The United Nations has declared that internet access is a human right and cutting it off is now a violation of international law. The report discusses the right to internet in terms of infrastructure and access to information. The report says that with certain exceptions, the flow of information on the internet should not be restricted and the exceptions are prescribed by international human rights law.
Internet restrictions are a violation of international law
The report states, “In many instances, states restrict, control, manipulate and censor content disseminated via the Internet without any legal basis, or on the basis of broad and ambiguous laws, without justifying the purpose of such actions. … such actions are clearly incompatible with states’ obligations under international human rights law, and often create a broader ‘chilling effect’ on the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.
The report also recommends against disconnecting people from the Internet, as in France where internet is disconnected in cases of piracy. This report is very similar in tone to a European Parliament directive, which stated that individual countries should “avoid adopting measures conflicting with civil liberties and human rights, such as the interruption of Internet access.”
With the civil unrest that is going on with the Arab spring and the internet shut offs in Egypt, Libya and Syria, this mandate comes at a very apt time, and hopefully will be effective in abating the crises in these regions.