoided. This is because it de-values the really important stuff like the right to not be tortured or right to not be murdered.
      • Exactly this. There is nothing wrong with government making a mandate that everyone have access to the Internet - just as it mandated that everyone had access to telephone lines (and pretty much electricity), schooling and postal service. But it is just a government mandate that can be changed at the whim of the populace^Hlobbyists, it isn't a fundamental issue of life or liberty.

  • by chrisphotonic (2450982) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:48PM (#38601298)
    Lets face, it we aren't going to provide everyone with IPads, and computers. The Internet is not a right.

    However, keeping the government from blocking the Internet IS a right. That's the right our right to free speech in one of its most powerful forms.
  • What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard? What's "freedom to information" worth if you cannot access any information but the one that you are "supposed" to get? What's freedom of conscience worth if you only get to hear the indoctrinations of the state-sanctioned church?

    Technology might not be a right. But without it, some rights are quite meaningless.

    • by PPH (736903)

      What good is freedom of speech if you have no mouth, Mr Anderson?*

      *Yeah, I know it's not the exact quote from the movie.

      • Freedom of speech is the important thing, not the way you exercise it.

        so are you saying that 100 years ago that the telegraph should have been considered a human right? it would have no meaning now.

        what happens 100 years from now when the internet is viewed as outdated as the telegraph is today? freedom of speech/information will still be viewed as a right. no one will care about the internet 100 years from now except the old guy yelling at the kids on his lawn.

        Restricting people from using the internet c

    • The internet may be the medium through which those rights can be transmitted, and so it is indeed important, but the internet itself isn't a right.

      Freedom of speech and freedom of information are what the important things and it is these that should be these that get the attention. Access to the internet isn't and shouldn't be a right, but it should be recognized that being blocked from the internet is infringing or restricting your rights to free speech and information.

      It is the rights themselves that are

    • What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard? What's "freedom to information" worth if you cannot access any information but the one that you are "supposed" to get? What's freedom of conscience worth if you only get to hear the indoctrinations of the state-sanctioned church?

      Technology might not be a right. But without it, some rights are quite meaningless.

      So you have a government protected, nay, supported, right to sit in front of my house at 2:00 AM with a loudspeaker truck?

      You have the right to talk, you have no right to be heard.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Precisely.

      This is why the citizens of the world need to make sure that monopolies and governments don't control the internet. We need to require network neutrality and stop laws like SOPA. We don't need the government to provide everyone with internet access: we just need to be sure that no one can prevent us from getting it. That is what a right is about: making sure that no government can abridge it.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard?

      This is why the First Amendment to the US Constitution includes the right to peaceable assembly and to petition the government (basically, a right "to be heard" in the proper context for democratic debate and protest). I would consider the Internet to be a peaceable assembly, provided no laws are being broken (copyright is in fact a valid law established in the Constitution, so there is that) so it would automatically be protected under that Amendment already. Whether a judge thinks so or not is another que

  • by SaroDarksbane (1784314) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:49PM (#38601338)
    Much like the right to bear arms does not imply that you have a right to be provided with those arms, I would argue that you have right to not be prevented from using the internet by the government, but that's different from a right to be provided internet access.
    • by forkfail (228161)

      The question, really, is whether it would be constitutional for Congress to make it illegal to sell arms to non-military citizens, or to make their manufacture illegal.

      The extreme and silly case would be that it is legal to say whatever you want, but you have to put a pillow over your face when doing so.

  • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:51PM (#38601364)

    His point is reasonable, though probably a bit subtle for many audiences. "Access to communication" might well be a human right, but we shouldn't add "the Internet" to a special list for the same reason that we can be glad our predecessors didn't add "telegraph service" to the list.

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:52PM (#38601394) Homepage Journal
    A Republic's sole legitimate* job is to ensure the practicality of mutually consenting individuals assortatively migrating to their own ecological domains.

    In that manner, all other definitions of "human rights" can be accommodated by the simple expedient of mutually consenting co-habitation.

    This means "secession" must be incorporated into the foundation of all notions of "human rights" -- secession of individuals as well as groups of individuals. For what is slavery but making it impractical for an individual to secede? Denial of individual secession was the core evil of the Dred Scott decision.

    Tyranny of the majority, limited only by a vague laundry list of selectively enforced human rights -- the sine qua non of "liberal democracy" -- must submit to the right to secede or it violates truth and freedom, hence all social good.

    See Secession from Slavery to Free Scientific Society [blogspot.com].

    *Yes, this does mean there does not exist, at present, a legitimate government anywhere.

    • So, what if I as your neighbor want to secede and pump noxious gasses into the atmosphere? How would you feel if I claimed sovereignty over my land with the intent to dump mercury into the groundwater? I'm sorry, but your argument that everyone has a right to selfishly behave however they'd like to with no regard for the welfare of others is pretty juvenile.
  • The internet was the great boundary eraser. People from anywhere could suddenly communicate, share, argue, whatever without having to travel, know an address and write a letter or know a phone number and make a call. Keeping people from communicating was an afterthought by dictatorial regimes, who have fallen or faced uprisings thanks to this ability to communicate from anywhere at the speed of thought. Now it faces barriers by governments and carriers - China's great firewall, Iran closing internet Cafe

  • I think Vint is correct technically: it certainly doesn't make sense to have tools or technologies become "rights". Yet, I think he is missing the substantive debate that has been ongoing for decades: are human rights solely "negative rights" (e.g. freedom from censorship, etc) or are they also "positive rights" (e.g. freedom to access education).

    Now, the whole thing can be restated in terms of what freedom of speech really means and entails. Is it only freedom from oppression, or does it assert some pos
  • Why just say "internet"? That sounds too specific to me. General information, that is, information that has been made available for the public in any form, should be a human right. The Internet is only one way to access this, but that should be why it would fall under that.

  • Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech...

    A law that restricts the ability for someone to communicate is a law that abridges (limits, reduces, etc.) the freedom of speech. The Internet is not Speech, but it is a means to speak, just like running television, radio, or print ads, flying a banner behind an airplane, or simply standing on a box shouting into a bullhorn. Should telepathy be the next wave in communication, limiting the ability for people to perform telepathy would still be abridging the freedom of speech.

    Limiting the Internet is limiting

  • Rights are granted by default, not by enumeration. Much like the arguments over software patents, adding "on a computer" or "on the Internet" to a fundamental human right like freedom of speech does not make it a new right that must be separately protected. It already IS protected, and singling it out for "special" protection only provides a means for those protections to be revoked. Just because you pass a law that says "no censoring the Internet" does not make censoring it okay after you repeal the law
  • Rights like technology change over time. These aren't the 10 commandments written in stone anymore.

    Looks like an article just trying to pose debate for his opinions of what he agrees should be a human right and shouldn't be.

    And really comparing the right to having a horse to having the right to access of information? Please.

  • What is a "Right"? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tokolosh (1256448) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:04PM (#38601612)

    Inalienable rights are inherent in your existence. They are not given to you by a government, although a government should protect these rights from infringement by others. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    Thus, internet access is not a right. But you do have the right to access the internet, should you so choose.

  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @04:13PM (#38601796) Homepage

    Confusing government-provided services and entitlements with "rights" sets a dangerous precedent.

    The idea that "rights" are granted by government only makes it easier for governments to take them away.

  • The reason that freedom of press is specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights is not that the specific medium of a newspaper is so important, so much as that was the most visible media at that time to share thoughts and opinions. I'd contend that same concept applies to the internet today. Denying access to the internet may seem to be a first world problem that people can't check Facebook, but at the same time you're denying people access to the thoughts and opinions of society, or sharing their own.

  • I haven't logged into slashdot for a really long time. But I felt the need to do so just to point out how I feel that Vint's outlook might be a bit shortsighted. Sure, today I might agree as an American that the Internet isn't necessarily a right unto itself. But for the people in the countries he mentions who have managed to enact some serious political change because of their ability to easily communicate, it certainly is a much more tangible quality right now for them to have that ability to easily co

  • A simple test. . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @05:59PM (#38603498) Journal

    Maybe I've missed some case, but it seems to me that there's a simple test for what is a basic human right:

    It's something that other people/the government can only take away from you, not give to you.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson

Working...