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Vint Cerf: Internet Access is Not a Human Right
engine

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 10:24 am on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Vint Cerf: Internet Access is Not a Human Right [nytimes.com]
From the streets of Tunis to Tahrir Square and beyond, protests around the world last year were built on the Internet and the many devices that interact with it. Though the demonstrations thrived because thousands of people turned out to participate, they could never have happened as they did without the ability that the Internet offers to communicate, organize and publicize everywhere, instantaneously.

It is no surprise, then, that the protests have raised questions about whether Internet access is or should be a civil or human right.
Improving the Internet is just one means, albeit an important one, by which to improve the human condition. It must be done with an appreciation for the civil and human rights that deserve protection — without pretending that access itself is such a right.


 

incrediBILL

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 10:42 am on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Finally, someone making some sense.

People should have a basic right to get food, shelter and clean water yet they don't even get that in many parts of the world, let alone the internet, sheesh.

engine

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 11:08 am on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I agree, those are basics to help us to live. I guess if you're in the middle of an uprising and your net connection is cut off you'd see it differently.

incrediBILL

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 11:43 am on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I guess if you're in the middle of an uprising and your net connection is cut off you'd see it differently.


Agreed.

However, cutting off or controlling communications in such situations has been a standard military tactic for ages. Taking control over or disabling TV, radio, telephone or telegraph is pretty standard and if you have no telephone or (cable) TV you have no internet.

From my last statement, you could also extrapolate that cable TV and telephone services should also be a basic 'human right' since they're required as an internet transmission medium but nobody is pleading that case now are they? ;)

bhonda

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 11:57 am on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Brilliant article - makes a lot of sense.

Love his example -

For example, at one time if you didn’t have a horse it was hard to make a living. But the important right in that case was the right to make a living, not the right to a horse. Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it.

Surely a 'Human Right', (if one ever does exist - other topic!), is one that affects all humans. So, are those guys living in the middle of the Amazon rainforest suffering because they don't have Internet Access?

I doubt it. I'm sure they would not be that bothered.

DeeCee



 
Msg#: 4403985 posted 5:13 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Incredibill is right. Cutting communications has always been a standard tactic. Think 1800's and cutting telegraph wires to prevent the "other side" from communicating movements.

Our views of what it means to "need" something or what constitutes minimal subsistence or basic human rights is getting quite messed up. I was reading the other day some data on percentages of the people now in the US considered poor or "near poor" as they call it. Showing the very large percentage of "poor" or "near poor" that have large screen plasma or LCD TVs, and percentages with multiple smart-phones/iPhones in the family.

Notice that in some areas of the US, such as Washington, "near poor" is up to $95,000 family income. :) So there you qualify for government help at quite good incomes, even despite all the "human right" things such as plasma TVs and iPhones your money go to pay for.

The definitions of what we "need" or "must have" as human "rights" in the world sure has changed, just in my time on earth.

Sierra_Dad

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 7:52 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Notice that in some areas of the US, such as Washington, "near poor" is up to $95,000 family income.


Wow, I'm in Washington State. I would have qualified even before graduating from my full time software job at Hewlett-Packard. Should I have been asking for stuff?

I hope to never qualify with my new mobile software career.

Of course, most people will think I am aiming low if my resolution is to be above the state poverty level for 2012.

buckworks

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 7:58 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

aiming low if my resolution is to be above the state poverty level


Hey, ya gotta start someplace! :)

DeeCee



 
Msg#: 4403985 posted 8:59 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry, Sierra_Dad.. I forgot to list the full name.. "Washington" here meant "Washington, DC", where all the politicians roam. :)

The new measurements, published a few months ago, is a political thing.

To win re-election, Obama must have a problem to solve. Since his goal is more Government and more government ownership, he must document a problem "his government" can solve for everyone. Make everyone feel like they are horribly off, and surely deserve assistance. By suddenly bumping the calculations so more than 100 million people (~ 1/3 of the US population) now fall into either the poverty or the "near poor" class of income, it makes it popular to push for more government assistance. And the more people are on government assistance, the more public employees we will need, the more people will learn to depend on government help, and the more power Obama will have. Plus, to pay for all that new expense, we will have to tax the EVIL corporations, the EVIL rich people, and the surely bad self-employed people, who showed initiative on their own. They must all pay their "fair share", as Obama has called it about a million times in his speeches.

Simple math for a born polician. :)

So be careful.. If your web-sites ever start making money, that money should be used to pay for Earned Income Credits, cars, iPhones, Game-boxes, and similar for essentially your neighbors. :)

Never mind that all the "near poor" perfectly can afford the mentioned goods. That of course is a "human right" today. :)

I used to do taxes for several "low-income" families (army family among other). When I calculated their "tax-credits" from Earned Income Credit (essentially a check written directly out of other tax-payer's bank-accounts) and saw how much of my taxes paid was being written off directly to other people with only the IRS as a direct middle man, I was flabbergasted. About 30% of the taxes the IRS withdrew from my bank-account was transferred directly into these few other people's bank-accounts, and I got to watch it happen, having access to their online accounts. Horrifying. They paid not one dime in taxes, and I essentially got to write them very large check on top of that. Transferred from my account -> IRS -> other people. All within a couple of days.

Mean-while, the people I was helping do their taxes was sitting in my home-office, playing games on their iPhones.. (I stopped doing people's taxes after that. To prevent from suffering a heart-attack.)

Marshall

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 9:29 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

According to the Declaration of the United States, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Granted, this is not an Article of the Constitution such as the right to free speech, but "Liberty and pursuit of Happiness" could be interpreted as to include things, such as the internet, to make them happen.

But to counter what I just said, the internet is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

Then again, if it is a right, why am I paying $$ a month for access :)

Marshall

Sierra_Dad

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 9:36 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm with you there.

Last year I paid zero taxes and got a nice refund. I did have income, though not great, but better than many people working for others.

Good thing I held onto the money because I'm paying for 20 other people's refunds this year.

The rich are already paying most of the taxes, contrary to some statements by politicians. But I think the 50% of people paying no taxes should have some skin in the game. Otherwise, they can keep voting for more benefits and government spending without sharing in any of the costs.

lucy24

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 9:49 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

:: yawn ::

Remember all those Depression-era families loading up their belongings in their private cars and then driving off across country in their private cars in search of work? In the rest of the world, including western Europe, the very idea of a poor person-- as these folks unequivocally were-- owning private cars was simply unthinkable. You wouldn't even put the words into the same sentence.

jecasc

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 10:52 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Actually Vint Cerf ist totally missing the point. Nobody has argued that Internet Access is actually a human right in itself. The point is that cutting of Internet access violates human rights. Like freedom of speech.

He writes:
In June, citing the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, a report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur went so far as to declare that the Internet had “become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights.” (...)

But that argument, however well meaning, misses a larger point: technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.


Ahem, Mr Cerf: That is exactly what the UN guy said: The UN guy said: The internet is a tool for realizing a range of human rights. He did not say the internet IS the human right.

However human rights are worthless if you cut of access to the means to excercise them.

Surely a 'Human Right', (if one ever does exist - other topic!), is one that affects all humans. So, are those guys living in the middle of the Amazon rainforest suffering because they don't have Internet Access?


I think you are confusing "basic needs" and "human rights". Else we would have to waive "freedom of the press", because they do not have newspapers in the Amazon rainforest.

Marshall

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 10:54 pm on Jan 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

in their private cars


Remember, that was all they owned. They lost their homes, farms and money.

Marshall

piatkow

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 9:34 am on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)


In the rest of the world, including western Europe, the very idea of a poor person-- as these folks unequivocally were-- owning private cars was simply unthinkable.

I remember my father quoting a definition of poverty in the 1960s

Sweden - not being able to put butter on your steak
USA - not having steak
England - not having meat
Africa - not eating

incrediBILL

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 10:14 am on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

The most amusing thing here is out of the thousands of years of human civilization we've only had the internet for a couple of decades, and most people didn't even know what it was until the last decade, and suddenly it's like air, we can't live without it, and heaven forbid you get denied access!

Yes, we may rely on the internet heavily, but that doesn't make it a basic human right nor the cornerstone of freedom of speech.

However human rights are worthless if you cut of access to the means to excercise them.

What rights are violated if access to the internet is cut off?

You can still exercise free speech, nobody is stopping you.

You can still tell a crowd, shout it out the window, yell it from a rooftop, put it on a sign and carry it... so on and so forth, so exactly how has your free speech been stopped?

It hasn't, only access to a medium has been blocked which is hardly the same as inhibiting free speech as there are other mediums still available.

Funny, people had free speech before the internet and they still have it when the internet is blocked or inaccessible in any way, shape or form.

It's not a basic right, never was.

How do I know this?

Basic rights don't come with monthly Sprint bills.

Ever hear of smoke signals? signal flags? drums? couriers? messengers? carrier pigeons?

Lots of ways to spread the message without the internet.

Sgt_Kickaxe

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 11:26 am on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

The government can authorize your local TV/Radio/Phone to be interupted for their political good at any time, if the commercials on these are not enough to shape your thoughts. Humans are livestock in todays world, this news does not surprise me in the least.

What scares government about internet is it's speed. You can reach out to a following far faster than the government can react to whatever you write. I say "scares" government because they wish to maintain control even when nobody is in harms way, losing control isn't always a bad thing for the population... sometimes it's only bad for government control.

Egypt comes to mind.

As for the TV/Radio/Phone I find it far worse to be forced to watch shows like "little mosque on the prairy" in a traditional timeslot on channels kids often turn to first. I dislike being forced to endure someone elses attempts to "convert" my thoughts than I dislike knowing I can/will be cut off the internet whenever it suits gov.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 11:32 am (utc) on Jan 6, 2012]

tenerifejim

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 11:31 am on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I say "scares" government because they wish to maintain control even when nobody is in harms way, losing control isn't always a bad thing for the population.

Egypt comes to mind.


So do the London Riots.

freejung

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 4:17 pm on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think we need a distinct right to internet access as such, I think it falls under the category of "freedom of the press."

We tend to think of the "press" as an institution (also called the "media") but when the bill of rights was written, it was more of a technology than an institution. The printing press was a transformative technology in much the same way that the internet is now. It allowed information to be disseminated much more rapidly and widely. That, IMO, is why there is a separate phrase "or of the press" in the first amendment to the US Constitution -- to make it clear that the freedom of speech extends to the use of technology to communicate.

The same principle applies to internet access. Communication is a basic human right, by any means and using any technology, including the internet.

Of course it is standard practice to cut off communication during a crisis. That doesn't make it right. Shooting protesters is also fairly standard practice for many governments.

It's important to distinguish between the right to do something and the obligation of the government or any other entity to provide the means to do it. Freedom of the press doesn't mean the government has to buy you a printing press. It means the government can't restrict your ability to use a printing press. Huge difference. I do think there are certain basic services (roads being a fairly uncontroversial example) that the government should provide in order to facilitate the exercise of basic rights, but I'm not sure internet access is one of them.

woofwoof

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 12:02 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

As freejung puts it communication is a basic human right, the Internet just facilitates this. In a similar vein your government guarantees you the right to 'the pursuit of happiness' it won't make you happy or pay for your therapy. You should be careful not to confuse the right and the provision of that right.

And incrediBILL justifying anything by saying the military do it is truly bizarre, in fact saying that the military turn off communications during action should alone justify it as a needed right, If I was going to invade your house Id probably cut the phone lines before I came in to make sure you couldn't call for help, but i don't think this would justify my actions.
And also incrediBill you said
The most amusing thing here is out of the thousands of years of human civilization we've only had the Internet for a couple of decades, and most people didn't even know what it was until the last decade, and suddenly it's like air, we can't live without it, and heaven forbid you get denied access!
The USA only stopped being racially segregated a couple of decades ago also, deciding whether something is wrong or right based on how long its been available also seems a little crazy to me.
incrediBILL

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 2:32 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

And incrediBILL justifying anything by saying the military do it is truly bizarre


You must have a bug about me, I didn't justify anything, I was only making a statement of fact because it's been standard practice for a very long time yet nobody lost their right to free speech.

You missed my point in that people didn't start whining that King George tool their newspaper away, they maintained their freedom of speech for all those years regardless of the military tactics used, people won their freedoms, etc.

The USA only stopped being racially segregated a couple of decades ago also


Where I lived it wasn't racially segregated so please don't use that as an example, it's silly, but we DID all have phones, albeit in my area we had a 'party line'.

FWIW. some parts of the US still seem like segregated today, don't fool yourself, but that's a different thread.

Old_Honky

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 1:52 am on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

communication is a basic human right

I disagree, there are no basic human rights. Things that are considered to be "rights" vary depending on which country you live in and how poor you are.

The world will be a better place when people stop complaining about their rights and start accepting their responsibilities.

onepointone

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 9:26 am on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

there are no basic human rights.


I agree to a point. But people should have the right to not be slaves, and have the opportunity to make the most of the situation they find themselves in.

Plenty of people have fought and died for those privileges in the past. Maybe everybody has to fight.

But if you have any kindred spirit with others of your kind, give them a hand.

jecasc

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 12:07 pm on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)


The world will be a better place when people stop complaining about their rights and start accepting their responsibilities.


You mean like: "Yes! Taxation without representation!"

Woops. I just noticed you are from the UK. So from your perspective this makes sense....

piatkow

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 1:45 pm on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)


The world will be a better place when people stop complaining about their rights and start accepting their responsibilities.

The two are not mutually exclusive, rights and responsibilities are something which should be in a state of balance. I agree that at the moment the weighting is too heavy or "rights" but when rebalancing the words "baby" and "bathwater" need to be kept firmly in mind.

freejung

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Msg#: 4403985 posted 4:46 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

there are no basic human rights


I expect you will find yourself in the minority in this view. Of course, I'm an American (and one who actually knows the Declaration of Independence) so my perspective may be culturally biased on this point.

I won't go over the standard arguments as you can easily look them up. I'll just say that when we said "we hold these truths to be self-evident," we really meant it.

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