UN right-to-internet resolution opposed by India
Mon 4 Jul 2016
A resolution by the United Nations to make web access a basic human right has been opposed by India, as well as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. These countries are particularly opposed to a specific part of the resolution that “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online” and calls for all countries to refrain from such measures.
The UN resolution, while non-binding, still provides a strong statement that governments should refrain from blocking internet access and online freedom of speech, and a welcome support for digital rights advocates worldwide.
The UN statement notes that human rights violations on the internet are an increasing concern, and that the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and right to privacy are fundamental human rights. The UN asserts a deep concern for human rights violations committed against citizens for exercising these rights on the internet, and condemn measures that intentionally disrupt access online. It also calls upon all nations to work together to bridge the gender divide, and to promote education through sharing of online resources between academics, governments, private sector, and civil participants.
The resolution encourages states to assist in providing internet access to the underserved and formulating policies that will protect users rights online. It also condemns human rights violations related to internet activities, including detention, torture and killings, as well as gender based violence and asks governments to be accountable in these areas. The resolution is specific in condemning the actions of governments who shut down internet access to certain groups or locations. This is a common practice in many areas of the world where the government will temporarily disrupt internet access to a certain group or area during a time of protest or upheaval, in order to interrupt communications until situations of political unrest are back in control.
In April, the Indian government shut down internet access in the Kashmir Valley following civil protests after four civilians were killed by security forces. The police justified the action by stating, “anti-national elements were out to disrupt the law and order situation.” The Software Freedom Law Centre found over 30 internet blackouts from 2013-2016 in India. Digital rights advocacy group Access Now documented 20 internet service disruptions by governments in the first half of 2016 alone. Disrupting civilian internet access in this manner is condemned under the new UN resolution.