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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Internet Father Said Web Wasn’t a Human Right

Vint Cerf, also known as the Father of the Internet, since he was a program manager for the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency while it has been developing TCP/IP, claimed that the web wasn’t a human right. Thus, he agrees with the US government that believes that the web is all right if the users aren’t pirating copyrighted content.


Vint Cerf explained that the recent Arab Spring demonstrations thrived thanks to thousands of people who managed to participate, which they could have never done without the ability that the web offers. Cerf also dismissed courts and parliaments in such states as France and Estonia that have pronounced online access a human right, claiming that while such things were well meaning they missed a true point of technology: it is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.

Cerf believes that there was a high bar for something to be called a human right. For example, people have to deal with things like freedom from torture and that of conscience before getting to things like access to the web. That’s why putting technology into this exalted category complicates things. Indeed, it’ easier to talk about critical freedoms like freedom of speech and that of access to data which don’t have to be bound to any specific technology.

Vint Cerf believes that access to the web is simply an instrument for obtaining something more important. For instance, people don’t talk about a “right” to a phone, even if it regards the idea of “universal service”. Meanwhile, the Internet has granted a very accessible and egalitarian platform for creating, sharing and obtaining data on a global scale. As a result, people have new ways to exercise their rights.

The web should be regarded as an instrument to improve the human condition, while appreciating the human rights that deserve protection. However, people shouldn’t pretend that access itself is a right of that kind. Although it sounds OK, in fact Cerf means that a digital divide is acceptable, since people with technology are working to make life better for others.

In response, Sir Tim Berners-Lee claimed that people have become so reliant on the Internet that it should really be a right to have access to it. Although it is possible to live without the Internet, the difference between people having connection to it and those who don’t is growing bigger. Experts believe that now it has reached a point where Internet use is a basic human right.

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