Vinton Cerf: Internet not a human right

by CXOtoday staff    Jan 06, 2012

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter helped people launch protests across the Arab world to topple oppressive regimes in recent times. Many of us wondered, whether the Internet can be labeled as a human or civil right?

No, says Vinton Cerf, better know as the father of the Internet, who opines that access to Internet cannot become a human right.

Cerf wrote in op-ed piece in the New York Times about technology being an important enabler of human rights, not a human right in itself.
He explained that a human right can be explained by something that we need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives. “If you place technology in this category, one will end up with some strange priorities as time passes and technologies change. Critical freedoms are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time,” wrote Cerf.

Cerf makes an interesting comparison by equating access to the Internet in the 21st century with owning a horse a century back when it was considered critical for economic success.

“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,” he writes.

A report by the United Nations (UN) in June 2011 stated that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights. Though the body did not mention that every citizen is entitled to Internet access, it did raise a point that the action by many counties to shut Internet was a violation.