Everyone Should be able to Access the Internet

Friday, January 27, 2012


Brooke asks Harvard Law professor and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society Jonathan Zittrain if access to the internet should be considered a human right.  He says that according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to receive and impart information through any media, and today's media of choice is the internet.

Comments [5]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Oh, I'm liking what Mr. Bennett wrote. What I also fear is terrorists setting off a nuclear device, shutting down access to the Internet in a region or at a crucial node such as computers in control of financial transactions. Heck, Connecticut's been unable to even deal with the fallout from a Halloween snowstorm!!!

Feb. 02 2012 05:30 PM
Malcolm Dwyer from Illinois

Following on from Math Guy from Manhattan's nitpick with an even mathier nitpick: Where 'n' is the number of nodes, Metcalfe's law states that the value of the network increases as a value of n^2. In the OTM story, it was described as 2^n ("each new node doubles the value").

n^2: 0, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64,...
2^n: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64,128,256,...

n^2 goes up fast, but not as fast as 2^n

Jan. 30 2012 04:10 PM

Too bad the internet was not declared a human right by the UN last year. All internet screens could have went dark for a minute in honor of Kim Jung Il who inspired a moment of silence at the UN General Assembly.

Keeping that grotesque international ceremony in mind makes the Declaration's childishly repeated term of "everyone has a right" less a lofty ideal and more a cruel taunt.
Anyone serious about Article 19 would strive to enact it in the old fashion ways first rather than use a human right to the internet as just another excuse to expand government.

Jan. 29 2012 08:20 PM
Math guy from Manhattan

Picking a nit: Metcalfe's Law does not say that the value of a network doubles every time a node is added. That would mean that the value of a network grows exponentially with the number of nodes. What Metcalfe's Law really says is that the value added of each new node is proportional to the number of potential new connections, which is the same as the number of previously existing nodes. That means that the overall value of the network only grows quadratically with the number of nodes, and even that estimate may be an exaggeration.

Jan. 29 2012 11:37 AM
Daniel Bennett from Washington, DC

Although the issue as presented by Cerf and Zittrain sounded reasonable in their arguments about technology, they left out a huge aspect of what is part of the discussion which are the rights and mandated responsibilities of the citizen. Over the years as I have drafted and commented on drafts of legislation that impact the citizen and technology, the need to make online or network access a right as separate from a pure speech right should be a right and for reasons not mentioned in the interviews.

Laws and regulations are being passed that include provisions for forcing government and companies to publish on the Internet and use the Internet for certain transaction. And although laws generally do not force citizens into using the Internet for required transactions, that may be changing. And specifically even if the citizen can manage to follow the law without accessing the Internet, it may only be because of proxies that can access and transact on their behalf--in other words, it will be similar to being disabled and needing help.

Cerf may be right the names of and actual technologies are going to change. But the law is changing and even the nature of laws is changing: laws are being written and published using Internet technologies where it may be necessary to have Internet access to have primary access to the law. And these changes toward an Internet based society are happening because of the many benefits.

So I would say that the right to the Internet by any other name may be just as good, but let us not dismiss the need to adopt this new right even if the wordsmithing or to use a geek phrase, future proofing is employed. As long as the law and regulations make citizenship dependent on use and access to the Internet, use and access Internet must be a right.

Daniel Bennett

Jan. 28 2012 08:21 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.