Internet and Human Rights

Internet and Human Rights

Name: Aishwarya & Anurag Pandey

College: Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi


Through the advent of time, as humanity has progressed, the hallmark of civilized societies has been the basic human rights guaranteed to them by their sovereign authorities, be it through their domestic constitutions, as an aspect of media law or as a human right. In particular, the right to free speech has found its way to be recognized as one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to man.

The internet has, without a doubt, turned into an immensely important part of our lives. Many individuals in the present era are dependent on the services of the internet to do a variety of errands. Truth be told, wherever you go nowadays, you can see individuals holding a variety of gizmos and utilizing the resources to either indulge in games or pursue services they might need. Obviously, the internet is not just about diversion. It is valuable in numerous different ways as well.

Today, most students are utilizing the internet to help themselves in studying or doing their assignments better. Since the internet is loaded with data, most learners utilize this as their source for reading. The internet offers a multitude of online projects and courses which the individuals can access, without much of a stretch, to pore over and learn different things even while they're at the comfort of their homes. Quite a while back, on the off chance that you needed to discover something, you would need to keep running at an open library and look through a heap of books, which is exceptionally tiring and tedious. In any case, now, with only a couple of snaps of your mouse, you would already be able to get any data you require.

A long time back, when you likewise needed to purchase something, for example, nourishment, shoes, or the like, you would go to a shop or eatery to get what you require. Be that as it may, now, you can now Google the item you need and have it conveyed straightforwardly to your doorstep! The internet has eased the payment of bills and keeping a record of the charges at the distance of a mere tap. Employing the individuals you require is additionally made significantly less demanding with the utilization of the web. On the off chance that you require a handyman or an accountant, for example, you can advantageously seek on the web, look through different sites, and pick the one that you accept can give you the services you require.

Internet as a Basic Human Right

With the view to move the day to day transactions from traditional paper-based mode to the newer, paperless mode, the internet has a colossal role to play. Be it financial transactions, legal filings or data storage and access, moving the repertoire of data online enables easier, much faster access and also ensures security and efficiency. With the rate at which we, as a society, are beginning to become dependent on the internet, it wouldn’t be an overreach to state that the internet has, in all likeliness, ceased to be a luxury and is building its stronghold into being labeled as a necessity and a fundamental one at that.

With the rapid incorporation of the internet into the facilities such as healthcare, governmental operations, banking and now education, unrestricted internet access has become a necessity to lead our day to day life. And it’s not just abstract talk.

It is of utmost importance to note that even with its extreme utility, the internet still is not yet a fully explored tributary of technology and is a quintessential example of a system with fallacies which, when viewed with appropriate perspective, can serve to be the definite grounds for improvement. Thus, in this period of rapid development, before the internet becomes foolproof, we as a society need to guarantee its safety by way of keeping its users in the loop and developing holistically. This is important because on one hand, while the inculcation of the internet into our lives becomes important to such an extreme extent, we cannot selectively roll out the services or curtail the rights of its users arbitrarily.

Which is why internet freedom must not only be seen in the context of closed states such as China but also with a view to evaluating the states which claim to be open and democratic with respect to the internet services but the realities turn out to be entirely different. One such incident was one when arbitrary surveillance reared its ugly head in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations to The Guardian newspaper.[1],[2]

Such is the growing role of the internet in the society that the United Nations has, in June 2016 passed a non-binding resolution, condemning countries that intentionally disrupt or withhold the internet access rights of its citizenry.[3]

Current Situation In The World

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which passed a non-binding resolution in July 2016, denounces countries that intentionally take away or disrupt its citizens’ internet access. The resolution was passed, but was opposed by countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and India which stated that the issue was with the passage that “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our promulgation of information online.”[4] More than 70 states supported the resolution. According to a statement released by Article 19, a British organization that works to promote freedom of expression and information. Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, wrote:

We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia, and India voted in favour of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online. A human rights based approach to providing and expanding Internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down.”[5]

The resolution summaries that it’s important to increase access to the internet, as it “facilitates vast opportunities for affordable and inclusive education globally,” and provides other resources for education, especially across the digital divide which is technically the need of today’s generation and the spread of technology has the “great potential to accelerate human progress.” Everything is available on the internet whether it’s news and its analysis, details on a plethora of organizations, job-hunting resources, credit card statements and the list is incessant. It has become impossible to live without basic internet access. Other countries have already stressed the importance of open access, including former US President Barack Obama, who in 2015 said that “Today, high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”[6]

The resolution also highlights a number of issues that need to be addressed, including one which talks about the issue of freedom of expression on the internet. Also among the points presented were statements:

  • Calling upon all states to address security concerns in “a way that ensures freedom and security on the internet”
  • Safeguarding accountability for all human rights violations and abuses committed against persons for exercising their human rights,
  • Identifying that privacy online is important,
  • Emphasizing the importance of education for women and girls in relevant technical fields.

The UN can’t enforce resolutions legally. Rather, they’re issued to provide guidelines for participating nations and putting forward an ideal framework for states as to how they should shape laws when it comes to the internet.

Situation In India

Supreme Court of India in April 2017, has declared that internet access may be a basic elementary right for all Indians and this right can't be curtailed and blocked at any value.

The bench held by Justice Dipak Misra has reiterated that Right to the Internet is a part of the elementary Right of Expression. The bench also delineates internet as a “virtual world” and a “world that is invisible during a way”. As per the bench, if any entity tries to curtail this right, then it'll be felonious.[7]

After the European nation Finland became the first country within the world to recognize ‘the right to internet access’, Kerala is on its way to become the first Indian state to include Right to Internet as a Basic Right[8]. The Kerala budget bestowed by State government minister Thomas Isaac earlier this year projected to form internet a person's right in the proposal, the govt. aims to produce free web access to twenty lakhs households. The project named K-FON (Kerala Fibre Optic Network) has been allotted Rs 1000 crore within the budget. The project is anticipated to be completed in eighteen months. [9]

The state that already incorporates a healthy web penetration aims to form it accessible to everybody. Schemes like Akshaya Centers across the state have already created basic Internet Right, the K-FON aims to require it to successive level. In 2016, Kerala had become the primary 'Digital State' in India with success linking all villages within the state with broadband under the National Fibre Network (NOFN) project.

Limitations on Right to Internet

However, the right of unrestricted internet access is permissible until it doesn’t encroach into the boundary of illegality. To curtail such illegality, a nodal officer would be appointed for each state, who will continuously monitor such content; and in case any such content does appear by mistake, it would be notified to the search engines, and would be pulled down within 36 hours.

Advantages Of Internet As A Human Right

In this modern era, the Internet functions like the social gathering, classroom, as well as the coffeehouse and meeting place. The significance of the Internet derives from the gigantic multiplicity of activities that people can pursue on it and the ability of people around the globe to converse about this activity with each other instantly. On a daily basis, students across the world email news and pictures to friends, far and near; artists in one side of the globe discover new ways to create and share their visions with those who are in other countries; lawyers in the most remote areas blog about corruption; small business owners in small cities if the country can track growth; and researchers in one part of country can instantly share data with colleagues around the world. So, it’s an incredible tool for numerous purposes. In the past few years we have all seen the tremendous power of the Internet in providing a medium through which individuals have gathered to persuade the government, and in the rally support, share dissension and celebrate the transformation.

Disadvantages Of Internet Being Recognised As A Human Right

The term “necessity” should be reserved to those items that humans cannot live without, such as food, shelter, and water. It is more farcical to compare Internet entrée to a basic human right. In fact, it is quite demeaning. Human rights are canons of behaviour that are inherent in every human being. They are the core principles supporting human interaction in a society which includes liberty, due process or justice, and freedom of speech. It is quite sympathetic that we are trying to equate Internet access with these greater, essential concepts. It is high time that we recognize the difference between what may be called a necessity and a human right and on the other hand, services such as access to the Internet.


Over the past three decades, the global use of the Internet has risen exponentially, with billions connected and sharing images, posts, mails, and stories. With keeping in mind today’s parlance one thing is clear that the Internet is unstoppable. It cannot be restrained as a whole or kept in a sealed box and we need to have a broader outlook as to how the Internet economy works. We must also analyse the fact that the benefits of regulation must outweigh the burden on society. It must not be capricious. Holding governments accountable for human rights violations, including restricting internet access, will advance reforms for protecting other human rights. More groups will advocate for the rights of individuals who lack reliable internet access, and more groups will organize to stop internet shutdowns.[10]

We must follow the law as it is and not make it up as per our convenience. It is a fact that internet cannot be considered as a necessity as it is not essential for human survival. However, it is the most important part of our lives as it satisfies our social demands.


[2] For further detail, see The Guardian’s online resources regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA)

surveillance program, available at, last visited on 27.09.2017


[4] Ibid, Pp. 2

[5], last accessed on 23.09.2017

[6], last accessed on 23.09.2017

[7]  Sabu Mathew George vs. Union of India. Writ Petition (Civil) No.341/2008


[9] -human-right/

[10], last accessed on 28.09.2017

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article or any other publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Sadvidya or its members.

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