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Vint Cerf On Human Rights: Internet Access Isn't On the List

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the coffee-ice-cream-narrowly-beat-it-out dept.

The Internet 398

Gallenod writes "In an op-ed for the New York Times, Vint Cerf writes that civil protests around the world, sparked by Internet communications, 'have raised questions about whether Internet access is or should be a civil or human right.' Cerf argues that 'technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself,' and contends that for something to be considered a human right, it 'must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.'"

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398 comments

Well that's funny, cos my country just (4, Funny)

DCTech (2545590) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601200)

Well that's funny, cos my country just said it is human right for everyone to get internet access and also access to free information. U.S., what a backwards country.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601252)

The 1st amendment already covers this. There is no need to further clutter up our founding documents with some "right" to access the internet. The Constitution is vaguely silent on your "right" to access the library yet I don't hear you calling us backwards for that.

Brevity is your friend when you are drafting a Constitution. For much the same reason I think the equal rights amendment is a waste of time and ink. The 14th amendment's equal protection clause already covers it.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601352)

The only reason no US government ever bothered to fight the first amendment is that it's the freedom to speak.

Nobody said anything about getting heard when speaking.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (2, Funny)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601556)

Sure they did. That's why freedom of the press is also guaranteed.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601592)

Print all the leaflets you want, we'll throw you in jail for littering.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (5, Insightful)

Millennium (2451) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601602)

Nobody said anything about getting heard when speaking.

People were being heard for hundreds of years before the Internet was invented. Have you forgotten that so quickly? Besides, while you have the right to speak, a "right to be heard" would infringe on others' rights to ignore you.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601660)

So, what. You have a right to run a Gutenberg press, but not to publish a blog?

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (3, Insightful)

tangelogee (1486597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601756)

So, what. You have a right to run a Gutenberg press, but not to publish a blog?

You have the right to publish a blog, yes, but the ability to get to the internet to publish said blog is not a given, just as publishing a book is a right, but having access to a press to print said book is not a given.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (0)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601916)

So, then, you'd say that it is constitutional for congress to make internet access illegal?

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1, Troll)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601702)

while you have the right to speak, a "right to be heard" would infringe on others' rights to ignore you.

It's this sort of twisted thinking that leads to tyranny.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (-1, Flamebait)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601774)

...no US government ever bothered to fight the first amendment...

Hahahah, hohoho, hehe, good one. Wait, you seriously think that? Someone needs history lessons.

That also isn't all the First Amendment is, BTW. It does include the freedom to be heard when speaking.

ho ho ho (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601544)

first amendment covers this. and, you have the rights to your free speech. nice. where ?

in your house, among your friends, in your neighborhood, or in a public park which you can put a stool and step on it to give a speech .... oh wait - that last bit turned out not to be a right.

so, you have a right, but the means to exercise it are not your rights. so basically, whomever has the most money can publish newspapers, run tvs or appear in tvs, and all the rest 95% people like you just end up 'free speeching' among your own social circle ........

and in contrast, internet access as of this point fixes all of these - you CAN actually exercise that free speech right AS it should be - in a way that it would matter. you can broadcast to millions if they are interested, you can be read for millions if they are interested, and these cost you very minimal amounts.

take it away and what remains ? only the means to exercise your free speech as a rather vocal member of your own small social circle.

totally harmless. as they want you to be.

Communication is a human right (2)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 2 years ago | (#38602032)

The [US] 1st amendment already covers this. There is no need to further clutter up our founding documents with some "right" to access the internet. The Constitution is vaguely silent on your "right" to access the library yet I don't hear you calling us backwards for that.

That's the one, freedom of expression — unsuppressed communication with local and global communities.

We've seen social media sites act as catalysts to revolutions in places that restrict other forms of expression. This is largely because it is very difficult to suppress "the internet" as a whole, or even specific popular general interest sites.

The printing press and books aren't "human rights" either, just a means by which to achieve communication (expression). What we need is to draw a firm line that shows that, at the moment, the internet is the predominant form of communication and must therefore be protected as a human right; the term "free press" needs a modern equivalent.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601292)

And here we see a classic example of the misunderstanding warned against in the article...

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601314)

And I'm sure your country expects to pay for your internet access with U.S. taxpayers' money.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (2)

DCTech (2545590) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601368)

No, but ISP's are supposed to provide good broadband to everyone. Yes, sometimes it comes out of their pocket, but that is the cost of doing business here. They get good income anyway, so they can put up with providing access to people with remote locations even if it costs more. We don't leave people dieing in cold.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601326)

Yes, the U.S. is backwards because Vint Cerf said something in an op ed. Great job at connecting the dots, guy.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (5, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601356)

Your country? Which one is it?

The UN declared it a human right.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/06/united-nations-wikileaks-internet-human-rights/38526/ [theatlanticwire.com]

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1, Flamebait)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601776)

The UN is run by fools who don't understand the difference between positive and negative rights.

Read: positive rights don't exist, but are merely a means for politicians to use other people's money to buy favor. "The right to access the internet shall not be infringed" is an example of a negative right. "The right to 100Tb/sec internet" is not. I'm hoping all who read this can tell the difference, and can apply that lesson to other realms of massive transfer of wealth.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601798)

The UN declared it a human right.

The UN is a country now?

....damn, I must be really out of it.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601382)

The Internet shouldn't be a right, but it is tempting to declare it one as without it many peoples would be stuck under misinformation/oppression they would not have other ways of fighting.

I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you. You can feed yourself through farming, fishing, trapping, etc. Both can enable rights and be used to remove them.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601548)

Um, several courts in the US have already ruled that they have NO duty to protect you, so no, I can't trust my government to protect me.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (2)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601598)

I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you.

Uh, yeah. About that [google.com]...

And let's not forget about this recent incident [yahoo.com].

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601758)

The Internet shouldn't be a right, but it is tempting to declare it one as without it many peoples would be stuck under misinformation/oppression they would not have other ways of fighting.

I see the the Internet as kind of the 21st century's "right to bare arms". You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you. You can feed yourself through farming, fishing, trapping, etc. Both can enable rights and be used to remove them.

Nobody is arguing that you can't wear tank tops.

That aside, if you want to expand the second amendment to include anything that might help an individual overthrow the Federal government, then more power to you. I'd like my electricity, water, cell phone, Internet access, food and hunting licenses provided for me.

The whole point about TFArgument is that fundamental rights, those enshrined in the Constitution, are those needed to live in a just society (as we define it). Those rights are inalienable and given to us by The Flying Spaghetti Monster (bless his righteous noodlies), Chiltula, God or whatever. [And here is where his argument gets a bit thin - who created God or whatever - man did]. Civil rights**, those given by the government are more variable and are bestowed upon the populace as a measurement of government's largess - Universal telephone access is the canonical example in the US.

** Note that Cerf uses "civil rights' in a somewhat different fashion than in typical. What most Americans would call 'civil rights' (basically non discrimination) really ought to be fundamental rights - but that again goes back to man (government) really makes all of this up. Back in 1770's, women and blacks were essentially chattel, that's what God wanted....

Trust your government! (3, Insightful)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601872)

You do not need a gun to live your life well. You can trust your government to protect you.

I'm sure that there are some Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis and North Koreans that might take issue with your statements. Oh, and Jews. And Tibetans. And Bosnians. And Cambodians. And Chinese. And like, Half of Africa. But those are just the few I could rattle off in 30 seconds, there might be more.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601398)

Your country just said it is a human right.

Ergo, the US is a backwards country. Boy that shit is an _iron_ tight argument, Corky.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (3, Insightful)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601416)

You have a natural right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property and Happiness (I'll argue real-estate, material possessions, and non-material happiness in this comment). You don't have an intrinsic right to property and happiness, just a right to be allowed to earn them. So the government doesn't have to provide you with a job, housing, food, healthcare or internet access for free. They just have to make sure a system is in place to allow you to make those things happen.

Individual societies can decide the implementation details. Maybe that means a social safety net of the government providing all that. Maybe it means an extreme of a true command economy where needs are provided for regardless of ones contribution to society. Maybe it means something extremely libertarian where the only government is civil courts and the only public lands are roads and markets. However, a society is not intrinsically backwards because they decide that internet access is not free, if your free to get a job to pay for an internet connection.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601558)

You have a natural right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property and Happiness (I'll argue real-estate, material possessions, and non-material happiness in this comment). You don't have an intrinsic right to property and happiness, just a right to be allowed to earn them. So the government doesn't have to provide you with a job, housing, food, healthcare or internet access for free. They just have to make sure a system is in place to allow you to make those things happen.

Very good. Now tell us *why* all humans possess those rights.

The definition doesn't help, either... a political right is defined as "A behavior which you may practice, and anyone who tries to stop you is automatically wrong." No information there about where the right springs from.

The answer, that most people will not agree with, is: rights are the those behaviors that humans must practice if they seek to establish a pro-human society, where 'pro-human' means a society whose primary goal is the long-term production of safety, comfort, and pleasure. Any other society is automatically wrong, in the sense of "illogical for humans to seek".

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601948)

Life and liberty fall under the axiomatic concept of self-ownership. Think about the consequences if you do not own yourself. Further, think of the way other people think--if you try to carve a ham out of someone's behind, will they let you do it? Will everyone else? No? That person clearly has a right to the ownership of their own meat then, and that right is widely recognized.

Property is a bit more complex, but can simply be stated as axiomatic as well. People have a right to posses property, because think of the consequences if they didn't. Further, scientific study of the brain's reaction to the use of tools shows that the brain interprets a tool as a part of the body. That is as good a basis for the right to property as any. Other things which are not tools, such as food, land, or brik-a-brak (jewelry, home decorations, etc), are similarly possessed, in that someone mixed their labor into some raw material and improved it, thus gaining the right to posses it exclusively, and then sold that item for currency to buy exclusive access to other things.

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (1)

Coeurderoy (717228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601428)

Well chineses have access to "the internet", so their human rights are "respected", same in Bolivia you have access to the internet, but of course hosting a site at a resonable price in Bolivia so that local people have a decent access to your ideas, no way...

So Vint Cerf is right, putting the internet on the list of "human rights" is a way to pretend to give "a right" so that you do not grumble to much about "less important things" like the right to express your opinions even if it's "gasp" blasphemy or "how horible" insult to the state, etc...

Re:Well that's funny, cos my country just (3, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601716)

Free Speech is a human right. It's still a human right when that speech is conveyed over the Internet. To the extent that a government obstructs Internet access by its citizens, it is obstructing a human right.

In a capitalist society, human rights are about obstruction, not compulsion. The right to life does not compel a government to provide you with medical care; it merely prevents the government from obstructing your ability to otherwise obtain treatment. Likewise, the
right to free speech does not compel a government to provide you with an Internet account.

Socialist societies have a different point of view. A socialist government has a compulsion to provide its citizens at least minimalist and at most egalitarian facilities for the exercise of their human rights.

But guess what? Neither socialism nor capitalism are human rights.

Reword it then (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601250)

It's the right to communicate with the world community.

Re:Reword it then (1)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38602016)

The right to communicate is a more general version of "free speech and free press", and needs to be an absolute right. Man cannot exist above subsistence except as a society, and a society cannot operate if you cannot communicate. By "cannot exist", I mean even the most determined backwoods survivalist uses tools and knowledge they got from someone else, and at a minimum has to be able to communicate "get off my land". Since we cannot tell in advance what kinds of communication are needed, or what technical means we use to carry it out, it needs to be an absolute right. Any attempt to interfere with communication (hello SOPA) must be looked at with extreme suspicion.

This falls under... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601266)

Freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others. Unfortunately all the world's governments are hostile to that idea.

Agreed. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601288)

Anyone who feels that the Internet is a "human right" should read Bastiat's The Law. (http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html)

Re:Agreed. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601694)

lol, "In defense of compulsory labor." Yeah, thanks for this paleofascist retard's forgotten mumblings. Can't wait to submit myself to the capitalists. Go and fuck yourself forever.

Running water? (4, Insightful)

grahamsaa (1287732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601290)

Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.

Re:Running water? (4, Insightful)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601452)

Exactly! Rights are not something that requires work by another party for you t have them. The right to free speech doesn't require anyone to do anything. You can talk all you want and publish your own paper, if you can pay for it. But you don't have any right to be published by someone else. It requires them to do something they may not want to do which would violate their rights. Christian news site foo has absolutely no obligation to publish articles from Muslim news outlet bar.

Re:Running water? (2)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601456)

Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.

And I think advocates for things such as universal access to the Net would be taken more seriously if they used your reasoning. Argue for the importance of a cause, but realize that if you try to argue that everything you work for is a "right", then people roll their eyes and just tune you out.

Re:Running water? (5, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601464)

Internet access isn't a human right just like access to running water or electricity aren't human right -- it's not absolutely necessary for life, but it's still pretty damn important.

I think his point is that the technology by which you obtain such things should not be considered a right. For example, While having ready availability of water is important, the way it is delivered may not be -- having water delivered through pipes by your local water company is not really necessary -- you could have a well instead. The Internet is a delivery mechanism and what it delivers is vitally important, but other delivery mechanisms may make the Internet obsolete in the future.

But it's not just a technology (1)

impaledsunset (1337701) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601616)

Yes, Internet presents a technology for transmission of information and connecting people. But that's not the only thing that makes the Internet. It's not just the technology behind it. It's a phenomena, which encompasses the Internet community. While the technology isn't a human right, what it brings should be.

Just like the press. The press isn't a technology that refers to the printing press, it's a phenomena.

Re:Running water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601748)

Yes. And whether I have "town water" or a well, big companies are paying Congress to allow them to contaminate it, via fracking. Which is more important, the health of your citizens, or the health of your corporations?

Re:Running water? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601850)

What kind of idiot would mod this insightful? It's a fucking semantic argument. It doesn't matter if you have the right to free speech if you don't have a tongue, now does it? Get your head out of your high horse's asshole and look at the world around you for fuck's sake.

Re:Running water? (2)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601996)

No, more important is that you have a right to not have someone interrupt your legitimate access to water that you own. Same with the internet--you have a right to not be blocked from using it, provided you have your own means of accessing it.

Re:Running water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38602006)

I think that captures part of what Cerf is saying, but not all. Cerf points out that certain freedoms have become established as basic human rights over hundreds or thousands of years of human history. Revolutions have been waged over these freedoms, and many brave souls were imprisoned, ex-communicated, tortured, and/or murdered in the ongoing process of having them recognized. We need to be careful about enshrining new "fundamental rights" just because they seem to be a big part of today's Western societies.

Re:Running water? (4, Insightful)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601472)

The point Vint Cerf is trying to make, and is immensely important in this discussion, is that there is a big difference between a civil right and a basic human right. There is nothing wrong with making internet access a civil right if the government/people agree that that is justified in the given culture. But to exalt something as unnecessary to human existence as internet access to the status of a "basic human right" is a grave mistake and should be carefully avoided. This is because it de-values the really important stuff like the right to not be tortured or right to not be murdered.

Re:Running water? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601840)

Exactly this. There is nothing wrong with government making a mandate that everyone have access to the Internet - just as it mandated that everyone had access to telephone lines (and pretty much electricity), schooling and postal service. But it is just a government mandate that can be changed at the whim of the populace^Hlobbyists, it isn't a fundamental issue of life or liberty.

Re:Running water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601946)

Life without facebook *is* torture!

obviously we need the beta colony constitution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601296)

If only Lois mcmaster Bujold was as good a legal scholar as author of fiction.

It is not a right itself. (4, Interesting)

chrisphotonic (2450982) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601298)

Lets face, it we aren't going to provide everyone with IPads, and computers. The Internet is not a right.

However, keeping the government from blocking the Internet IS a right. That's the right our right to free speech in one of its most powerful forms.

Re:It is not a right itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601474)

Hey, figure out to fucking use, a comma.

Freedom to speak? (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601302)

What about freedom to open your mouth? To Speak? To SAY something? Or even to NOT say anything at all? Is this a human right?
Short answer: YES.
Freedom is nothing, if you are unable to express it, as this medium "internet" still does it.

Re:Freedom to speak? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601856)

What about freedom to open your mouth? To Speak? To SAY something? Or even to NOT say anything at all? Is this a human right?

Short answer: YES.

Freedom is nothing, if you are unable to express it, as this medium "internet" still does it.

The medium isn't the message.

What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601334)

What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard? What's "freedom to information" worth if you cannot access any information but the one that you are "supposed" to get? What's freedom of conscience worth if you only get to hear the indoctrinations of the state-sanctioned church?

Technology might not be a right. But without it, some rights are quite meaningless.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601470)

What good is freedom of speech if you have no mouth, Mr Anderson?*

*Yeah, I know it's not the exact quote from the movie.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (2)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601770)

Freedom of speech is the important thing, not the way you exercise it.

so are you saying that 100 years ago that the telegraph should have been considered a human right? it would have no meaning now.

what happens 100 years from now when the internet is viewed as outdated as the telegraph is today? freedom of speech/information will still be viewed as a right. no one will care about the internet 100 years from now except the old guy yelling at the kids on his lawn.

Restricting people from using the internet could potentially infringe on their right to freedom of speech and information, such as i think you are trying to get at in your quote, however the internet itself is not a right.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601500)

What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard?

Your freedom of speach does not outweight my right to ignore you.

What's "freedom to information" worth if you cannot access any information but the one that you are "supposed" to get?

Good question, but the internet is no improvement in this regard. It is filled in abundance with propaganda and misinformation, the most insidious such propaganda is that the internet is the only place to learn truth.

What's freedom of conscience worth if you only get to hear the indoctrinations of the state-sanctioned church?

If you don't already know the ways around this, internet access won't help you any.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (2)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601566)

The internet may be the medium through which those rights can be transmitted, and so it is indeed important, but the internet itself isn't a right.

Freedom of speech and freedom of information are what the important things and it is these that should be these that get the attention. Access to the internet isn't and shouldn't be a right, but it should be recognized that being blocked from the internet is infringing or restricting your rights to free speech and information.

It is the rights themselves that are important, not the technology through which these rights are accessed, because that technology can change through time. from what i see in the summary i agree...We need to focus on the actual rights not the technology.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601896)

What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard? What's "freedom to information" worth if you cannot access any information but the one that you are "supposed" to get? What's freedom of conscience worth if you only get to hear the indoctrinations of the state-sanctioned church?

Technology might not be a right. But without it, some rights are quite meaningless.

So you have a government protected, nay, supported, right to sit in front of my house at 2:00 AM with a loudspeaker truck?

You have the right to talk, you have no right to be heard.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601940)

Precisely.

This is why the citizens of the world need to make sure that monopolies and governments don't control the internet. We need to require network neutrality and stop laws like SOPA. We don't need the government to provide everyone with internet access: we just need to be sure that no one can prevent us from getting it. That is what a right is about: making sure that no government can abridge it.

Re:What's the value of a right you cannot execute? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601966)

What's "freedom of speech" worth if you cannot get heard?

This is why the First Amendment to the US Constitution includes the right to peaceable assembly and to petition the government (basically, a right "to be heard" in the proper context for democratic debate and protest). I would consider the Internet to be a peaceable assembly, provided no laws are being broken (copyright is in fact a valid law established in the Constitution, so there is that) so it would automatically be protected under that Amendment already. Whether a judge thinks so or not is another question: they seem to have a habit of reading whatever the hell they want in the Constitution.

Positive vs Negative Rights (5, Insightful)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601338)

Much like the right to bear arms does not imply that you have a right to be provided with those arms, I would argue that you have right to not be prevented from using the internet by the government, but that's different from a right to be provided internet access.

Re:Positive vs Negative Rights (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601466)

Exactly. That I can get on board with. Asking the very question "Is Internet access a right?" leads to the wrong discussion, and in fact it leads to a pointless discussion.

The bigger question is does the government have the right to restrict it? And the answer is "no".

Re:Positive vs Negative Rights (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38602008)

The question, really, is whether it would be constitutional for Congress to make it illegal to sell arms to non-military citizens, or to make their manufacture illegal.

The extreme and silly case would be that it is legal to say whatever you want, but you have to put a pillow over your face when doing so.

Access to Communication (5, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601364)

His point is reasonable, though probably a bit subtle for many audiences. "Access to communication" might well be a human right, but we shouldn't add "the Internet" to a special list for the same reason that we can be glad our predecessors didn't add "telegraph service" to the list.

Our right to access the internet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601376)

...should be governed by a competency/IQ test, if you ask me. Then again, if you ask me, I'd say the same should be true of our right to procreate. Just saying...

Re:Our right to access the internet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601836)

... or posting comments on /. ?

internet required (1)

Kunax (1185577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601390)

Im my country which, in no way is any good, many thing are being moved online. So internet really is a requirement for living. it should be treated as a base tool everyone should have access to. restricking people who are already in say jail is ok, crime and punishment and all that.

Only one "human right" matters (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601394)

A Republic's sole legitimate* job is to ensure the practicality of mutually consenting individuals assortatively migrating to their own ecological domains.

In that manner, all other definitions of "human rights" can be accommodated by the simple expedient of mutually consenting co-habitation.

This means "secession" must be incorporated into the foundation of all notions of "human rights" -- secession of individuals as well as groups of individuals. For what is slavery but making it impractical for an individual to secede? Denial of individual secession was the core evil of the Dred Scott decision.

Tyranny of the majority, limited only by a vague laundry list of selectively enforced human rights -- the sine qua non of "liberal democracy" -- must submit to the right to secede or it violates truth and freedom, hence all social good.

See Secession from Slavery to Free Scientific Society [blogspot.com].

*Yes, this does mean there does not exist, at present, a legitimate government anywhere.

Losing the potential (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601414)

The internet was the great boundary eraser. People from anywhere could suddenly communicate, share, argue, whatever without having to travel, know an address and write a letter or know a phone number and make a call. Keeping people from communicating was an afterthought by dictatorial regimes, who have fallen or faced uprisings thanks to this ability to communicate from anywhere at the speed of thought. Now it faces barriers by governments and carriers - China's great firewall, Iran closing internet Cafe's, etc. It was great while it lasted.

It is, in my country (-1, Troll)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601438)

In Finland Internet access indeed is a human right. [cnet.com]

But of course, in some 3rd world countries such as the USA, even universal healthcare isn't a human right.

Re:It is, in my country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601624)

It's also guaranteed in Estonia.

Re:It is, in my country (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601978)

Actually, I'm happy to live in a "3rd world country" if it means that I can be free. If you are born owing healthcare to my grandmother, then you are born a slave. Some of us are smart enough to understand that NOTHING can be a "right" if someone else has to pay for it. The only real legitimate rights are actually negative rights (the right to not be forced into action/inaction by an oppressor). If you are interested in actual freedom (and not nanny-state totalitarianism) you need to learn the difference between rights and goods as well as the difference between negative and positive rights. Not being stopped from accessing the Internet should be a right.

Mostly right, but he misses the point (1)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601442)

I think Vint is correct technically: it certainly doesn't make sense to have tools or technologies become "rights". Yet, I think he is missing the substantive debate that has been ongoing for decades: are human rights solely "negative rights" (e.g. freedom from censorship, etc) or are they also "positive rights" (e.g. freedom to access education).

Now, the whole thing can be restated in terms of what freedom of speech really means and entails. Is it only freedom from oppression, or does it assert some positive rights as well? If it does, then it could follow that the right to free speech means the right to access information, which the internet certainly provides with equanimity.

Not technically a right, but close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601448)

Internet access may not be a right, but if a person can't have unrestricted internet access, at least one of their rights are probably being violated.

2nd Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601468)

aren't arms a technology?

Re:2nd Amendment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601590)

Arms can be anything for a pointy stick to a nuke. The 2nd Amendment doesn't specify firearms (Though it almost always seems to be read that way).

Re:2nd Amendment? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601858)

The 2nd Amendment was aimed at allowing for a private militia that could stand up to the government. During the Revolutionary War, that is precisely what happened. In the 21st Century, are individuals owning guns going to be able to stand up to the US military?

Every military grade weapons should be legal for everyone to purchase, or we need to rethink the 2nd amendment.

Re:2nd Amendment? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601936)

aren't arms a technology?

Doubt it. I've got two of them. Got them entirely from meatspace. No technology there.

Too limited (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601476)

Why just say "internet"? That sounds too specific to me. General information, that is, information that has been made available for the public in any form, should be a human right. The Internet is only one way to access this, but that should be why it would fall under that.

Expression is a human right (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601504)

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech...

A law that restricts the ability for someone to communicate is a law that abridges (limits, reduces, etc.) the freedom of speech. The Internet is not Speech, but it is a means to speak, just like running television, radio, or print ads, flying a banner behind an airplane, or simply standing on a box shouting into a bullhorn. Should telepathy be the next wave in communication, limiting the ability for people to perform telepathy would still be abridging the freedom of speech.

Limiting the Internet is limiting the ability to communicate--through the Internet, which is still a limit on the ability to communicate.

Note that the First Amendment says Congress shall not pass such laws. Of course, private companies can restrict speech to whatever they feel like within their own domain.

Rights are granted by default (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601506)

Rights are granted by default, not by enumeration. Much like the arguments over software patents, adding "on a computer" or "on the Internet" to a fundamental human right like freedom of speech does not make it a new right that must be separately protected. It already IS protected, and singling it out for "special" protection only provides a means for those protections to be revoked. Just because you pass a law that says "no censoring the Internet" does not make censoring it okay after you repeal the law, but it's very easy to make people believe that it is.

Asinine. (1)

ettusyphax (1155197) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601552)

I have a lot of respect for Vint but this is stupid. So by his logic, since "plumbing" is a technology, nobody should have the right to properly working indoor plumbing? Clothing is a technology - should people not have the right to wear clothes? Sure, "the right to wear clothes," is, semantically, talking about allowing folks to have the ability to put on clothes, NOT that they should have access to the technology - but this is a debate for a white-tower English professor. Practically speaking, the right to wear clothes is irrelevant if there are no clothes to wear, just as the right to free speech is irrelevant if you cannot access the means by which many if not most people in our globalized society communicate. I would argue that the internet is the most important means of communications between humans ever devised, including natural language. Assuming you can at least partially agree with this, should humans not have the right to language, the right to speak? I thought of all people Vint Cerf would be able to see this, but then again he is an old-guard technologist, a DARPA "good ole boy," whose primary interest is in technological innovation, not human rights. He should keep his mouth shut on issues he obviously has no grasp of.

simple theory of human rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601568)

Two basic rights should encompass the others
The right to engage in any voluntary exchange with/without any person so long as that action does not harm other individuals unless defending against anothers aggression.
The right to be free from violent force.

First part.
So I have a right to buy water, internet, etc. But I have no right to get it for free since that would entail forcing (partial enslavement) other to provide it to me.

Second part.
Once I have purchased water, or internet access, you can't rightfully force me to part with them, or use them only as you approve, unless I'm drowning someone, or strangling them with my CAT6 cable.

A horse? (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601570)

Rights like technology change over time. These aren't the 10 commandments written in stone anymore.

Looks like an article just trying to pose debate for his opinions of what he agrees should be a human right and shouldn't be.

And really comparing the right to having a horse to having the right to access of information? Please.

Re:A horse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601810)

Rights like technology change over time. These aren't the 10 commandments written in stone anymore.

Looks like an article just trying to pose debate for his opinions of what he agrees should be a human right and shouldn't be.

And really comparing the right to having a horse to having the right to access of information? Please.

Right to access of information is different from right to access the internet in the same way that the right to a means of transportation is different from the right to a horse. The first is the actual right you want people to have, the second is just an implementation detail.

Human rights vs civil rights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601606)

Would someone get it correct for once. Human rights and civil rights are not the same thing. Human rights are things like access to clean water and health care, things the United States does not have or care about. Civil rights are freedom of speech and access to Internet and freedom of speech. Please don't confuse the too. They are very different things.

The solution to this problem in the U.S. is a first amendment interpretation. The government is not to interfere or limit or allow any person or organization to limit the ability of people to communicate. Yes you have free speech but it does little good when your in a prison cell.

The Internet is a CIVIL right just like freedom of speech is.

Re:Human rights vs civil rights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38602004)

The internet is a way to transmit free speech or information. it is just a tool, not a right. much as the telegraph used to be able to transmit speech/information ~100 years ago and is now outdated. and much as 100 years from now the internet may very well be viewed as outdated when we move on to some other not yet invented method of communication.

Being restricted from from the internet may very well be restricting one of your other rights, but access to the internet is not itself a right.

It is these rights the we should focus on. and the tool we used to exercise them should be recognized so that we can see that restricting it is infringing on your rights, but the tool itself is not a "right".

What is a "Right"? (3, Insightful)

Tokolosh (1256448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601612)

Inalienable rights are inherent in your existence. They are not given to you by a government, although a government should protect these rights from infringement by others. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

Thus, internet access is not a right. But you do have the right to access the internet, should you so choose.

"Right" versus "Entitlement" (1)

apsociallife (638272) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601622)

The article is really questioning whether internet access is an entitlement, not a right. A "right" is best defined as some action that cannot justly be restricted or stopped by a government or by another citizen, except if said action interferes with the rights of another and by due process the rights of the other are determined to take precedence. By this definition, internet access is a "right" in the sense that you cannot (generally) be justly disconnected from the internet if you have it. An "entitlement" is best defined as something which a just society must guarantee that all citizens have. An entitlement exists only if it would be unjust for a society not to ensure every citizen had it. What the article is really asking is whether it is unjust for a society to not ensure universal internet access.

Freedom of Conscience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601788)

I read it as "freedom from conscience"... which our current government has mastered. They clearly have no conscience.
On the other hand, wtf is freedom of conscience? Sounds to me like it's the age-old argument of "right/wrong is relative". I thought intelligent people settled that debate long ago when they imprisoned murderers despite the murderer fully believing they did nothing wrong.

Enabling oppressive governments (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601796)

Confusing government-provided services and entitlements with "rights" sets a dangerous precedent.

The idea that "rights" are granted by government only makes it easier for governments to take them away.

It is all BS anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38601812)

The people who advocated for natural rights were all pretty much full if it anyway. Rights are something we made up and then tried to reverse engineer some kind of principals that make us feel like we didn't just make all of it up out of thin air. It is not that I don't think human rights are important. Rather, I think they are pretty arbitrary. Internet Access doesn't come from some natural law. On the other hand, since it is necessary in order to lead a meaningful life, we should not prevent people from having it except under the most dire circumstances.

Freedom of press (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601820)

The reason that freedom of press is specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights is not that the specific medium of a newspaper is so important, so much as that was the most visible media at that time to share thoughts and opinions. I'd contend that same concept applies to the internet today. Denying access to the internet may seem to be a first world problem that people can't check Facebook, but at the same time you're denying people access to the thoughts and opinions of society, or sharing their own.

The right to communication (1)

Zeroblitzt (871307) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601906)

Human beings have a right to uninhibited communication with themselves, other humans, and even non-humans. This is somewhat covered by the United States First Amendment to the Constitution, but it's not explicitly stated, which leaves grey areas. You would think that we wouldn't need to "cover our asses" as a country, but look at what happened with slavery. It was never explicitly stated that slavery cannot happen (even though it interfered with the lives of countless others), until the 13th amendment.

The Press v2 (1)

Ragun (1885816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38601918)

In effect our consitution protects the press, which was a technology to bring about free speech. I doubt anyone would object that the internet is an extension of that. But then again, that doesn't demand that the government build you a press.
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