The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has passed a resolution decreeing that an open internet is a human right. It follows the resolutions concerning freedom of expression in its Declaration of Human Rights, but this time it’s focusing on the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet”.
In a nutshell, the UN decided that it's a human right to be able to access an "open, accessible" internet, and it condemns anything that would purposely "prevent or disrupt" our access to information online - such as that by a government.
The resolution is there to reaffirm that whatever human rights we have offline, we also have online.
Thomas Hughes, of civil liberties group Article 19, explained: "The resolution is a much-needed response to increased pressure on freedom of expression online in all parts of the world. From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalising legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online."
That means that Iraq would be held accountable for completely shutting down the country's internet, and China's mass censorship would likely be denounced too.
A few countries - including Russia and China - objected to the notion and wanted some amendments to the whole 'human rights' element of it, but more than 70 supported it. So far, it's just a resolution and not legally binding, but that could change.
And there's more we could do, Hughes says: "The global situation for freedom of expression online demands more specific and detailed commitment from states… states must tackle these issues head-on, including abusive laws that target legitimate online dissent, government efforts to undermine anonymity and encryption, and attempts to exert undue pressure on private ICT actors to engage in censorship."
If you fancy reading the resolution in all its legalese glory, you can download the PDF here.
Source: Article 19