Is Internet access a human right? Vint Cerf says no

France and the United Nations say Internet access is a human right. "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf says no.

In an editorial in the New York Times, Cerf agrees the Internet helped the Arab Spring uprisings, but says technologies like the Internet enable basic rights, but aren't included. In the U.S., even the most rural areas must have access to a telephone because of the Universal Service law, but the phone is not provided for them. Cerf says human rights are those things "we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience."

The ability to speak your mind without persecution may be a human right in Cerf's view, and he's all for engineers to improve the Internet to spread and share that speech. While the Universal Service regulations now include making broadband Internet access available to all, it's not yet a human right, or even a civil right, but getting closer. And Cerf says, "improving the Internet is just one means, albeit an important one, by which to improve the human condition."

Respectful disagreement

Freedom of speech is meaningless these days without access to some medium. Access to the internet is the modern-day equivalent of access to a printing press, lampost postering or holding speeches in a public square.

Jessica6 on

It's easy to dismiss when your own access is guaranteed.

Chief Chili Fry Maker on

If you ask me, anything that enables a basic human right (not so much makes it easier, but ENABLES it) is a right in and of itself.

Greg_The_Bunny on

No right is absolutely right

Agreed, not a human right. More like basic infrastructure in a civilized roads, power grid, sewage, plumbing.

Greg on

Nobody is dismissing the internet as extremely important. They're just saying the Internet itself is not a human right. Some of the things the internet enables are human rights, but that's not the same thing.

Yinzers Are People Too on

No human rights are fundamental. They are all agreed upon rights that some nation states choose to respect and others don't. Even in states where these rights are respected, violation is common.

ThomPete on

Rights get messy

Because the right to free speech means you can speak, but then no one can control people saying idiotic things.

Fi your argument is complete sophomoric nonsense on

In my opinion, it is the CONTENTS of the internet that are a human right.

Ninety-9 on

I think Cerf's point is that we should not take something which is complex and takes extraordinary human effort to produce, maintain, protect and secure as a granted right. It intermingles motivations undesirably.

cgs1019 on

Aren't we lucky? Millions and millions of people don't have access to clean water, and we're arguing about whether access to FMyLife is a basic human right.

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