The Internet is not a human rights issue

Right now there is a conference going on in Denver where some participants are tossing around phrases describing access to the Internet as a “human rights issue”.

Really?  Please.  Get real.

Human rights has to do with access to food, water, and shelter.  Human rights is about being able to leverage your capital to earn a living, to feed your children, to actualize your dreams.

Is the Internet essential to life, liberty, and security of person?  Is the Internet necessary for the avoidance of slavery?  Is the lack of Internet access the same as torture or cruel, inhuman punishment?  Does the lack of Internet access equate to a violation of equal protection?

Can having Internet access help us acquire and use capital?  Yes, it can.  Depending on your occupation you could argue that Internet access is part of your production function, part of the mix of capital that helps you build and create.  Access to the Internet can be a tool for the entrepreneur developing innovative services or technology for delivering those services..

A human right, however?  That’s a stretch, unless you believe that just because something is online you have some right to that content and believe access to it should be free.  Maybe that’s the human rights my progressive friends on the left are referring to.  If so, then they miss the whole point as to what human rights is all about.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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4 Responses to The Internet is not a human rights issue

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    The internet is a human rights issue in several areas. In education, the internet (broadband, not crappy dsl) is increasingly required to access courses, textbook, research assignments. Low income families are hit hardest along with the requirement to buy computers and the necessary hardware/software. In the workplace, the internet is needed to maintain communications such as emails, listservs, company web sites, not to mention to apply for jobs and submit resumes which is mostly online these days. One of the most critical areas is information. In a country where the media has been consolidated and captured by corporate interests, access to alternative sources of independent journalism and reporting is crucial to maintain a semblance of democracy. Censorship of the internet in China, Vietnam and other countries is most certainly a human rights issue and many bloggers and journalists have been imprisoned and persecuted for their online activities. For you, the internet may not be a human rights issue but for many it is.

    • altondrew says:

      Thanks for your comments, Jeff. My survival as a human being is not contingent on Internet access. While I believe that those willing and able to access and use this technology should do so, what you have described in your comments is a consumer issue. You’ve described something akin to a market failure; but market failures and human rights are two different things.

      Specifically, regarding access to broadband by low income families, what we need to see are these alleged innovative Silicon Valley types come up with more affordable devices that enable low income families to connect. Efforts have been made, but they need to continue. The FCC has made efforts to increase indirect subsidies to low income individuals via universal service funding; subsidies that will enable these families to connect. What we are not seeing enough of is involvement by the biggest beneficiaries i.e., Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc., to help subsidize broadband connection and adoption. Just like a land developer will pay for paving roads, and contributing to schools, Amazon and Facebook should chip in more for the development of the information superhighway. In the end they benefit with the increase of subscribers to their services.

      America does not have an information problem. It has an information prioritization problem. Consumers have a right to acquire and use content of their choice, but what we are choosing to consume and distribute has not added much to our social or economic growth. The Internet serves up rehashed information raised to the 10th level simply because of the interconnectedness of the world wide web. The quality hasn’t changed.

      What is really driving the discussion is the new breed of content provider that wants to use copyrighted information without paying for it and distribute this information with little or no cost so as to profit from it. This is what this so called “media reform” is boiling down to.

      In the end, does it really get to the issue of feeding, educating, and sheltering our children? No.

  2. Kenneth Ciszewski says:

    I agree it’s not a human rights issue. Of course, having access is surely helpful in the modern world. Those who don’t have access are sort of “left out”.

  3. Pingback: Opinion | theReadList

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